The Concept Of Identity Development In My Antonia

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The land, like the story, represents both growth and development and the concept of identity as it links closely to the landscape of the character’s lives. At the beginning of the novel, the country ultimately represents change as an unfamiliar new beginning for both Antonia and Jim. Jim, for example, first encounters the landscape in the wake of tragedy and his perceptions of the land represent the change he is confronting. He states “Between the earth and the sky I felt erased, blotted out” (Cather, p.8) and describes “the feeling that the world was left behind, that we had got over the edge of it, and were outside man’s jurisdiction” (Cather, p.8).

While Jim himself may be unfamiliar with the land, he comes into a well-established farmstead not facing the same hardships and uncertainty that Antonia and her family face with the uprooting of their own lives. In fact, in this stage of the novel, the Nebraska landscape is seeing an influx of new-comers, immigrants like the Shimerdas family, who, by the end of the novel, settle and become the backbone of Nebraska. In a way, Jim’s statement “There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made” (Cather, p.8) speaks of the infancy of Nebraska, of new beginnings and unfamiliar changes, and foreshadows the progress that will be born from the raw material of these new beginnings.

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While Jim’s landscape ultimately changes many times throughout the novel, moving from childhood, to adolescence to adulthood in the form of Nebraska prairies, to small town life, and then eventually bigger horizons, bigger cities, and the industrial progress of the railroad, his inner identity essentially remains that of the Nebraska farm boy. As such, Jim embraces the changes that take place in the land of his youth, describing the land and the inevitable progress of the immigrants as interchangeable. With the land broken up into fields of wheat and corn and the sod dwellings replaced by wooden houses and barns, he describes a country that was ultimately moving into its adolescence. A place where the immigrants of his childhood found “their lives coming to a fortunate issue.” He states “The windy springs and the blazing summers, one after another, had enriched and mellowed that flat tableland; all the human effort that had gone into it was coming back in long sweeping lines of fertility…it was like watching the growth of a great man or of a great idea” (Cather, p.190).

The idea that these changes were viewed by Jim as “beautiful and harmonious” shows an appreciation for the naturalness of this development, a naturalness born of the connection, endurance, and forward motion inherent in both the land and its people. Thus, from Jim’s assessment, the land reflects and reveals the struggles and values of the people connected to them.

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The Concept Of Identity Development In My Antonia. (2021, September 30). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from
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