An early example of Cather's use of landscape description to symbolize a character's feelings is in Jim's first impression of the endless Nebraska prairie. Riding in a wagon from the train to his grandparents' farm, he notes that "Nebraska (is)...all day long, Nebraska". Nebraska to the young boy is "nothing but land...the material out of which countries are made...nothing but land, slightly undulating...the sky...the complete dome of heaven, all there (is) of it...between that earth and that sky I felt erased, blotted out". Jim feels very small in the vastness of the landscape, and feels the insignificance of his humanity in the face of the majesty of the earth (Bk.I, Ch.I).
Another example of landscape description symbolizing the feeling of a situation is at the burial of Mr. Shimerda. Mr. Shimerda's funeral is held in the dead of winter, and Ambrosch must "(chop) the frozen earth with old axes". The land is unyielding and unforgiving, just as it has been for the Shimerdas as they have tried to eke a living off of it. A "fine, sleety snow (is) beginning to fall, and everyone is afraid of another storm". The sky cries as if in sorrow, and the elements in the new land are not friendly, just as they have not been welcoming to Mr. Shimerda, who longed to return to the Bohemian homeland that he loved so much that he could no longer live (Bk.I, Ch.XVI).