The plough, a symbol of the farm work the Shimerdas and the Burdens do on the prairie, symbolizes man's "beautiful and harmonious" connection to the land. At the end of Book 2, before Jim leaves Black Hawk for college, he sees a plough silhouetted in the circle of the red sun setting behind it. The sky quickly grows dark, and the plough disappears from view. This image suggests Jim's impending separation from Ántonia—while Ántonia remains on the prairie, Jim leaves for good. The change also foreshadows the changes that the development of farming will inflict on the natural prairie landscape.
The Plough Quotes in My Antonia
The My Antonia quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Plough. 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 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 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.
The Plough Symbol Timeline in My Antonia
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Plough appears in My Antonia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 2, Chapter 14