Now that we have finished the novel, I have to ask if I was alone in feeling like there was something left unresolved with Jim, or if, like me, you saw the words “The End,” and still turned the page just to make sure it wasn’t some cruel joke. In our class discussions we have mentioned on multiple occasions how sometimes it really felt like Cather was going somewhere with a character or a particular anecdote, and then simply moved on to something new before we had much of a chance to explore said person/story. I personally enjoyed Cather’s style of writing, and thought her descriptions of characters and settings to be beautiful. I never necessarily expected anything major to happen plot-wise, but I was left confused by the utter lack of Jim’s development.
“Do you know, Antonia, since I’ve been away, I think of you more often than of anyone else in this part of the world. I’d have liked to have you for a sweetheart, or a wife, or my mother or my sister–anything that a woman can be to a man. The idea of you is a part of my mind; you influence my likes and dislikes, all my tastes, hundreds of times when I don’t realize it. You really are a part of me.” – Jim Burden, at the end of Chapter IV, Book IV.
If Antonia really did influence Jim’s likes and dislikes and his tastes, why didn’t we ever hear much about that? I was also surprised that the narrative skipped ahead twenty years like it was nothing, after which Antonia had been married, with eleven children, and Jim was still the same Jim. I understand that the novel is entitled “My Antonia” and not “My Jim,” but then why include so many chapters where Antonia was absent altogether? To me, Jim ended up just being a window into Antonia’s world, as opposed to a character on his own. But that leads to asking, why not make the story Antonia’s? Would you all have liked her to be the main character? I have to say, I think her perspective would have at least been more of a “story.” Do you think this has something to do with what we talked about last class, about Willa Cather possibly being a lesbian, and maybe the choice to have a male character observing Antonia from the outside had something to do with that?