America in the late nineteenth century witnessed unprecedented levels of immigration from central Europe, which in turn ignited equally unprecedented social and political tensions in the United States. My Antonia, a novel written by Willa Cather, is about the historical period during which the American Frontier closed. Throughout the novel, immigrants start to become more and more exposed to assimilation, nativism, and xenophobia. Also, Immigrant hierarchies are formed. Within these hierarchies lie many religious tensions. The reader also experiences the pain of adapting to the frontier life along with the struggle of education. By examining the novel My Antonia, by Willa Cather, one can see that the novel feeds off of immigration and would not be the same if the protagonist, Antonia Shimerda, were not an immigrant. .
My Antonia explores the lives of immigrants on the United States frontier in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Nebraska prairie of the novel is an "ethnic soup", combining American born settlers with a wide range of European immigrants. These immigrants consist of the Bohemian Shimerdas, the Russians Peter and Pavel, and the Norwegian Lena(Scholes 5).
In its most acceptable form, the earliest sign of immigration can be called assimilation. After reading the novel, the critic Sally McNall was left "with [two] impression[s] a melting pot [and] a salad bowl"(52). The melting pot that McNall points out is simply just the assimilation process of the immigrants. The assimilation process consists of adapting to the new environment, finding a job, settling down with the family, ect The salad bowl, what Antonia wants, is a world with out racism and violence. The salad bowl is basically all races thrown in together as one. Each ingredient represents a different race, and in a salad bowl, they become one. .
The melting pot, as McNall called Nativism, had been present from the beginning of the century of Immigration.