In Frederick Jackson Turner’s essay on the frontier thesis, he states that all who enter the frontier shall embrace the new American intellect it is molding. Turner believes that all who enter it will transform into hardy, creative, hardworking individuals. He asserts that it will transform the colonists into individualistic, functional characters who excel in the area of practicality. Lena Lingard’s life supports with Frederick Jackson Turner’s argument that all who choose to live in the western frontier will become purposeful and individualized. She excels in the frontier; exhibiting all her characteristics of headstrong independence.
Turner highlights many points and characteristics of his ideal American that Lena fits into perfectly. He describes an American as one with “nervous energy; that dominant individualism” (Turner). Lena is the epitome of these characteristics. At one point in My Antonia she announces that she will train to become a dressmaker and leave her old life on the farm. She says that “Mrs. Thomas, the dressmaker. She is going to teach me to sew. She says I have quite a knack. I’m through with the farm. There ain’t any end to the work on a farm.” (Cather 61). Her decision to stray from the path her, her peers and her friends are accustomed to clearly exhibit her profound individualism and energy for excitement in her life. Later in the book, after Jim has moved out of the farm and into town, he his visited by Lena. She exhibits once again how she fits the criteria laid out by Turner. She tells Jim that she’s “in business for myself. I have a dressmaking shop in the Raleigh Block, out on O Street. I’ve made a real good start” (Cather 95). She reveals that she is motivated and successful with the career path she has chosen for herself and highlights Turner’s characteristics of individualism and energy. Lena’s opening of the dress shop also proves another one of Turner’s points of the frontier’s influence. Turner says that the frontier has given American’s a “practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things” (Turner). Lena’s willingness to stray from the beaten path to become an entrepreneur proves that she is one of the Americans Turner describes. Lena continues to show her electric ambition when she moves her business to the city of San Francisco. Tiny, one of Jim’s friends, elaborates on her decision saying: “Lincoln was never any place for her….In a town of that size Lena would always be gossiped about. Frisco’s the right field for her” (Cather 106). Tiny describes her unconservative, ambitious nature that the frontier had laid into the foundation of her intellect.
Lena’s intellectual foundation owes its most intriguing qualities to the time she spent on the frontier. The years on the prairie strengthened her independence and helped mold her into an intellectually well rounded human being. Lena spent her farm days “out among her cattle, bareheaded and barefooted, scantily dressed in tattered clothing, always