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My Antonia Essay: The Spirit of Antonia

The Spirit of Antonia in My Antonia

The life of Antonia Shimerdas, the main character in Willa Cather’s My Antonia, could easily be judged a failure. Perhaps measures of wealth, career, beauty and love fall short when held next to Antonia. If one could categorize life by that unnamable light or spirit which Antonia never loses, she would surpass all who belittle her achievements in other areas.

Where the spirit comes from, no one can say. “Perhaps an ethereal or god-like being takes residence in the person’s heart”(Helmick 46). Some may say it’s simply the chemistry of human beings to vary in levels of energy, which manifests itself as vigor and enthusiasm for living. “But even one who attributes the undying light to an abundance of hormones or simply luck in life will ultimately hit a barrier to such a theory, as is the case with the timeless heroine, Antonia Shimerdas”(Helmick 48).

Only rarely does the spirit of life embody itself in the eyes of a woman or man. Strangers recognize a striking presence in the eyes of Antonia even as a young child. Her penetrating eyes, like “mirrors of the soul,” remind a passenger conductor of the gleam which emanates from a new dollar. Similarly, when first meeting his lifelong friend, the narrator, Jim, is struck by her “big and warm” eyes, which bring forth images of “the sun shining on brown pools in the wood” (Cather 22).

Like many children, the young Antonia exudes a fascination with all nature’s things. Yet her connection with the land continues to flourish at the time when other children climb down from the trees and enter the realm of adulthood. In an arduous life of poverty and toil, Antonia embraces her love of the land, harnessing her passio…

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…kept,” they could not diminish that which made Antonia blaze-her Inner Light, whose mysterious source remains unnamed, but is forever cherished as a testimony to what it means to truly live.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bloom, Harold, ed. Willa Cather’s My Antonia. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. 1987.

Bourne, Randolph. “Review of My Antonia.” Murphy’s Critical Essays 145-147.

Cather, Willa. My Antonia. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Fussell, Edwin. Frontier. American Literature and the American West. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1965.

Helmick, Evelyn. “The Mysteries of Antonia.” Bloom’s Willa Cather’s . . . , 109-119.

Rosowski, Susan J., ed. Approaches to Teaching Cather’s My Antonia. New York: The Modern Language Association of America. 1989.

Trilling, Lionel. “Willa Cather.” Bloom’s Modern Critical Views 7-15.

traglear King Lear as an Arthur Miller Tragedy

King Lear as an Arthur Miller Tragedy

If we seek to justify Shakespeare’s King Lear as a tragedy by applying Arthur Miller’s theory of tragedy and the tragic hero, then we might find Lear is not a great tragedy, and the character Lear is hardly passable for a tragic hero. However, if we take Aristotle’s theory of tragedy to examine this play, it would fit much more neatly and easily. This is not because Aristotle prescribes using nobility for the subject of a tragedy, but, more importantly, because he emphasizes the purpose of tragedy — to arouse pity and fear in the audience, and thus purge them of such emotions.

Arthur Miller, in his famous 1949 essay, “Tragedy and the Common Man,” states the following as the nature of the tragic hero:

…The tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing — his sense of personal dignity. …The underlying struggle is that of individual attempting to gain his “rightful” position in his society. … Tragedy…is the consequence of a man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly.

Now some people may find it doubtful whether Lear fits the above description. True, he is displaced from his “rightful position in society,” namely, that of a king, but he has brought about displacement by himself. In addition, he shows few signs of struggling to regain that position or striving to “evaluate himself justly.”

Lear is not forced, like Richard II is, to give up his crown. Although he is very old, he is not obliged to hand his power over to anyone, let alone divide his kingdom into three. Not only is he not obliged or compelled to do so, Kent even openly warns him against the act in Act I S…

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…ar being most effective in bringing forth feelings of pity and fear that the audience is consequently purged of these feelings, we may conclude that King Lear is clearly a tragedy. Arthur Miller’s theory of tragedy, although moving and persuasive, fails to account for the tragicness of this play, perhaps because his main concern is to discuss the “tragedy of the common man,” and thus limiting his scope of discussion on the genre as a whole.

Works Cited

Adams, Hazard. Critical Theory Since Plato. Revised ed. Orlando: Harcourt

Brace Jovanovich, 1992.

Frye, Northrop, et al. The Harper Handbook to Literature. 2nd ed. New York:

Addison-Wesley, 1997.

Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. 4th ed. Ed.

David Bevington. New York: Harper Collins, 1992.

Miller, Arthur. “Tragedy and the Common Man.” 1949.

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