THE COMING OF AGE The novel My Antonia, is a novel that is full of stories, but the most central story is the one of Jim and Antonia and their growth from childhood to their adulthood. Each character follows a different path to adulthood, each with their own influences and obstacles. I will focus on Antonia and Jim's coming of age throughout the novel, My Antonia.
Antonia's coming of age was more difficult than Jim's coming of age, and for more than just one reason. Antonia's family immigrated to the United States from Bohemia. When Antonia's family finally made it onto the shore of the United States, her family decided to continue moving until they reached Nebraska. The family had to stay strong throughout the trip or else they would have split upon reaching their final destination of their new home. It is this same sense of family that probably had the biggest influence on Antonia's future.
Her mom was a very demanding woman who wanted nothing but the best for her family and stopped at nothing to make sure that they were all better off. The father of the family had established a successful textile outlet in Bohemia, and he provided the family with a comfortable life style. The mother was determined that there were better places for her kids to grow and receive an education as well as a brighter future as a result of this education, so she persuaded the father to give up his business and move to America. There she hoped that her oldest son and daughter could have a better life. This influenced Antonia in the future to always have a very strong desire to succeed and her desire to help out the family. The way Antonia showed this was by how hard she worked when she actually had a job. When she got a job in the fields, she was working just as hard as any of the guys were. Grandmother had said, "Heavy field work'll spoil that girl. She'll lose all her nice ways and get rough ones"ÃÂ (My Antonia 99). The drive to succeed also showed up when she got jobs in town as a hired girl. Jim said, "I was thinking, as I watcher her, how little it mattered"ÃÂabout her teeth, for instance. I know so many women who have kept all the things that she had lost, but whose inner glow has faded. Whatever else was gone, Antonia had not lost the fire of life"ÃÂ (My Antonia 250). She worked very hard to please her bosses, and the bosses grew to love her because of her hard work ethic.
Antonia's father had a profound effect on her, but in an entirely different manner. He was a self made man who worked very hard and wanted nothing but the best for his family, but he also knew how to have fun. He went into the town every now and then to the bars, to festivals, or just to town to socialize. He had a free spirit, and just by reading how he acted, you could tell how his mood affected the rest of his family's attitude. Towards the end of his life, he became more and more melancholy, and the rest of the family members responded by also becoming more and more melancholy. When he died, he was missed so much that he was buried in his own graveyard. His influence on Antonia was the free spirit that he possessed. Antonia knew how to have fun all because of her father's teachings. She went to dance classes, and soon she was drawing all the men to dance with her from the town.
The other family members had their own influences on how Antonia grew up. Antonia's older brother was much like his mom. He was an extremely hard worker. He was built like an ox, so he could work extremely hard, and he also was very stubborn. He didn't back away from anything, and he pushed everyone around him to work just as hard as he did. This also contributed to Antonia's desire to be a hard worker.
The last member of Antonia's family was her other brother. Her other brother was crippled and demanded a lot of attention. His influence on Antonia was that he taught her about caring for other people. Antonia's behavior around children could be directly lined with how she treated her brother.
Antonia, as you can see, has learned a great deal from her family members. They all helped shape her into what she was. From her father teachings of having fun to one of her brother's teachings of caring for others more than her self makes Antonia a very loved character in this novel, My Antonia.
Besides Antonia's family she had two other influences on her. They were her education and her cultural upbringing. Antonia had a very limited education. The education that she did receive would have a huge effect on her adult life; however, the education that she did receive was received through Jim, who would be a life long friend to Antonia.
Jim taught Antonia how to speak English and how to read English. These tools would prove to be most vital lessons in the future, because without this education, she would not be able to hold the jobs that she had in town. She also would not have met all of the people in town that helped influence her, she would not have earned their respect, or at the town dances. If she had not learned English, she would have probably stayed in the home and lived a more traditional Bohemian life, like most of the girls of that time.
Speaking of Bohemian life, it too had its influences on her life. The strong sense of family is one thing that never deserted Antonia. As she showed at the end of the book, her kids had a good upbringing, with a loving set of parents, and were much better off because of it. Antonia also had to overcome many things in her culture. One of the things that she had to overcome was favoritism towards males in the Bohemian culture. Antonia worked very hard to prove that she was just as capable as her brothers when it came to fieldwork and other work in general. This helped her determination to be successful, and in the end, it paid off.
Jim on the other hand had many things that influenced his life. At a very young age, he moved from Virginia to live with his grandparents. This proved to be a very good thing for him, because he had a very loving environment in which he grew up in with his grandparents. His grandparents provided a very strong moral upbringing for Jim as well. He was brought up in a non-threatening environment in which he could grow up to be carefree and without the pressures of a populated environment, which would prove to be an important part of Jim's up bringing. His grandparents made him do some house chores and sent him to school. Both of these actions helped shape Jim immensely in his coming of age. He was able to learn more in this environment. The having to do chores helped him to instill some drive, which Jim used to a great advantage in his schoolwork. He worked very hard, and it paid off in the form of early graduation from high school, acceptance in college and ultimately in his admittance to Harvard University. It also went a long way in his quest to become a lawyer.
Morals played a very big part in Jim's coming of age. If he were to be caught doing something that he should not be doing, he just told the truth, instead of lying about the incidents. This helped Jim avoid getting into serious trouble, and it had a positive influence on his education. After he was caught at the dances and was forced to stop going to them, he just focused his energy towards his studies. This ultimately led to him furthering his education. His sense of community also had a direct influence on his actions later in life. He was a champion to everybody, and represented many people as a lawyer. He could not stay away from the community, and returned to pay a visit to the community in the end.
Lena was another influence on Jim's life. She kept Jim from throwing away his life. She predicted that he would amount to some great things in life, which in the end he really did. He kept in touch with her right up to the end of the novel, and was forever grateful for what she did for him.
Antonia and Jim have had many influences in their lives. They went on different paths to achieve success, but ultimately they achieved success in there own ways. Their lives were forever turned around once they reached the small town of Nebraska, and they were much better off because of Nebraska. Without their separate, but somehow connected upbringings, the two of them would probably not have chosen the lives that they ultimately did. Whether these characters were male or female, rich or poor, or had an education they still made the best of a situation and ultimately came of age.