The prairie symbolizes many things in My Ántonia. To immigrants, the vast size of the prairie suggests both the opportunity for a new life and the overwhelming fear that goes with trying to create a new life. The prairie also symbolizes progress and a lost past: as the prairie is developed, its old, winding roads are replaced by straight ones, and the tall grasses are burned down to make room for farmland. Later, when Jim leaves Nebraska, the prairie symbolizes Jim's friendship with Ántonia and his nostalgia for his childhood.
The Prairie Quotes in My Antonia
The My Antonia quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Prairie. 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 3, Chapter 1 Quotes
I knew that I should never be a scholar. I could never lose myself for long among impersonal things. Mental excitement was apt to send me with a rush back to my own naked land and the figures scattered upon it.
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
She was a battered woman now, not a lovely girl; but she still had that something which fires the imagination, could still stop one's breath for a moment by a look or gesture that somehow revealed the meaning in common things. She had only to stand in the orchard, to put her hand on a little crab tree and look up at the apples, to make you feel the goodness of planting and tending and harvesting at last. All the strong things of her heart came out in her body, that had been so tireless in serving generous emotions.
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 Prairie Symbol Timeline in My Antonia
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Prairie appears in My Antonia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 1
Book 1, Chapter 16
Book 2, Chapter 14
Book 3, Chapter 1
Book 5, Chapter 1