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My Ántonia

My Ántonia


by Willa Cather

My Ántonia Book 2, Chapter 14 Summary

  • The next day Jim starts studying for college right away. That summer he learns trigonometry and Virgil. He memorizes long passages from the Aeneid.
  • Sometimes he goes over to listen to Mrs. Harling play the piano. She likes having a boy around since her son Charley isn't at home anymore.
  • One day in July Jim takes a break from studying and goes down to the river with Ántonia, Tiny, and Lena.
  • The girls are going to pick elder berries to make wine with. Jim looks at the flowers and trees and grass on his way to meet them. He sees some orange milkweed that is rare. The country looks very empty to him.
  • Jim crosses the bridge and goes upstream to a secluded spot of dogwood. He takes off his clothes so he can go swimming. He realizes how homesick he is for the country. He looks at the sandbars in the middle of the river. He remembers hunting there with Charley when they were younger.
  • Jim goes swimming and plays in the water. Then the girls come along in a horse-drawn carriage. They look very lovely to Jim. He tells them that they look pretty, and they reply that he does as well.
  • Jim gets out of the water and dries himself off. He gets dressed and goes over to the bridge. On the way he has to pull piece of water gullies off himself.
  • Jim explains that the elder bushes are down by the water, rather than in the ravines. The blossoms are especially nice this summer.
  • He goes down a cattle path to get down to the water's edge. He feels happy and drowsy. He looks over a bank and sees Ántonia sitting alone. He can tell that she's been crying. He goes down to her and asks what's wrong.
  • Ántonia explains that the smell of the flowers makes her homesick for Bohemia. It used to grow in their yard and her father used to sit by them and play the trombone. She always liked to go listen to him sitting out there with his friends and talking.
  • Jim asks what they used to talk about. She says they talked about the woods and God and what they used to do when they were young.
  • Ántonia asks Jim if he thinks her father's spirit made it back home. He tells her all about that feeling he had back when her father died.
  • Ántonia wishes Jim had told her that before. She explains that her father was very different from her mother. She implies that her father got her mother pregnant and that's why he had to marry her. Ántonia's mother was a poor hired girl who used to work for her father's family. Her father's family was angry that he married her instead of just paying her money. Her grandmother would never let her back in the house after that.
  • Jim lies on the grass and looks up the sky. He listens to the bees and looks at the flowers. He thinks that Ántonia is just like she was when she was a little girl.
  • He tells her that some day he's going to go to Bohemia and find the town she used to live in.
  • Ántonia explains that she would still know her way around her hometown. She's never forgotten it.
  • Lena comes over and joins them. She looks flushed as she was in Jim's dreams. He finds her to be very energetic.
  • They all have lunch together at the top of a hill. They look at the trees and the river and the town in the distance. Everyone points out where her own family farm is and says how big it is.
  • Tony says that her family has twenty acres of rye.
  • Lena talks about how difficult it must have been for their mothers to come to a new county.
  • Anna talks about her grandmother, who is senile and forgets what country she's in. She always brings her grandmother fish when she goes to visit.
  • Lena tries to get the sand off of Jim. Ántonia doesn't like her flirting so she pushes her away and tries to get the sand off herself.
  • Ántonia tells Lena that her feet are too big for her shoes so she asks for them to give to Yulka. Lena complies.
  • Lena notices how Ántonia gets things for her little sister and says that she (Lena) should try to do the same for her sister Mary.
  • Tiny says she has six younger siblings, but likes to buy them playthings instead of necessities. Anna thinks that's because they didn't have toys when they were little.
  • Lena vows to get her mother out of the farmhouse, since the men in her family probably won't be able to. She's thinking about moving to another town and starting up her own business soon. Maybe she'll marry a rich gambler…
  • Anna wishes she could teach school.
  • They all discuss Selma Kronn, a very studious girl who is going to be the first Scandinavian immigrant to get a position teaching at the high school.
  • Tiny points out that Selma's father is responsible for making her so studious.
  • Lena admits that her grandmother was a Lapp, or indigenous person of Northern Scandinavia.
  • That afternoon they play a game called "Pussy Wants a Corner." Lena is Pussy most of the time.
  • They all lay down on the grass. Ántonia tells Jim to tell the others about how the Spanish first came to America.
  • The girls lean against a tree while Jim tells them about Coronado, who came to America as an explorer. We learn that a farmer in the country gave swords to Mr. Harling that had Spanish inscriptions on them.
  • The girls wonder what the country was like back then. Jim says the schoolbooks say that Coronado died in the wilderness of a broken heart.
  • They al look around at the landscape. The grass and tress are colored red because the sun is setting. The river looks gold and the breeze dies. They listen to the birds and watch the setting sun.
  • As they watch the sun they see a black figure sitting against it. They jump up to see what it is.
  • It turns out to be a Giant Obvious Symbol, a plough that some farmer left in the field. It looks big and heroic and symbolic.
  • As the sun sets the plough stops looking majestic. It just looks small and symbolic.

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