What are some important examples of figurative language in My Antonia?

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Wine stains, the sea, pumpkins and apples all serve as symbols of happiness in My Antonia.

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In the following quotes from early on in the novel, figurative language exalts the prairie and expresses happiness as a merger into nature. In the first quote, from early in the novel, Jim personifies the landscape and, by describing it using sea images, makes it feel alive and in motion like the waves. Wine stains, in conjunction with the sea, also bring to mind the great journeying of the Odyssey:

As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country, as the water is the sea. The red of the grass made all the great prairie the colour of winestains, or of certain seaweeds when they are first washed up. And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running . . .

Below, we see the likening of the self to pumpkins, which are both inanimate, organic plants and vegetables whose very roundness and bright orange color communicate joy. They are an image of happiness:

I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy.

At the end of the novel, Antonia herself becomes a figure or symbol of universal goodness. Jim explicitly tells us that Antonia putting her hand on a little crab tree and looking up at the apples expresses all that is good about farming:

She was a battered woman now, not a lovely girl; but she still had that something which fires the imagination, could still stop one’s breath for a moment by a look or gesture that somehow revealed the meaning in common things. She had only to stand in the orchard, to put her hand on a little crab tree and look up at the apples, to make you feel the goodness of planting and tending and harvesting at last.

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Let us remember that figurative language is a literary technique that is based on comparison. The most common examples are similes, metaphors and personification. Considering this excellent novel, the most common examples of figurative language occur in the beautiful and stunning descriptions we are given of the countryside and landscape. Consider this example of the plains during fall in Chapter Seven at the beginning of the book:

All those fall afternoons were the same, but I never got used to them. As far as we could see, the miles of copper-red grass were drenched in sunlight that was stronger and fiercer than at any other time of the day. The blond cornfields were red gold, the haystacks turned rosy and threw long shadows. The whole prairie was like the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed. That hour always had the exultation of victory, of triumphant ending, like a hero's death--heroes who died young and gloriously. It was a sudden transfiguration, a lifting-up of day.

This is yet another breathtaking depiction of the beauty of the plains and of nature. Consider the implied metaphor that described the effect of the sunlight "drenching" the grass, and how the cornfields are described as "red gold." Similes are used to describe the sight as being like flames and also the death of a hero. Such descriptions establish the importance of setting and the curious beauty of the plains that is so important to the central characters.

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