Thumbs up for My Ántonia by Willa Cather. Literature.
In spite of its title, I was struck by how much this book is not really about Antonia. Of course, we are warned in the beginning by the narrator, Jim, that he must tell Antonia’s story through his own experiences. But by dint of that, there are long sections in which Antonia does not appear, nor is she the off-screen impetus for the events which occur. She is there at the beginning, and Jim’s reunion with her serves as the ending, but it might as well have been Jim’s story all along, or the story of a place. That was really just as well to me because of all the characters Antonia interested me the least. She, more than the others, is described, rather than allowed to speak for herself. I much preferred, say, the odd Lena Lingard, whose dreaminess (not to mention her name) reminds me very much of Luna Lovegood, to the extent that I wonder if Lena was perhaps floating in the recesses of J. K. Rowling’s subconscious as she created her character. My ponderings on character and focus aside, if you weren’t already forced to read My Antonia in school and are wondering if you should do so of your own volition, I’d summarize: less eventful but still interesting version of Little House on the Prairie, heavy on the beautifully evocative descriptions of nature. If that intrigues, then I highly recommend it.
Years afterward, when the open-grazing days were over, and the red grass had been ploughed under and under until it had almost disappeared from the prairie; when all the fields were under fence, and the roads no longer ran about like wild things, but followed the surveyed section-lines, Mr. Shimerda’s grave was still there, with a sagging wire fence around it, and an unpainted wooden cross. As grandfather had predicted, Mrs. Shimerda never saw the roads going over his head. The road from the north curved a little to the east just there, and the road from the west swung out 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 gray rivers flowing past it. I never came upon the place without emotion, and in all that country it was the spot most dear ro me. I loved the dim superstition, the propitiatory intent, that had put the grave there; and still more I loved the spirit that could not carry out the sentence – the error from the surveyed lines, the clemency of the soft earth roads along which the home-coming wagons rattled after sunset. Never a tired driver passed the wooden cross, I am sure, without wishing well to the sleeper.
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