Romanticism and Realism

My Antonia is overflowing with Romanticism. Jim is a very nostalgic character, and the entire narrative consists of him looking back on old times.The language is very symbolic, especially regarding nature and the landscape of the Nebraska countryside. For example, Jim and the girls are talking and enjoying the scenery when they notice a plough: “The sun was sinking just behind it. Magnified across the distance by the horizontal light, it stood out against the sun, was exactly contained within the circle of the disc…There it was, heroic in size, a picture writing on the sun” (186). This plough is a very obvious, romanticized symbol of life on the countryside. In accordance with Romanticism, nature is shown to be both beautiful and horrifying. Jim describes the landscape as “the complete dome of heaven” but also reflects that “between that earth and that sky I felt erased, blotted out.” Jim even finds beauty in Mr. Shimerda’s death: “I loved the dim superstition,  the propitiatory intent, that had put the grave there; and still more I loved the spirit that could not carry out the sentence – the error from the surveyed lines, the clemency of the soft earth roads along which the home-coming wagons rattled after sunset. Never a tired driver passed the wooden cross, I am sure, without wishing well to the sleeper” (94).

The novel also contains aspects of Realism. It portrays the lifestyles of different cultures and realistically shows what life was like for immigrants at the time. The difference in social class between Antonia and Jim is emphasized. For example, when Jim asks Antonia why she tries to be like Ambrosch, she replies “If I live here, like you, that is different. Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us” (111). Antonia has come to terms with the unfortunate reality that, because of her social class and her status as an immigrant, her life will be more difficult than Jim’s.

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