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My Ántonia

My Ántonia

by Willa Cather

My Ántonia Book 5, Chapter 1 Summary

  • Jim promised Ántonia he would come back but it takes twenty years before he manages to do that. He hears that she got married to a cousin of Anton Jelinek, that she is poor and has a lot of children.
  • When Jim is abroad he goes to Bohemia and sends Ántonia some photos of her home village. He gets a letter from her with an update on how she's doing.
  • Jim wonders if cowardice is what keeps him away from Ántonia so long. He doesn't want to find her old because he likes to think of her as young and strong.
  • Jim ends up in San Francisco and sees Lena and Tiny there. Lena manages Tiny's affairs for her and keeps her looking great.
  • Lena updates Jim on Ántonia. She encourages him to go and see Ántonia, who is doing well. She has a good husband, Cuzak, and she loves her big family.
  • On his way home to New York Jim stops in Nebraska to see Ántonia on the Cuzak farm. When he arrives, he sees a little boy playing with his older brother. They tell Jim that yes, they are Mrs. Cuzak's boys.
  • Jim encounters more children on his way to the farm, as well as lots of farm animals. When he arrives at the house one of the girls lets him in and tells him to wait for their mother, who will be back soon.
  • When Ántonia arrives, she doesn't recognize Jim at first. When she does, the two of them share a warm reunion. She tells her daughters to run and gather the other children. Then she lists off all her children's names and ages. One of them, Leo, says that he was born on Easter.
  • Anna, the oldest daughter, tells her mother she'll take care of the dishes while her mother talks to Jim.
  • Ántonia tells Jim that Leo is her favorite child. Jim decides that she still looks good, even though her teeth are sort of rotted.
  • After the dishes are done the kids want to show Jim their fruit cave. The children show Jim all the watermelons and pickles they have. Ántonia explains how much food it takes to feed them all.
  • One of the children thinks Jim won't know about kolaches, a Bohemian food. But Jim tells them that he ate Ántonia's kolaches before they were born.
  • They all go back to the house. Jim sees that the front of the house is covered in hollyhocks. There are two ponds nearby as well as an ash grove and two orchards.
  • Jim and Ántonia and some of her kids walk through the apple orchard together. Ántonia loves the trees there. She says that they planted them all themselves. She explains that her husband Anton is a city man but that she takes care of the farm stuff.
  • One of the family's dogs recently died and one of Ántonia's children wants to bury it in the orchard. Jim admires the serene landscape.
  • Jim and Ántonia reminisce about how they used to run around playing when they were younger.
  • Ántonia says that since she became a mother she doesn't like killing animals.
  • She explains about her time with her husband and says that he bought the land when it was cheap. She adds that her oldest daughter is married and has a daughter of her own now. Her husband is a good man, she says, and reiterates again that she is a farm girl, not a town girl.
  • Still, she adds, she is glad she went to town because that's where she learned how to be more lady-like.
  • Jim decides that he'll sleep with the boys in the barn that night. On the walk back he listens to Ántonia's sons Ambrosch and Anton talk about school and their farm. He watches his shadow.
  • Ambrosch says that Ántonia has the pictures Jim sent of Bohemia hanging up on the wall.
  • Jim tells the boys that once he was in love with their mother. They assure him that she talks about him a lot.
  • They all have supper together. After supper they go into the parlor. Leo plays his violin while Nina dances. Jim thinks that Leo is fawn-like in appearance.
  • Afterwards Ántonia shows Jim pictures from her wedding. He learns that Ántonia's brother Ambrosch is married now, as are the three Marys. She also has pictures of Lena and Frances Harling. She even has a photo of Jim, Otto, and Jake when they were younger.
  • Charley, another of the children, asks Jim about the snake he killed when he was a boy.
  • At 11pm Jim goes out to the barn to sleep with the boys. He lays awake there thinking about Ántonia and her kids. He admires that she still stands proud and strong.

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