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.
Light Quotes in My Antonia
The My Antonia quotes below all refer to the symbol of Light. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet Classics edition of My Antonia published in 2014.).
Book 1, Chapter 1 Quotes
There seemed to be nothing to see; no fences, no creeks or trees, no hills or fields. If there was a road, I could not make it out in the faint starlight. There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made.
Book 1, Chapter 2 Quotes
I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge.
Book 1, Chapter 16 Quotes
The road from the north curved a little to the south; so that the grave, with its tall red grass that was never mowed, was like a little island; and at twilight, under a new moon or the clear evening star, the dusty roads used to look like soft grey rivers flowing past it. I never came upon the place without emotion, and in all that country it was the spot most dear to me."
Book 2, Chapter 14 Quotes
On some upland farm, a plough had been left standing in the field. The sun was sinking just behind it. Magnified across the distance by the horizontal light, it stood out against the sun, was exactly contained within the circle of the disk; the handles, the tongue, the share—black against the molten red. There it was, heroic in size, a picture writing on the sun.
Even while we whispered about it, our vision disappeared; the ball dropped and dropped until the red tip went beneath the earth. The fields below us were dark, the sky was growing pale, and that forgotten plough had sunk back to its own littleness somewhere on the prairie.
Book 4, Chapter 4 Quotes
As I went back alone over that familiar road, I could almost believe that a boy and girl ran along beside me, as our shadows used to do, laughing and whispering to each other in the grass.
Book 5, Chapter 1 Quotes
In my memory there was a succession of such pictures, fixed there like the old woodcuts of one's first primer: Ántonia kicking her bare legs against the sides of my pony when we came home in triumph with our snake; Ántonia in her black shawl and fur cap, as she stood by her father's grave in the snowstorm; Ántonia coming in with her work-team along the evening sky.
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
Book 1, Chapter 3
Book 1, Chapter 6
...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
Book 1, Chapter 17
Book 1, Chapter 19
Book 2, Chapter 14