Create a Compelling Argument

In 4-6 sentences (of Standard English), make an argument for the best AP Prompt that illuminates the most profound literary qualities of Cather’s novel, My Antonia. If someone else has claimed the same prompt that you had in mind, then write another perspective to that argument. Profound topics elicit complex responses. Here is a copy of the document: Open-ended Questions for Advanced Placement Literature: https://mseffie.com/iOpeners/Open_Questions.pdf

About Bill Sullivan

I am an English teacher working with great students at Suffield Academy. I also teach seniors in various project-based learning environments. Some of the #PBL topics included global issues, such as Pandemics, Climate Change, and Water; more recently I have asked students to research and identify topics important to our school community and their generation. We curate these topics with a #StudentCenteredPBL. For the past eleven years, I also created a driving question for a class to research a local history mystery and present their findings in a community program partnering with our local historical society. These topics encompass researching the lives of enslaved individuals who were contributors to the foundation of our community.
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9 Responses to Create a Compelling Argument

  1. 1977. A character’s attempt to recapture the past is important in many plays, novels, and poems. Choose a literary work in which a character views the past with such feelings as reverence, bitterness, or longing. Show with clear evidence from the work how the char- acter’s view of the past is used to develop a theme in the work. You may base your essay on a work by one of the following authors, or you may choose a work of another author of comparable literary excellence.

    I think this 1977 prompt successfully illuminates the most profound literary qualities of My Antonia. In My Antonia they are constantly looking into the past. Through Jim, he doesn’t say things directly about the past, but the overall tone of the novel is very nostalgic. He’s trying to connect himself again from his current self to his past life on the Nebraska prairie. Also, through Ántonia, she speaks on her yearning for the past, but also that she believes that good times won’t last. Jim also feels this sentiment.

  2. oliviaa1718 says:

    The 1975 prompt is very relevant to Willa Cather’s My Ántonia because the author effectively uses stereotyped characters, giving many of the character typical lives of people from that time. Although all of the characters are original and have many layers to their personality, on the surface they are all block characters. Ántonia is a stereotypical immigrant girl that loses a parent and begins working in a city to try to make a better life for herself and her family. Her entire family is a stereotypical immigrant family. Jim’s character is stereotypical as well; he is a young kid moving away after he loses his parents and he lives through liking a girl, exploring new land, and growing up. These conventional characters serve to show the hardships of life as an immigrant and the many obstacles that must be overcome in society in order for one to be accepted.

  3. Nicole Lee says:

    1977 A character’s attempt to recapture the past is important in many plays, novels, and poems. Choose a literary work in which a character views the past with such feelings as reverence, bitterness, or longing. Show with clear evidence from the work how the character’s view of the past is used to develop a theme in the work. You may base your essay on a work by one of the following authors, or you may choose a work of another author of comparable literary excellence.

    I think this topic represents a large part of the novel. The novel opens up with a mysterious narrator talking about Jim and looking back at their memories. The actual novel is then given, which is largely talking about the past and Jim’s memories with Antonia. It also contains numerous incidents where the characters of the novel look back at their own past and reminiscent about it or regret it. Therefore, I think this topic will be able to provide me a good platform to analyze the story.

  4. Carrie Lauria-Sheehan says:

    2008, Form B: In some works of literature, childhood and adolescence are portrayed as times graced by innocence and a sense of wonder; in other works, they are depicted as times of tribulation and terror. Focusing on a single novel or play, explain how its representation of childhood or adolescence shapes the meaning of the work as a whole.

    I think the 2008, Form B prompt fits the novel My Ántonia well. Throughout the work, Jim is constantly looking back on his childhood and his memories from the farm on the prairie. He longs for the connection that he once shared with Ántonia, although he can never find it again. He moves on with his life, becoming successful and educated, but he can never forget her or the love he feels for her. The entire novel then begins to revolve around Jim’s feelings of longing and wanting for a life with Ántonia. I think that this prompt provides a good starting place to begin to analyze Jim’s motives for his actions after childhood and suits the novel well.

  5. vaughnrogers says:

    1995. Writers often highlight the values of a culture or a society by using characters who are alienated from that culture or society because of gender, race, class, or creed. Choose a novel or a play in which such a character plays a significant role and show how that character’s alienation reveals the surrounding society’s assumptions or moral values.

    Gender roles in the twentieth century underwent incredible, rapid changes. By the beginning of the century, women began to question their position in society. Willa Cather’s description of strong female characters who embody feminist ideals foils well with the weak male narrator, Jim Burden. Antonia is portrayed as a person who has admirable traits; among these would be individuality, independence, and compassion. Antonia’s part as a protagonist in this story gives plenty of content to write a good essay based off of this prompt.

  6. Shane says:

    In many works of literature, a physical journey – the literal movement from one place to another – plays a central role. Choose a novel, play, or epic poem in which a physical journey is an important element and discuss how the journey adds to the meaning of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.

    This prompt is especially relevant to my Antonia because there are many instances in which the characters in the novel move into a new location, signaling new growth in a new phase of the characters life. For example, Jim’s movement through the stages of his life is marked by changes in his geographical location, first from Virgina to the Black Hawk, then again the move into the town, and finally into Lincoln, where each change in setting signifies a change in Jim himself. When Jim gets on the train at the beginning of the story his personal growth begins as his journey does. He knows little about anything really, but by the end, he has met the Shimerdas, who, as immigrants from a faraway land, are so far outside his unexpanded horizons that he grows considerably as a person just from this encounter. During this physical journey out west, Jim grows as he is exposed to new people, new cultures, new experiences, and the world, for really the first time. He undergoes a similar transformation with each physical shift in his setting throughout the book. This question applies well to this novel because it is a story about Jim’s physical journey through life and his subsequent personal journey towards growth.

  7. Michael Giugliano says:

    2012. “And, after all, our surroundings influence our lives and characters as much as fate, destiny or any supernatural agency.” –Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces
    Choose a novel or play in which cultural, physical, or geographical surroundings shape psychological or moral traits in a character. Then write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how surroundings affect this character and illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole.

    The 2012 prompt is very applicable to My Antonia because the author, Willa Cather purposely changes the setting of the novel, therefore affecting Jim’s character. The change of setting in the novel has a strong effect on Jim psychologically because his surroundings influence his life. This is specifically evident in Black Hawk when Cather uses nature to reveal Jim’s thoughts and feelings. When Jim moves away from Black Hawk, it is like leaving a piece of himself behind. In the future when Jim lives in New York, he still ponders the Nebraska landscape which shows his deep connection with this setting. Jim’s connection to the certain settings in the novel exhibits the meaning of the work as a whole: that important places shape one’s life and give it meaning. I believe this prompt is fitting for the novel, My Antonia because Jim’s life is absolutely influenced by his surroundings.

  8. Jackson says:

    2006. Many writers use a country setting to establish values within a work of literature. For example, the country may be a place of virtue and peace or one of primitivism and ignorance. Choose a novel or play in which such a setting plays a significant role. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the country setting functions in the work as a whole.

    Not only does Cather return to the country numerous times throughout “My Ántonia,” but she juxtaposes the country setting against the bustle of city life in Black Hawk, in order to demonstrate the effect of rural culture on impressionable characters. By starting the main characters in the country, Cather creates a feeling of childish innocence in connection with rural life. This feeling is then heightened by the shift to Black Hawk, where new opportunities make characters question the importance of making moral decisions. Yet, when Ántonia returns to a simple life in the country, she, in essence, becomes the ghost of her former self, and her influence rests in Jim’s nostalgia, rather than her personal accomplishments.

  9. Mia D'Angelo says:

    1998 In his essay “Walking,” Henry David Thoreau offers the following assessment of literature: “In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is but another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized free and wild thinking in Hamlet and The Iliad, in all scriptures and mythologies, not learned in schools, that delights us.” From the works that you have studied in school, choose a novel, play, or epic poem that you may initially have thought was conventional and tame but that you now value for its “uncivilized free and wild thinking.” Write an essay in which you explain what constitutes its “uncivilized free and wild thinking” and how that thinking is central to the value of the work as a whole. Support your ideas with specific references to the work you choose.

    In My Ántonia, the readers observe a rebellious and hedonistic side of the characters when they are exposed to the dances. As an immigrant, Ántonia is already on the outskirts of society but, when she is considered a, “hired girl” this is when the, “uncivilized free and wild thinking” is incorporated into the plot. At that moment, she has exits childhood and debuts as a woman. Ántonia worked very hard her whole life and followed the traditional role as a female and a male in society until she becomes infatuated with the dancing lifestyle. This is the only way the immigrant girls can socialize with upper-class men, and feel free with no consequences. Due to the admirers, Ántonia acts out and becomes an independent women. This results in moving away from people who are not letting her make her own decisions. Ántonia is becoming promiscuous and rebellious which causes other characters like Jim to do the same. The coming-of-age theme of the story relates directly to the, “uncivilized free and wild thinking” that the main characters demonstrate.

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