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My Antonia Essay On Immigration

Antonia's Struggles of Immigration Essay

1773 Words8 Pages

Why do many immigrants make the long and usually costly move to America? Is it the largely idolized notion that Americans are wealthier with better opportunities? Moreover, is the price some pay worth the risk? In Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, Ántonia faces struggles as a young child, including language barriers, poverty, harsh living conditions, and her beloved father’s death. However, as Ántonia grows into a woman, she must face struggles of a social nature, such as the division of social and economic classes, as well as social opprobrium. While immigration to America may open many doors for immigrants, it is equally fraught with obstacles. Likewise, Ántonia must face many adversities after her emigration from Bohemia to Nebraska, which…show more content…

Jim also sees a pioneer woman who has overcome the many struggles inherent to adapting to the frontier, and yet she still encompasses the Bohemian traditions she learned as a child.
Like many immigrants, Ántonia faces difficulty with the language barrier. Upon their arrival, the Shimerdas only speak a few sentences of broken English. According to Jim, “They could not speak enough English to ask for advice, or even to make their most pressing wants known” (Cather 46). In the beginning of their friendship, Antonia is unable to communicate efficiently with Jim. For example, during one of Antonia and Jim’s adventures, they come across a snake that sneaks up behind Jim. Antonia, who only speaks little English, is only able to scream at Jim in Bohemian. Although Jim is able to kill the snake, he lashes out at Antonia for speaking Bohemian gibberish. While Ántonia’s ability to effectively communicate with Jim frustrates her, it also makes her more determined to learn English. It is this desire that pushes her to travel, by barefoot, to the Burden’s home daily to acquire new English phrases (Gerber 11). It is through her perseverance that she is soon able to speak English better than any of the other children in Black Hawk.
Shimerdas who do not speak English, they fall easy prey

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My Antonia: An In Depth Analysis of Immigration in the 1800s

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MLA CITATION INCLUDED WITH SOURCES Historical look at the the novel My Antonia by Willa Cather My Antonia: An In Depth Analysis of Immigration in the 1800s The novel My Antonia by the author Willa Cather is set in the late eighteen hundreds. In the story it described an age of change indicating a progression in the social rankings of foreigners. During that time, immigrating to America was quite popular among European nations. There were several factors that inspired this mass movement. Immigrants found opportunities throughout the United States but preferred that of the rural west compared to those of the settled east.

This idea brought on a diverse metamorphosis to cultural aspects of the west. Traversing west was quite harrowing to early pioneers. It obligated them to travel long distances just to reach the varying small communities. Once California was settled it was decided that feasible transportation between there and the settled east was imperative. The first transcontinental railroad in the U. S. was built between 1863 and 1869. Railroad expansion such as this enticed many immigrants luring them in for track laying jobs. After it was built, people thought that it “revolutionized population and economy of the American west” (“First”).

The railroad was to thank for furthering accessibility to the west’s opportunities including for immigrants. Willa Cather, author of My Antonia, herself used the train as a form of transportation. At age nine she traveled by this railroad to Red Cloud: the location of one of the railroad’s headquarters. That same railway provided the route for others such as Margie Anderson, a hired girl. Annie Sadilek, who was Cather’s inspiration when writing My Antonia, and her family also traveled by this rail line to reach Red Cloud.

Red Cloud, renamed Black Hawk in Cather’s story, was described as, “the end of the railroad” (Cather 142). Jim Burden moved there to live with his grandparents and met Antonia indirectly while both were traveling to Black Hawk. Small towns like Red Cloud offered hope to many immigrants. In 1862 the Homestead Act proclaimed it possible for any adult American citizen to requisition up to and including 160 acres of land owned by the government. With this declaration immigrants could build a solid foundation for their future in this young country.

This act attracted many to Black Hawk in My Antonia. The Shimerdas came because they wanted better opportunities for Ambrosch and Antonia. Russian Pete came to escape his old country. Statistics from the University of Minnesota say that about or over one half of people that farmed requisitioned land were immigrants. Immigrants struggled to buy things like farm equipment and were troubled by the mouths they had to feed. Although it was hard they thought it was better to “farm the cheap land” (“History”), then to be living back in Europe.

A lot of times older siblings had to take jobs to help their parents feed all the mouths at home. These hired girls and sometimes boys were described as being, “early awakened and made observant by coming at a tender age from an old country to a new” (Cather 127). They were considered a nuisance by the wealthy. It caused a “curious social situation in Black Hawk” (Cather 127). Fortunately, thanks to their hard work, their siblings and the generations to come after them were wildly successful. Although many had said, “foreigners were ignorant people who couldn’t speak English” (Cather 129).

The foreigners paid no heed to them and made a way for themselves in this country. America was built on the success of immigrants. A great historically correct example of this is Willa Cather’s novel. My Antonia contained the stories of actual people who had to survive in our brutal social structure and came out the victors winning what is considered the American dream. MLA Bibliography Cather, Willa. My Antonia. Boston: Houghton, 1988. Print. “First Transcontinental Railroad. ” Wikipedia: the free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 24 Jan. 013. Web. 26 Jan. 2013. “History of Immigration in Nebraska. ” Midwest Coalition immigration and the Region’s Future. Univ. of Minnesota, 2010. Web. 24 Jan. 2013. “Homestead Act (1862). ” ourdocuments. gov. U. S. National Archives and Records Administration, n. d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. Opatrny, Josef. “Problems in the History of Czech Immigration to America in the second Half of the Nineteenth Century. ” Nebraska State Historical Society. n. d. Web. 24 Jan. 2013. “Willa Cather Timeline. ” The Willa Cather Foundation Website. n. d. Web. 26 Jan. 2013.

Author: Brandon Johnson

in My Antonia

My Antonia: An In Depth Analysis of Immigration in the 1800s

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