Uncommon Luxury: A Comparison between Jim's family in My Antonia with the typical plains family

Essay by manderz542High School, 10th grade February 2004

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Thinking back, everyone has migrated to one place or another at a certain point. People have not been stationary throughout history, though some have simply been in an area longer than others. In My Antonia by Willa Cather, Antonia Shimerda and her family had come to the Great Plains of Nebraska from Bohemia, but Jim and his grandparents were some of the few that did not migrate from a foreign country, having settled their homestead earlier. Most people living there at the time, being the late 1800's, were similar to the Shimerdas, being recent to the area from places great distances away. They were new to farm life and it consumed the time and efforts of every member in the family, leaving time for little else. At the other end of the spectrum lies Jim's family, being easily successful and prospered. He had the opportunity to receive a good education.

Jim's family was not typical of the time period because their lack of debt allowed generosity, and since he had the luxury of going to a university, not being subjected to farm life for all his years.

Jim's family's situation, unlike others, was one that allowed extra kindness and an ability to 'go out of their way' for those in need. They especially gave assistance to immigrants. For example, when the Shimerdas were having trouble providing enough food for themselves, with Mrs. Shimerda going crazy as a result, Jim's grandmother packed a basket of food, and, "...not admitting their stark need...Jake arrived with the hamper, as if in direct answer to Mrs. Shimerda's reproaches"(Cather 49). When the Shimerdas were in trouble, Jim's family came to their rescue. They had enough food to bring extras to the Shimerdas, who had none. Jim's family was well off compared to those around...