Essay about The Beauty of the Lack of Structure in My Antonia

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According to James E. Miller Jr.'s, "My Antonia; A Frontier Drama of Time," Willa Cather's novel, one of her most important and perhaps most popular works, is "defective in structure" (Bloom, 21). He quotes E. K. Brown, who defends that: " 'Everything in the book is there to convey a feeling, not to tell a story, not to establish a social philosophy, not even to animate a group of characters'" (21). The reader undoubtedly feels the impact of the story of Antonia and Jim as Cather intended, but critics blind themselves to the essence of My Antonia, by looking for a "consistent central action of unbroken character portrayal" (21). The structure bases itself on the narrative of Jim Burden, who recalls significant moments in an abstract…show more content…
She's right. The novel leaves the focus on feelings of Jim Burden and his Antonia, and the feelings stirred by the reader. Jim never relays a clear picture of Antonia or many other characters in the novel to the audience, as their characters seem to morph with the different incidents in Jim's childhood. Cather doesn't provide dependable character portrayal throughout the novel simply because memory lacks the luxury of consistency. It would be impossible, and highly unreliable, to paint Jim as an omniscient narrator if the memories he recounts, as the reader is led to believe, belong to him alone. Cather stays out of the narrative expressly as an opportunity to depict Jim's Antonia -his life experiences- through his eyes. Cather knows human experience is a totally subjective; Jim sees what he wants to see. Demaree Peck comprehends Cather's intentions. "[Jim] rejects Antonia as an autonomous woman and claims her instead as a momento treasured in his own psyche...the exclusively imaginative value that Jim places on others makes him and unreliable guide to life, it nonetheless makes him a reliable guide to Cather's own needs and desires as a romantic artist" (128). Critics do submit that the novel has a loose structure, stating that the only
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