My Antonia By Cather

In the past, critics have ad moralized and/or brutalized every writer they could
get their pen on. This is seen from criticisms of Henry Adams to William Butler

Yeats. These writers critique everything about the writer and his/her works. For
instance many critics criticize Willa Cather's novel, My Antonia. Their
criticisms lie on the basis that My Antonia is based on cyclical themes with no
structure holding each of the My Antonia's books. In other words, as a
collection of five different accounts remembered by the main character, Jim

Burden, My Antonia is characterized by a loose plot structure yet the existence
of common themes is expressed in a cyclical nature. According to James E.

Miller, Jr.'s " 'My Antonia': A Frontier Drama of Time," Willa

Cather's novel, My Antonia, is "defective in structure." (Bloom 51)

Its structure is basically based on the narrators', which is Cather herself,
point of view about when the main character, Jim Burden, remembers specific
moments in an abstract pattern in his life about his Antonia. This is so because
the collection of books that make up the novel, My Antonia, is about Willa

Cather; the narrator's idea of what and to what point Jim Burden remembers.

Miller also states that the novel "lacks focus and abounds in
irrelevancies." (Wells 1) This is due to the fact that Cather didn't
provide and consistent character portrayal throughout her novel. Another critic,

Kim Wells, asserts Miller's opinion on the novel. Because as he states the novel
has many "variations from a theme." (Wells 1) For instance the section
about the hired girls and also the part when Peter and Pavel, two lonesome

Russian Settlers, tell Jim and Antonia a tragic tale that horrifies and
fascinates the children. This tale was about when Peter and Pavel drove a sled
with a bridal couple across dark, snowy Russian country and were attacked by
hordes of ravenous wolves, where the wolves killed both the bride and the groom.

These examples are "divergences which weaken the overall structure of the
novel." (Wells 1) Even though both critics say that the novel has a loose
structure, they also state that the only thing that resembles any type of
structure is the constant use of cyclical themes. For instance as Miller puts
it, " the cycle of the seasons of the year, the cycle of the stages of
human life, and the cycle of the cultural phases of civilization." (Bloom

59) In Miller's essay he states that in "The first book of My Antonia, The

Shimerdas, introduces from the start the drama of time in the vivid accounts of
the shifting seasons...portraying the terrible struggle for mere existence in
the bleakness of the plains' winter, dramatizing the return of life with the
arrival of spring, and concluding with the promise of a rich harvest in the
intense heat of the prairie's summer. This is Jim Burden's remembered year, and
it is his obsession with the cycle of time that has caused him to recall Antonia
in a setting of the changing seasons." (Miller 55) Book one, "The

Shimerda's", introduce the beginning of two cyclical themes. One of which
is the cycle of the seasons of the year, which begins in the narrators'/Jims'
mind in the autumn when the Shimerdas move to Nebraska, the winter when Mr.

Shimerda commits suicide, then spring followed the death of Mr. Shimerda, and
finally summer in the cyclical theme of the seasons of the year which created
another cyclical pattern within itself. This imbedded cyclical theme is on the
stages of life is based on the fact that Antonia moves into adulthood while Jim
stays as a child as stated by Kim Wells. (Wells 1) This happens because in the
section the hired girls Antonia moves into the city from the farm where she used
to live. The movement from a rural to an urban area made Antonia mature quicker
so she would be able to survive in the city. While on the other hand Jim leaves
the farm to go to college, in which inclosing walls unlike that of Antonia
protects him. Then Antonia moves into adulthood with a marriage and birth while

Jim is at college toiling on the prospect of adult love with Lena Lingred.

Finally, Jim moves into an odd marriage and then goes back to the farm with

Antonia and her children. In the novel the reader encounters the impression that

Jim is more closely alike to the children in maturity than that of the maturity
of Antonia. "She was a battered woman now, not a lovely girl;