My Antonia Essay: Psychoanalytic Criticism

1950 words - 8 pages

Psychoanalytic Criticism of My Antonia   

    Abstract: This essay uses psychoanalysis as the strategy of interpretation to read Willa Cather's My Antonia.  Freud's well-known theory--the Oedipus complex--and Lacan's theory of the Mirror Stage are used as the modes of approaching the novel.


I use psychoanalytic criticism as a means of interpreting Willa Cather's My Antonia because I find some similarities between My Antonia and Peter Pan, between that and The Awakening when reading Keith Green's Critical Theory and Practice: A Coursebook.


In the light of Freud's Oedipus complex, like Peter Pan who sees Windy as a lover and mother, and who develops his sexual identity through this complex, Jim Burden also has a mother-like lover, Antonia, and finally comes to take his sexualized and gendered identity in this world. In the view of Lacan's Mirror Stage, like Edna Pontellier who wishes to return to her childhood memory, to return to the world of the Imaginary, in which "sometimes I feel this summer as if I were walking through the green meadow again; idly, aimlessly, unthinking and unguided" (Chopin 520), Jim Burden recollects his boyhood living in the great midland plain of North America where he feels he and Nature are one, but, unlike Edna who goes back and does not come back, Jim goes into the realm of the Imaginary and comes back to the Symbolic, experiencing the process of the Mirror Stage. These are the reasons why I try to apply psychoanalysis in the interpretation of the novel. General ideas will be given after the summery of the novel.


Willa Cather's My Antonia begins with Jim Burden's "an interminable journey across the great prairie of North America" (Cather 5), a journey back to a dream-like world. An orphan, Jim is sent to his grandparents, who lives in Nebraska, and there he feels that he seems to walk into a paradise of nature. He and Antonia, a neighbor girl, enjoy the ecstasy which nature can afford to them. And he develops a profound affection with Antonia. Moreover, he feels the happiness of being "dissolved into something complete and great" (Cather 14). It shows Jim's intimate relation with nature. However, seasons change. "When boys and girls are growing up, life can't stand still . . . . They have to grow up, whether they will or no" (Cather 124). So when Jim is old enough to go to high school, the Burden family moves to a nearby town, Black Hawk. Jim says good-bye to childhood and nature, but, when Antonia also comes to town as a helper for the Harlings, he still keeps a close relation with Antonia. However, one night in order to protect Antonia from Wick Cutter's sexual attack, Jim sleeps in Antonia's bed and is attacked by Mr. Cutter. He is frightened and runs away. Having finished the studies in high school, Jim makes another journey moving from Black Hawk to Lincoln to receive college education. There not only nature but also Antonia seems to him so far away, but Jim misses...

Find Another Essay On My Antonia Essay: Psychoanalytic Criticism

My Antonia Essay: Role of Women

1558 words - 6 pages Role of  Women in My Antonia  The role of the women in My Antonia as the showcased laborers and workers in the new community does not, certainly, alleviate the questions of patriarchal influence offered in the discussions of gender. Certainly, the fact that Ántonia is deprived of the education she longs for and yet cannot have, because it is she who is responsible for her family's success--"'School is all right for little boys. I help

My Antonia Essay: Importance of Setting

560 words - 2 pages The Importance of Setting in My Antonia          The setting of the story has tremendous impact on the characters and themes in the novel "My Antonia" by Willa Cather. Cather's delicately crafted naturalistic style is evident not only in her colorfully detailed depictions of the Nebraska frontier, but also in her characters’ relationship with the land on which they live. The common naturalist theme of

My Antonia Essay: The Character of Lena Lingard

1827 words - 7 pages The Character of Lena Lingard in My Antonia            Lena Lingard is the best example of a non-domestic central character which appears amidst the domesticity of My Ántonia. Often the sections which feature Lena instead of Ántonia are seen as confusing divergences from the plot line of a novel that purports to be about the woman named in the title. However, since Lena appears in the novel almost as often as Ántonia, and more often than

An essay book review of My Antonia, by Willa Cather.

782 words - 3 pages My AntoniaIn the beginning of this novel we meet a successful railroad lawyer named Jim Burden. He is writing a memoir of his friend Antonia. Jim finds that a childhood friend of his, Antonia Shimerda (Tony) represents the whole adventure of his childhood. The novel then goes on to tell how he met Tony, when they became neighbors living with his grandparents on their Nebraska Farm. In their early childhood together that had great adventures

"My Antonia" by Willa Cather and the American Dream. Assignment was to write an essay about the American Dream that uses "My Antonia" as an example

668 words - 3 pages The American society frequents the term "American Dream" in its writings at speeches. Willa Cather based her My Antonia on the American Dream. Many Americans have achieved it - the Chairman of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, being one. There is no denying that the American Dream is achievable, but is it possible for immigrants to achieve it? Analyzing My Antonia and its characters helped to reach a conclusion that the American Dream, also known as

My Antonia Essay: Contrasts between the Hired Girls and the Black Hawk Women

1043 words - 4 pages Contrasts between the "Hired Girls" and the Black Hawk Women in My Antonia    Willa Cather draws a stark contrast between the respectable women of Black Hawk and the “hired girls” in books II and III of My Antonia through Jim’s unavoidable attachment to them.  The “hired girls” are all immigrants who work in Black Hawk as servants to help support their families in the country.  They are hardworking and charming.  They are simple and

Willa Cather's My Antonia: Enlightening or Depressing?

1043 words - 4 pages , soon after, she was married to a fellow Bohemian and they had eleven children. This book is the moving story of his friendship with Antonia, his Antonia. Antonia's life is constantly debated. This fictional character is seen as a failure to many. One of these is William J. Stuckey. His essay included in the Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 31, stated, "Cather and her narrator celebrate one of our most familiar stereotypes, one that

The Trials and Tribulations of Antonia

1923 words - 8 pages social nature, such as the division of social and economic classes, as well as social opprobrium. While immigration to America may open many doors for immigrants, it is equally fraught with obstacles. Likewise, Ántonia must face many adversities after her emigration from Bohemia to Nebraska, which make her a stronger person. My Ántonia is a story that captures the struggles of early European immigrants and settlers. Antonia is a young Bohemian

Pride And Prejudice

1216 words - 5 pages Classical Literature Essay In the classic novels Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and My Antonia the author's magically wrote how the main characters were products against the society that they each lived in. Every character in each of these novels was the embodiment that we all would have wished to be in their time. As well as showing the characters own social stature the authors also gave each of them distinct qualities and characteristics

Respect Over Passion in My Antonia by Willa Cather

2180 words - 9 pages Mifflin Company, 1995. Dyck, Reginald. "The Feminist Critique of Willa Cather's Fiction: A Review Essay." Women's Studies 22 (1993): 263-279. Ferguson, Mary Anne. "My Antonia in Women's Studies: Pioneer Women and Men-- The Myth and the Reality." Rosowski's Approaches to Teaching 95-100. Helmick, Evelyn. "The Mysteries of Antonia." Bloom's Willa Cather's . . . , 109-119. Rosowski, Susan J., ed. Approaches to Teaching Cather's My Antonia. New York: The Modern Language Association of America. 1989.

The Trials and Tribulations of Antonia

1937 words - 8 pages . My Antonia: A Frontier Drama of time. American Quarterly. X.4. (Winter, 1958): 476-84. Rpt. In Twentieth- Century Literary Criticism: Excerpts from Criticism of the Works of Novelists, Poets, Playwrights, Short Story Writers, and other Creative Writers Who Died between 1900 and 1960, from the First Published Critical Appraisals to Current Evaluations. Eds. Paula Kepos and Dennis Poupard. Vol. 31. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1989. 33-33. Print.

Similar Essays

My Antonia Essay: The Spirit Of Antonia

1269 words - 5 pages The Spirit of Antonia in My Antonia        The life of Antonia Shimerdas, the main character in Willa Cather's My Antonia, could easily be judged a failure. Perhaps measures of wealth, career, beauty and love fall short when held next to Antonia. If one could categorize life by that unnamable light or spirit which Antonia never loses, she would surpass all who belittle her achievements in other areas.   Where the spirit comes from

My Antonia Essay: The Role Of Men In My Antonia

823 words - 3 pages   The Role of Men in My Antonia        Gloria Steinem once wrote that "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Clearly she is attempting to assert women's independence and further the liberation movement. However, her analogy is not quite complete. A bicycle has absolutely no place in a fish's life, but whether she needs him or not, men are very much present in a women's life. While a women

My Antonia Essay: Independence And Belonging

676 words - 3 pages Independence and Belonging in My Antonia   In My Antonia there are two types of women, those who want to have a man and those who don¹t. The key word is want, at no point does a woman need a man in the entire course of the novel. From the Hired Girls to Tiny Soderball and Lena Lingard women are capable of self sufficiency and happiness. The majority of the truly contented people are either alone or living without the

My Antonia Essay An American Tale

747 words - 3 pages My Antonia – An American Tale At the beginning of this century, ships docked in American ports with their steerages filled with European immigrants.  Willa Cather’s My Antonia, contains characters that immigrate to the country of America in search of hope and a new future in the Midwest prarie.  This novel can be considered an American tale because it holds the American concept of the “melting pot,” the ideal of America as