Friday, September 16, 2016

The 'Normal West': My Antonia

Willa Cather’s  My Antonia is a book you would read in junior high or high school twenty years ago given its value as a document about the American experience, and Cather’s obvious skill as a writer.  This novel is a ‘perfect’ example of storytelling prose.  It is a kind of novel’s novel of a certain kind: plot, character, location, time, all fit together to form a seamless whole without challenging the reader to confront new forms.

Cather is often hopelessly sentimental.  She certainly shows the rough side of pioneer life, but it is often wrapped in a sugar coating.  That said, she has a dark edge as well. Antonia, her heroine of this story, is often painted with ideal colors, but she is also a narrow person, limited in her goals and aspirations.  There is the distinct sense at the end of the novel that the men in her life,  her husband in particular, are trapped by her domestic aspirations. Antonia is both the ideal of womanhood and a trap.  

An unsettling conclusion to this novel which illustrates that Cather has far more power and weight as a writer than she is credited.

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