My Antonia

Was the book historically accurate?

How did the author establish historical accuracy of time and place?

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Much of the novel follows Cather's idyllic view of the west rather than rooting it in factual experiences. The backgrounds of people and places might well have been based on factual evidence though. My Antonia follows a vision of the idyllic world of the American West. Although by the time of the novel's publication, the frontier had already been mostly settled, Cather idealizes the American frontier and depicts it as a perfect alternative to the modern, corrupt world that we now live in. Cather glorifies frontier values of independence, hard work, and asceticism, and she implicitly contrasts it to the competition and isolation of modern society. Because Cather praises the country in favor of the city, the novel can also be considered a pastoral novel.

While Willa Cather lived a very discreet life, modern biographers note that her long-time companion was a woman, in what was most likely a lesbian relationship. At the time of the novel's publication, it probably would have been scandalous for her to have written My Antonia in the voice of a woman. It is interesting to think about the novel in the context of Cather's biography and to consider how it might have been different had she written in a voice closer to her own.