My Antonia

The Contrasting Effects of Jim's and Ántonia’s Perceptions of the Past 9th Grade

“Optima dies… prima fugit,” (Virgil). This simple yet powerful statement is the quote chosen by Willa Cather to set the expectational theme for her 1918 novel My Ántonia. The classic adage translates to “the best days are the first to flee”, which perfectly expresses My Ántonia’s general themes of longing, perception of the past, and fondness of memory. While Jim has a fruitful childhood filled with remiss optimism for the future, his ultimate fate is to lead a bland adult life. This reality steers Jim to be constantly stuck in the past, escaping from the present. As an adult, he glamorizes his adolescent past a realistic point in order to avoid the inevitable future. On the contrary, Ántonia is satisfied and content with her life, as misfortune humbles her. The epigraph’s nostalgic tone anticipates a harsh juxtaposition between Jim’s romanticized childhood and Ántonia’s satisfaction with her lifestyle.

Jim lives his younger years biased by the honest happiness that comes with being a child. He never has reason to be concerned, with a financially satisfied, happy, and fortunate family. When Jim conveys, “this was the road over which Ántonia and I came on that night when we got off the train at Black Hawk and were bedded down...

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