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 in search of a better life, and, as depicted in My Ántonia, both can be considered immigrants in that they suffer the trials of a new and unfamiliar life. But while both Jim and Ántonia encounter loneliness and homesickness for the lands they left behind, in My Ántonia the foreign-born immigrants experience the greater struggle. They face extreme poverty, the barriers of not speaking the English language, and the challenge of cultural and religious differences. In many ways, Cather's novel is the story of these immigrants' acclimation to the American Midwest, as seen through Jim's eyes.
The Immigrant Experience ThemeTracker
The Immigrant Experience Quotes in My Antonia
"Why, just like this; like yourself. Why do you all the time try to be like Ambrosch?"
She put her arms under her head and lay back, looking up at the sky. "If I live here, like you, that is different. Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us."