In 1862, the United States government urged colonization of Nebraska and other territories by creating The Homestead Act, which stated that any person who was an American citizen, or had declared his intention to become one, could claim 160 acres of government land. Some Eastern Americans, like Jim's grandparents, simply moved west, while others, like the Shimerdas, came all the way from Europe to try their luck at farming the Nebraska prairie. Both groups were…(read full theme analysis)
In the mid to late 1800s on the American prairie, friendship with neighbors was important to every family's survival and wellbeing. Neighbors provided both a social outlet and the physical help necessary for survival. The Burdens befriend the Shimerdas, the Shimerdas befriend Peter and Pavel, and Jim befriends Jake and Otto. Yet it's the Jim's friendship with Ántonia, with its many ups and downs, that is central to My Ántonia. The novel begins with…(read full theme analysis)
Jim and the other characters in My Ántonia struggle between living in the present and remembering the past. They share a common longing for the years and places left behind. To Jim, the past represents the lost innocence of his childhood, while to immigrants like the Shimerdas, the past means the friendlier, more familiar villages they left behind in Europe. In Book I, the Shimerdas and other immigrant characters cling to the traditions, people, and…(read full theme analysis)
On the prairie, Jim and Ántonia's friendship is uncomplicated by the experiences and prejudices of adulthood. Though they come from different backgrounds and social classes and are members of the opposite sex, they are too young for these differences to matter. Though Jim clings to the simplicities of youth, he can't stop time's advance and the maturity it brings.
Jim and Ántonia's move from the prairie into town signifies their first steps toward adulthood, and…(read full theme analysis)
In late 19th century America, gender roles were strictly defined. Men were meant to act as providers, and women were meant to marry and care for the family. During his childhood, Jim believes strongly in these roles and looks up to working men like Otto and his grandfather, Jake. He tries desperately to earn Ántonia's respect by following their examples. Ántonia, however, does not want to conform to the typical female role. On the prairie…(read full theme analysis)