Literary Criticisms on My Antonia

Many times, different literary critics have opposing views on the same aspect of a novel.

My Antonia is a great example of this. While one critic, David Daiches, calls the book “flawed by the inclusion of irrelevant […] material”, another critic, Randolph Bourne, says the exact opposite; that the novel has been “patiently shaped until everything irrelevant has been scraped away”. The last few paragraphs of Chapter 13 are an excellent way to show how these critics could have such contrasting opinions. For example, Daiches could argue that Cather’s inclusion of short descriptions in this passage, such as the ones about Jake and Otto’s “damp clothes” and the “tunnel […] with walls so solid” is unnecessary and irrelevant, as it serves no real purpose in order to develop plot or characters in the story (Cather 64).

However, Bourne could also argue that the same detailed descriptions contribute to a better understanding of the setting, which is part of a prominent theme in the story, and are therefore relevant and necessary.

In this passage, Bourne’s argument is supported with more compelling evidence than Daiches’. Although it can be argued that the inclusion of certain material is irrelevant as it does not contribute to the plot of the story, it does contribute to the development of the setting which is extremely important in My Antonia. By describing the events that occur because of the snow that “spilled out from heaven” the author shows how profound of an effect the setting has on the pioneers, which is a major theme in the story (Cather 63).

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For example, Jim “could [not] go out in the storm”, and therefore, they were unable to get all their eggs for that period of time (Cather 63). In the end, this passage contains more compelling evidence to support Bourne’s argument that Cather includes only relevant information that helps the reader gain a deeper understanding of the novel.

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Literary Criticisms on My Antonia. (2022, May 14). Retrieved from

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