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My Antonia Essay, Research Paper

My Antonia Essay

In everybody??s life, there is always someone that has a greater influence on him or her more than anyone else would. In Willa Cather??s My Antonia, Antonia Shimerda is that person in Jim Burden??s life. ??I??d have liked to have you for a sweetheart, or a wife, or my mother or my sister-anything that a woman can be to a man. The idea of you is a part of my mind; you influence my likes and dislikes, all my tastes, hundreds of times when I don??t realize it. You really are a part of me.??(p.152) That is how Jim Burden himself described the influence of Antonia on him. They will always be close to each other no matter wherever they are.

The influence of Antonia on Jim begins when they both migrated to the Nebraska prairie. After Jim??s parents died, he moved to live with his grandparents. In adapting his new home, Jim felt abandoned. ??Between that earth and that sky I felt erased, blotted out.??(p.7) The Shimerda family is the neighbor of the Burdens and Mr. Shimerda wanted Jim to teach Antonia English. They became friends quickly and Antonia gave her ring to Jim as a gift. The first influence Antonia made on Jim is that she made Jim wanted to be like the ??big men.?? Although they were good friends, since Antonia is four years older than Jim and she always has been protectiveness toward Jim. This superiority changed when Jim killed a rattlesnake with a spade after Antonia screams at him in Bohemian to warn him. After this adventure, Antonia brags about how Jim killed the snake, and she begins to treat him equally. Jim enjoyed the bragging although he knew it was an easy task because the snake was old. Another influence Antonia has on Jim is her love for nature. They always go out together to explore the prairie. They would discuss the badger??s holes, wind and all the sights during their reading lessons. Jim and Antonia established camaraderie when they were lying on the barns during a thunderstorm, that they could communicate without words because they both shared the love for nature. There is something that Antonia influenced Jim all through their time spent together. That is Antonia??s fire for life. She never gave up. After Mr. Shimerda suicide, Antonia had to carry more weight on her shoulder to support her family. She began to work on the farms and became masculine. ??Her neck came up strongly out of her shoulder, like the bole of a tree out of the turf. One sees that draft-horse neck among the peasant women in all old countries.??(p.60) Jim was upset that Antonia has lost her feminine side, but later he would realize that was the fire of Antonia. The time Antonia and Jim spent on the prairie was only a short time of their childhood, and Antonia already had many influence on Jim, later when they moved to Black Hawk, Antonia would have more and more influence on Jim.

The most important influence that Antonia had on Jim was during their lives in Black Hawk when Antonia worked for the Harlings. First Jim and Antonia shared love for children. Jim would come to the Harlings to play if Mr. Harling was not there. He and Antonia would play games and sing with Harlings children. Antonia also influenced Jim to hang out with the hired girls rather than the Black Hawk girls. He thinks that the daughters of the Black Hawk merchants had a confident, uninquiring belief that they were ??refined,?? and that the country girls, who ??worked out,?? were not. He felt very close to them and hoped them the best. ??I always knew I should live long enough to see my country girls come into their own, and I have.??(p.98) He also felt very ironic and angry when the Black Hawk boys would hang out with the hired girls but refused to marry them because they don??t have the courage. Antonia influenced Jim??s social activities too. Jim loved go to the dance and dance with the hired girls especially Lena and Antonia. Jim would defy his grandma and lied to her to go to the firemen hall dance. During Jim??s life in Black Hawk, he learned to tease and flirting with girls. Antonia??s ??nice?? way returned because she is not working as hard as she was in the farms. One day after a dance, Jim was trying to make Antonia kiss him goodnight after the dance. He told Antonia that Lena let him kiss her. Then Antonia said something that influenced Jim??s life forever. ??If she??s up to any of her nonsense with you, I??ll scratch her eyes out! Now, don??t you go and be a fool like some of these town boys. You??re not going to sit around here and whittle store-boxes and tell stories all your life. You are going away to school and make something of yourself.??(p.109) Jim made the decision later because Antonia told him and he did what Antonia said he should do as later in he left Black Hawk to Lincoln and went to college.

Although Jim went to Lincoln and study for a law career, Antonia??s influence on Jim did not fade at all. When Jim was in Lincoln preparing for Harvard, Lena came to him and they had a little affair but Jim??s professor Cleric persuade him to go to Harvard. So Jim left Lena and went to Harvard. After he graduated and got a job and earned good amount money and became successful. He suddenly felt that he was lost. He always thought about the days he and Antonia spent together. He finally decided he should revisit Antonia. He found out from Frances Harling that Larry Donovan deceived Antonia. He was disappointed to see his Antonia became everybody??s tragedy story. Everybody was telling Jim ??poor Antonia!?? But later he saw the picture of Antonia and her baby; he realized again that Antonia still had not lost her fire. He went to meet Antonia and felt that he found himself with her. He told Antonia ??I??d have liked to have you for a sweetheart, or a wife, or my mother or my sister-anything that a woman can be to a man. The idea of you is a part of my mind; you influence my likes and dislikes, all my tastes, hundreds of times when I don??t realize it. You really are a part of me.??(p.152) When Jim walked again on a familiar road from his childhood; he believed a boy and a girl just ran by laughing, just like he and Antonia did before. He told Antonia ??I??ll come back!??(p.153) After Jim left, however, not after twenty years until he would visit again although he had written letters and sent pictures. He was afraid that he would be disappointed again. But he found out he is empty and lonely without Antonia. He came back again and saw Antonia married to Anton Cuzak. She had lost teeth and skin become yellow, but she still had the fire in her eyes. Jim was impressed. He was introduced to Anton and her children and had fun with them. He promised to come back more and hunt with them. On the way leave, he walked on the road that he and Antonia first got off the train at Black Hawk. He felt a sense of coming home and he realized he and Antonia would never be separated; they both shared precious, and incommunicable memories of past. Jim would still carry the influence of Antonia for the rest of his life.

In conclusion, Antonia had influenced Jim from the days in the prairie, Black Hawk and his life beyond. For the time he is away from Antonia, although he was successful, but he is not happy. He felt he had lost something and empty. Until he came back to Antonia??s family, he felt that he had came home. Jim is rootless without Antonia. They shared so much and Antonia is always in Jim no matter how far they are.

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