The Importance of the Past in Willa Cather's My Antonia
In My Antonia, Willa Cather emphasizes the importance of the past through Jum Burden's narration. Jim Burden realizes at the conclusion of the novel how much he enjoyed his childhood days and how much his memories mean to him. There are three events that Cather included in the novel which contribute greatly to the overall theme, concerning the importance of the past.
One event is in Chapter II of Book III. Jim decides to write about his youth in Nebraska as Vergil has just done. As he is thinking about this, Lena Lingard comes to the door and he is excited to see her. Once again he begins to think about the past. Even after she left, just her presence had impacted his life, which adds to the importance of the past in this novel. Earlier in the chapter Jim is studying Latin and reads the line "Optima dies...prima fugit." Translated as the best days flee first, Jim begins to think of the past. This is the main theme of the novel, and Jim is just beginning to realize how important his past was.
One more scene appears as the story comes to a conclusion in the last chapter of the last book. Jim has just left Antonia after visiting for the first time in thirty years. He spends a day in Black Hawk that ends in a disappointment since none of his childhood friends are around. Walking out to the edge of town, he finds a half-mile stretch of the old wagon-road "which used to run like a wild thing across the open prairie." The memory of his first ride over that road comes to him strongly. Now he feels that this road has brought him and Antonia back together. It is "the road of Destiny" along which their lives have traveled.
Another event appears in chapter 14 of book II. Antonia and Jim are having a picnic by the river. It is an important event for many reasons. First, the past is brought up, when Antonia says,...