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My Ántonia

My Ántonia

by Willa Cather

My Ántonia Book 2, Chapter 13 Summary

  • One afternoon Jim finds his grandmother crying. Finally she admits that she knows that he's been sneaking out to the Firemen's dances.
  • Jim tries to tell her that there's nothing wrong with those dances and that he likes spending time with the country girls.
  • But she argues that it isn't right for Jim to deceive his grandparents. People in town are saying that he is a bad boy.
  • Jim doesn't care what people say, but he agrees to stop going to the dances to make his grandparents happy.
  • Now it's Spring and Jim is more bored than ever. He stays at home at night and studies Latin. He's trying to get a lot of college work done over the summer so that he's ahead once he goes to college.
  • Jim gets lonely and hangs out with the cigar-maker and the telegrapher. He hangs a May basket for Nina Harling, which makes him happy.
  • Many nights he walks Frances Harling home and talks to her about his plans for the future. She tells him that her mother Mrs. Harling isn't too angry with Jim. She just doesn't understand why he likes girls like Tiny and Lena.
  • But Frances says that she understands it. She thinks he is more mature than other boys his age. She assures him that her mother will like him after he passes his college exams.
  • Jim claims that if Frances were a boy she would act like him.
  • Frances thinks that Jim sees the hired girls with rose-colored glasses. She calls him a Romantic and asks what his speech is going to be about at graduation.
  • Jim thinks that his oration is good. We don't get to hear any of it, but he assures us of this fact. Mrs. Harling is there listening to it and he looks at her while he delivers the speech.
  • After graduation, Mrs. Harling tells Jim that the speech was great.
  • Later, Jim gets a graduation present from her: a silk umbrella with his name on the handle.
  • After the ceremony, while he is walking home, Jim runs into Lena and Tony and another hired girl named Anna Hansen.
  • Tony congratulates Jim on the speech.
  • Lena wants to know why Jim was so solemn as he gave his speech.
  • Anna also thinks that he did a good job. She says that she always wanted to go to school.
  • Ántonia wishes that her father could have been there to hear it. Jim tells her that he dedicated the speech to her father. They share a moment while she cries.
  • Narrator-Jim reflects that he never experienced as touching a moment as that one.

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