Two themes that seem to stand in the forefront of this work are THE AMERICAN DREAM and COMING OF AGE.
The American Dream
In the early 20th Century, immigrants flooded to the US to secure their portion of a better life. They believed that hard work and the promises of liberty were enough to raise them from their rags to riches. In some cases this was true, but in others it was not. For example, Mr. Shimerda could not adapt to his new life and killed himself, but life for his daughter definitely improved.
Coming of Age
The author follows Jim from age 10 to adulthood. He grows from an innocent orphan to a married man. His growing up has led him to a more solitary life, one of travel and amazement at his homeland, though not so much a success on the personal front. Antonia, similarly, ages from a young teen to a married woman. Through her difficult and grief-filled beginnins in America, she learns the ways of American women and becomes that which she has always wanted.