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The Beauty of the Lack of Structure in My Antonia

According to James E. Miller Jr.’s, “My Antonia; A Frontier Drama of Time,” Willa Cather’s novel, one of her most important and perhaps most popular works, is “defective in structure” (Bloom, 21). He quotes E. K. Brown, who defends that: ” ‘Everything in the book is there to convey a feeling, not to tell a story, not to establish a social philosophy, not even to animate a group of characters'” (21). The reader undoubtedly feels the impact of the story of Antonia and Jim as Cather intended, but critics blind themselves to the essence of My Antonia, by looking for a “consistent central action of unbroken character portrayal” (21). The structure bases itself on the narrative of Jim Burden, who recalls significant moments in an abstract pattern from his life and friendship formed with Antonia. These are memories evoked by emotion, events which have long been buried by the past, and when retracted from the recesses Jim’s adult mind, will certainly not retain their order. Jim’s (Cather’s) narrative personifies romanticism in his manuscript. Conventional structure is irrelevant to the true meaning of Cather’s story.

The collection of books that make up the novel My Antonia are sporadic but not Homeric in the sense that Jim, or Antonia for that matter, centers all action. For instance, Cather gives us the totally unrelated story of Peter and Pavel and their murderous sleigh ride in Russia. Antonia virtually drops out of the narrative for a large portion of the novel as Jim grows away from her and the farm. We get Book II: The Hired Girls, which brings out front Lena Lingard and the other foreign girls in the text. And possibly the character in the story of Jim’s youth that receives the most attention from Cather is …

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…nline source). We all have romantic visions of certain aspects of our lives, but I think Cather puts forth that carrying those views throughout life advances into a deterioration personal growth.


Miller, Jr., James E. “My Antonia: A Frontier Drama of Time.” Modern Critical Interpretations: My Antonia. Ed. Harold Bloom.

New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. 21-29.

Peck, Demaree C. The Imaginative Claims of the Artist in Willa Cather’s Fiction: “Possesson Granted by a Different Lease.” London: Associated University Presses, 1996.

Randall III, John H. “Intrepretation of My Antonia.” Willa Cather and Her Critics. Ed. James Schroeter. New York: Cornell University Press, 1967. 272-323.

Wells, Kim. “My Antonia: A Survey of Critical Attitudes.” August 23, 1999. Online Internet. November 4, 1998.

Essay on Hardships Expressed in Hughes On the Road and Mother to Son

Hardships Expressed in Hughes On the Road and Mother to Son

African-American citizens who live in the United States have experienced a tough life through personal experiences. They have struggled to obtain basic civil rights–a struggle that has spanned many centuries (Mabunda 311).

Langston Hughes, author of the short story “On the Road” and the poem “Mother to Son,” often illustrated in his writing the hardships experienced by the characters–products of African American life in the United States. While Hughes and other young African-American authors wanted to define and celebrate black art and culture, they were also responsible for changing the preconceived notions of most Americans’ erroneous ideas of black life (Mabunda 696). The cultural aspects of Hughes’ poems exhibited life as an African-American in the late 1910s to the early 1960s. His views, like many writers in his era, came directly from personal experience, which provided the reader with a sense of communication that illustrated–with art rather than essay–the ills of the racist world. L. Mpho Mabunda proclaims that the issues and grim realities of the African-American “could be experienced through the lives of characters and in verse, and the message delivered more subtly and effectively” (696).

The overall theme and purpose of “On the Road” and “Mother to Son” are centered around an illustration of the hardships experienced by most African-American citizens in the early part of the century. Both genres graphically detail the lifestyle and environment in which the African-American lived. In the 20th century, many of the black communities in America have existed in a perpetual state of crisis (“Black American”). According to Kenneth Clark in his add…

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… Robinson. The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States. New York: Arno P, 1968.

“Henry McNeal Turner.” Online. Internet. 24 Apr. 1998.

Hughes, Langston. “Mother to Son.” Bridges: Literature across Cultures. Eds. Gilbert H. Muller and John A. Williams. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994. 52.

—. “On the Road.” Bridges: Literature across Cultures. Eds. Gilbert H. Muller and John A.Williams. New York: McGRaw-Hill, 1994. 845-8.

Mabunda, L. Mpho, ed. The African American Almanac. 7th ed. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 1997.

Miller, R. Baxter, and Evelyn Nettles. “Langston Hughes.” Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography: The Age of Maturity, 1929-1941. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 1989. 150-71.

Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Making of America. London: Collier-Macmillan Ltd., 1969.

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