During the entirety of My Antonia, Willa Cather uses weather to reflect events and emotions. This is quite apparent to the reader throughout the novel, as it seems to be one of Cather’s main literary techniques here. And though the weather can reflect all characters’ emotions, it more often than not focuses on Jim, the protagonist.
In the beginning of the novel, when Jim first arrives at his Grandparents’ house, the reader concludes him to first feel very alone, but then young Jim Burden shows signs of being quite in awe.
This is displayed through the descriptions Jim makes of the weather and lands around him. When he is traveling on the train out to Nebraska, he feels practically nothing, he only feels alone; this is exemplified through him speaking of how he took no notice of the setting he was going through, or how the weather was nothing more than unchanging around him the whole journey except when he felt anguish, in which case it would either get cold or windy out side. This is the first instance the reader can pick up on in the novel which shows just how Cather uses symbolization. One of the next, but far more later, instances of this occurrence in the novel is the point when Pavel falls ill, and Mr. Shimerda, along with Antonia and Jim, go to visit him and Peter.
The overall view of oncoming, inevitable death causes the weather to be quite dreary; the sky is grey and the wind is whipping everything around, Jim commenting on how harsh the wind truly is on the journey to the Russians house.
Before Pavel’s death, he managed to tell Mr. Shimerda a story from back when he and Peter lived in Russia. This story fascinated Antonia and Jim, and the wonder they felt was shown through the weather slightly lighting up, the winds no longer so harsh. However, once Pavel had died, the weather was back to gloomy and dismal, as were Jim’s emotions. The winds had come back and now rain was pouring down upon the land, showing just how upset Jim truly was about his friend from Russia dying. Cather uses this device of symbolism and reflection to give the reader a different sense of how to perceive the characters’ emotions. The best way to get a read on the characters’ emotions in this particular novel is by assessing the weather, and how it plays into the situation at hand. This technique is a creative way for the author to establish both character and plot development throughout the entire course of the story.