In the early 1900s Northern & Eastern European immigration flourished into the United States. The world was changing as technology and new methods of transportation started to take off. As stated in the Bohemian Paradox, "poor social conditions along with political persecution by the Empire and subsequent anti-socialist legislation as prime motives to emigrate" . Thousands upon thousands of the working class Europeans sought to leave the dirty, congested cities in Europe to the peaceful vast countryside of Nebraska hoping to make a new life for them away from the prosecution they faced back in their home country. In the book My Antonia Willa Cather captures the idea of the changes and hardships these European immigrants had to initially overcome in order to survive in the United States. Three formal aspects of Cather's fiction include "its choice of subjects, its way of attending to character, and the nature of its plots".
Cather utilizes these formal aspects in My Antonia with the vast Nebraska landscape, individual characters, and multiple experiences throughout the book to capture the significance of the American Dream to many Europeans and immirgrants.
Cather chose the majority of the novel to take place in the Nebraska countryside for a reason. Throughout that period in American history, many persecuted European immigrants migrated from Northern and Eastern Europe over to the American Midwest due to the farmable land in the region. However, the immigrants faced several challenges as not all of them were accustomed to farming therefore producing little results. For example the Burdens always gave extra food to the Shimerdas because they had very little food stored for the winter and their crops all rot due to lack of experience in farming. Like many other European immigrants at the time, farming only brought in enough barely support a family therefore the Shimerdas had very little money to send their children to school. Fearing no one in their family would ever be educated, they forced Antonia to learn English from Jim.
Cather used multiple excerpts throughout the book to illustrate the differences between the lives of Americans compared to the harsh reality the European immigrants had to face daily. The novel illustrates multiple obstacles the Europeans had to deal with upon arriving such as the language barrier and the cultural differences they faced. None of them knew English so they had to rely on other European immigrants for help that usually did not result in their favor like the Shimerdas who bought their first home from a fellow Bohemian Peter Krajiek that ended up overcharging them. One example of cultural differences occurred when the Burdens received some mysterious pungent spices from the Shimerdas that they were too reluctant to use and ended up throwing it out. It wasn't until Jim tried a small portion of it did they later discover it was a type of Bohemian dried mushroom. Many of the immigrants also became homesick that could have been one of the reasons that surrounded the mysterious death of Antonia's father. Also the vast majority of the foreign immigrants that came to America started out very poor so like the Shimerdas they lived in very run down houses and even slept in a hole in the ground.
Cather's characterization of Jim and Antonia in the novel signifies the impact of immigration on our future generations. Since the beginning of the novel Jim immediately befriends Antonia and teaches her to speak English as well as helping her adapt to American life. Jim is more willing to experience new things and open to Antonia's culture. This shows that the younger American generation accepts the immigrants into their lives a lot more easily compared to the adults like the Shimerdas who were not befriended by any American and ended up only making friends with their own countrymen. It signifies immigration on a much greater level if one was to examine immigration and diversity now in the 21st century compared to back then and how much even more accepting of diversity as a country now compared to back then in the 19th century.
Throughout the novel, Willa Cather has captured the affects of immigration in America through scenery, characterization, and content. The most intriguing concept that one can take from her novel is that although it depicts of the hardships of immigrants almost 100 years ago in America, the same hardships that immigrants faced back then can still be applied till this very day in the 21st century. One has to question is the world really changingÃ¢ÂÂ¦?BibliographyMy Antonia.Willa Cather.