In My Antonia the character Antonia represents several different things in the novel. She represents the work ethic of the pioneers of the Nebraska landscape, she represents the hardships that faced new American immigrants, and finally she represents the past to Jim and the nostalgic way in which he sees it.
The first thing that Antonia represents is the work ethic of the Pioneers of the Nebraska landscape. She represents this through the way that she worked the fields after the death of her father. She did this without complaining and was actually proud of herself for being able to do the hard labor of a farm. Another example of this is when she went to work in town as a servant girl in town. These girls worked hard for little pay and sent home what little they made back to the farm to help out with bills there. All of these things signify the difficulty that the pioneers had to overcome, which they did by working hard and long days for their whole life just as Antonia did in the novel.
Another thing that Antonia represents is the struggles that immigrants had to deal with if they wanted to fit in the mainstream of often quite judgmental American settlers. They had to overcome things such as the language barrier, religious differences, and social prejudices just as Antonia did. An obvious example of this is her learning English from Jim. Another more discreet example of this is the treatment and attitude towards the working girls. The servant girls were thought of as ok to dance with but nothing you could bring home to mom. The intense home sickness, which caused Antonia?s father to commit suicide, is another example of the hardships that the immigrants faced.
The final thing that Antonia stood for was the nostalgic way people look at their lost past. Jim reveres her in his memory as a near perfect image of beauty and true inner goodness. Jim sees her as an unrecoverable past which he overcomes in the end of the novel by revisiting the past ?Antonia? and learning to incorporate it into his present.
The novel My Antonia is about a boy coming of age and his looking back on his child hood. What he sees though is all the times and all the longing he had with and for Antonia. Though the book is about Jim and his childhood, Antonia embodies the heart of the story. It is Antonia that overcomes all the hardships faced by both immigrants and the pioneers of the west, just as it is she who evokes such nostalgic feelings in Jim.