My Antonia

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Light Symbol Icon
In My Ántonia, light symbolizes change. A vivid description of light prefaces every major change that occurs in the novel. When Jim first meets Ántonia, for example, he describes her glowing cheeks and her eyes as "like the sun", and for the rest of their lives, he associates her with warmth and vigor. One of his most vivid memories of Ántonia is reading with her "in the magical light of the late afternoon." In contrast, at end of Book 1—as Jim's and Ántonia's childhoods on the prairie come to an end—the two friends sit on the roof and watch the lightning of a loud and "electric" thunderstorm. At the end of the novel, after Jim leaves Ántonia for the last time, he stands alone on the prairie roads in "the slanting sunlight" and reflects on the "incommunicable" past he shared with Ántonia.
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Light Symbol Timeline in My Antonia

The timeline below shows where the symbol Light appears in My Antonia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 2
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
...dig potatoes. He stays after she leaves and he lies in the garden under the sun. He realizes that he feels "entirely happy." (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 3
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
...Yulka, the youngest. Jim notices how Ántonia has cheeks that "glow" and eyes "like the sun," while Mr. Shimerda has soft white hands and a face "like ashes." (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 6
Friendship Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
...and Jim's friendship with Ántonia continues to develop. In what he describes as "the magical light of the late afternoon", he and "Tony" (Ántonia) have their reading lessons and watch the... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 14
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
When the adults return that night, they tell Jim that a lighted lantern has been kept over Mr. Shimerda's body until the priest arrives to bless the... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 17
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...to work now, "like mans." But when she looks over at the "streak of dying light" in the sky, she starts to cry. (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 19
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
...time together. One night Jim and Ántonia climb to the roof to watch a distant lightning storm. As they watch, Jim asks Ántonia why she can't be "nice" all the time... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 14
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
That evening, as the sun is setting, Jim, Ántonia and the other girls see a black figure on the prairie... (full context)