Study Guide

My Ántonia

My Ántonia Summary

My Ántonia begins with a short fictional introduction told by a nameless narrator, who may or may not be the author herself. The narrator tells you about a friend of hers named Jim Burden, a lawyer for one of the transcontinental railroads. The narrator and Jim were friends when they were kids, and they both knew a rather remarkable Bohemian immigrant girl named Ántonia. (Bohemia is a region in what is now the Czech Republic.) The narrator, who is a writer, tells Jim that she wants to write about Ántonia, but feels that Jim, who knew the girl better, is more qualified to do it. So Jim writes a memoir about the girl and calls it "My Ántonia," and the remainder of the novel is this memoir itself.

Jim is ten years old and has recently been orphaned, so he moves from Virginia to Nebraska to live with his grandparents on their farm. On the ride there, Jim is accompanied by a farmhand named Jake Marpole, and hears that an immigrant family from Bohemia is traveling to the same area. Soon after he arrives on his grandparents' farm, Jim meets the Shimerdas, a Bohemian immigrant family, who turn out to be his grandparents' new closest neighbors. The family consists of Mr. Shimerda, who is unhappy in America and homesick for Bohemia; Mrs. Shimerda, who made the family move to America; Ambrosch, the rather mean and selfish oldest son; Ántonia, who is four years older than Jim; and several other children.

Mr. Shimerda asks Jim to teach Ántonia English, and the two children soon become close friends. Jim seems to hold great admiration for Ántonia – he associates her with the vast beauty of the Nebraskan landscape and the determination and will power common to early immigrants in the American West. As the two of them grow up, the exact nature of his feelings for her are not clear, particularly when it comes to the romantic element.

The Shimerda family suffers through a tough winter, as they don't have a lot of money or friends in the new country. Jim's grandparents help out as much as they can, but Mr. Shimerda ends up committing suicide out of despair and homesickness. Ántonia takes over many of her father's responsibilities, helping out her brother Ambrosch in the fields. When Jim goes off to school in town, she can't come with him, as she has to stay at the farm and work to support her family. Jim and Ántonia's friendship becomes more distant at this point; he's upset with her for working like a man out in the fields, and of course he simply doesn't see her around much after he starts school.

By the time Jim is ready for high school, he and his grandparents move off the farm and into the nearby town of Black Hawk, Nebraska. Ántonia's family remains on the farm, but Ántonia ends up moving in with a family in town called the Harlings and working as a cook/helper around the house. She is part of a group of "hired girls," immigrant girls who work and live in town to support their families back on the farm. This group also includes Lena Lingard and their friend Tiny Soderball. Jim spends a lot of time with these girls, though many people in town look down on them as "beneath" the town girls, socially speaking.

Everyone is growing up, and that includes Ántonia, who ends up being rather beautiful. She, Tiny, and Lena get a lot of attention from the boys, especially at the town's Saturday night dances. Jim, as we've come to expect by now, never admits having any feelings for Ántonia. He does lust after Lena, though Ántonia warns him to stay away from her. Finally, Jim goes off to college in Lincoln, Nebraska and leaves the small town of Black Hawk behind. During his second year, Lena shows up, having moved to Lincoln herself to work as a dressmaker. The two of them start dating, much to the ruin of Jim's GPA. But then his tutor, Gaston, gets Jim to move to Harvard with him, and he leaves Lena behind.

When Jim finishes college, he returns to Black Hawk for the summer before law school. He finds that things have not gone well for Ántonia while he was gone. She was engaged to be married to a man who used up her money, got her pregnant, and then ran off before the wedding. Now she is back living on her family's farm and has a child. But she is otherwise unchanged. Jim sees that she is still fiery and proud. He heads off to Law school, promising Ántonia that he'll come back and visit again soon.

But Jim is afraid to go visit Ántonia again because he doesn't want to find her old and broken. When he finally gets the courage to go back, twenty years have passed, and he is a successful New York lawyer. He finds Ántonia on a farm, married, with about a dozen children. She is, of course, older, but unbroken and with the same spirit. The two of them are happy to see each other and talk about how much they meant to each other when they were growing up. Jim even admits to Ántonia's children that he used to be in love with their mother. As he's leaving the farm, Jim decides it was destiny that he and Ántonia were brought together again after all those years apart, and concludes that together they still share "the incommunicable past" (last paragraph).

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  • Introduction

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    • The narrator is first person and nameless. We don't know his or her gender and whether or not it is supposed to be the author, Willa Cather.
    • The narrator crossed Iowa on a train last summer and travelled with a childhood friend named Jim Burden. They both live in New York now but they don't see each other too often.
    • Jim is a lawyer married to a distinguished woman named Genevieve. He is passionate and loves his country. He works for one of the railroad companies.
    • During their time on the time together the two old friends talk about a Bohemian girl named Ántonia they knew when they were children. (Bohemia is a region of Czechoslovakia in Central Europe.)
    • To both the narrator and to Jim, this girl conjures up images of their childhood.
    • Jim wants to know why the narrator has never written anything about Ántonia. The narrator says she didn't know Ántonia as well as others did, such as Jim. Maybe they should both write down everything they know about her. Jim says maybe he will.
    • A few months later Jim shows up at the narrator's place with this manuscript. He calls it "Ántonia" at first but then changes it to "My Ántonia."
  • Book 1, Chapter 1

    • Jim first hears of Ántonia on a journey across America by train.
    • He is ten years old and his mother and father have recently died, so now he's moving from his home in Virginia out to Nebraska to live with his grandparents.
    • He is traveling with a boy named Jake Marpole who is going to be a farmhand for his (Jim's) grandparents.
    • On the way, Jake buys Jim a book called The Life of Jesse James. They chat with a conductor who acts like a tour guide for them as they drive through the different states.
    • The conductor tells the that there is an immigrant family on board the train who is also travelling to Black Hawk, Nebraska. They have a daughter who is twelve or thirteen and doesn't speak much English. But Jim elects not to go talk to them.
    • Jake wakes up Jim when they get to Black Hawk. It is nighttime. As they leave the train, Jim sees the Shimerdas standing on the train platform. They have four children altogether. Jim listens to them speaking in a foreign tongue.
    • A man comes along and introduces himself to Jim as Otto Fuchs. He works for Jim's grandfather and is there to drive both Jim and Jake out to the farm.
    • Jim thinks Otto looks like he came from the book about Jesse James. He looks like a cowboy. He's missing the top part of his left ear and is wearing boots. Jim gets in the back of the wagon and they ride off.
    • Jim is uncomfortable in the back of the wagon. He looks out and sees nothing but plain country with no fences or buildings.
    • He looks up; he doesn't think that his parents are looking down at him from above because they wouldn't know to look for him in Nebraska. He feels erased in the vastness of the land. Jim does not say his prayers that night.
  • Book 1, Chapter 2

    • Jim doesn't remember arriving at his grandfather's farm, and when he wakes up he's in bed in a little room in his grandparent's house.
    • His grandmother is looking at him and crying because Jim looks so much like his father (her son). She gives him clean clothes and brings him to the kitchen to have a bath behind the stove.
    • Jim goes with her into the basement. The floor is made of cement and the walls are plaster. He smells gingerbread baking. He takes a bath. A large cat comes along and watches. He tells his grandmother the cakes are burning and she comes in to take them out of the oven.
    • Jim's grandmother is a tall stooped woman who looks alert. She is energetic and quick, and she likes things to proceed in an orderly fashion. She is fifty-five and strong.
    • Jim dresses and looks at the cellar next to the kitchen where the men come and go from the fields.
    • While his grandmother makes supper, Jim hangs out with the cat. His grandmother tells him that the new immigrant family he saw on the train is from Bohemia (in Czechoslovakia in Central Europe) and is now their closest neighbor.
    • At dinner that night, they all talk about Virginia where Jake and Jim used to live with Jim's parents.
    • Jim's grandfather doesn't say much, and Jim senses a great amount of personal dignity in the man. He has a long white beard, a bald head, and blue eyes.
    • We learn that Otto Fuchs is an Austrian immigrant who came to America as a young boy. He was a cowboy in the West until he got pneumonia and had to tone it down. Now he works for Jim's grandfather.
    • After supper, Otto gives Jim a pony named Dude. Then he explains that he lost his ear in a blizzard, and he teaches Jim how to throw a lasso. He shows Jim and Jake his cowboy boots, too.
    • Later the family says prayers. Jim's grandfather reads Psalms and has a great voice.
    • The next morning Jim takes a good look at his new house from the outside. It's one of the only real wooden houses around. He notes the windmill, a small pond, and a large cornfield. Everywhere is the red grass of the prairie, constantly moving in the wind.
    • Grandmother comes out and asks Jim to come into the garden with her to dig potatoes. She brings a cane with her so that she can kill rattlesnakes with it. They walk a quarter of the mile to get to the garden, and Jim checks out the landscape on the way.
    • In the garden, Jim's grandmother points out a badger hole. She says she won't kill the badger because she feels friendly towards the local animals. She leaves Jim alone in the garden after she gets her potatoes.
    • Jim leans against a pumpkin and feels at one with nature. He sees grasshoppers, gophers, and lots more tall grass. He feels happy and defines happiness as being dissolved into something great.
  • Book 1, Chapter 3

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    • On Sunday morning Otto drives Jim and his grandparents over to the new Bohemian neighbors. They bring food with them. On the way, Jim looks at the red grass of the prairie and the sunflowers.
    • We learn that the Bohemian family, the Shimerdas, bought the farm from a fellow countryman named Peter Krajiek and that they got ripped off. They don't speak a lot of English and so they rely on Peter as an interpreter. The father doesn't know much about farming but the oldest son is strong and competent.
    • Grandmother and Otto talk about how it's a shame that Peter ripped off this family. Otto says he would have tried to help, except Bohemians have a natural distrust of Austrians.
    • Their wagon approaches Squaw Creek and Jim sees a thatched shed made out of red grass next to a broken-down windmill. When they arrive, a woman and a young girl come out of the house to greet them. Grandmother and Mrs. Shimerda say hello to each other; Mrs. Shimerda laments the condition of her house, but Grandmother is encouraging. Mrs. Shimerda is grateful for the food.
    • The oldest son is named Ambrosch and is nineteen. The girl who is close to Jim's age is pretty; she has big brown eyes, tan skin, and curly hair. The little sister is called Yulka. The other son is mentally retarded and physically disabled. The father has long hair and is tall and slender; he kisses Grandmother's hand. Jim thinks he is very dignified.
    • Ántonia and Yulka take Jim by the hand and lead him away into the prairie. It's windy, and the three of them are enjoying themselves together. Ántonia keeps pointing at things and asking Jim to tell her the word in English.
    • Ántonia tries to give Jim her ring. Jim refuses to take it and is bothered that someone so poor would try to give away what little she had.
    • After some time Mr. Shimerda comes to meet them and bring them back to the house where Jim's grandmother is waiting. Before the Burdens depart, Mr. Shimerda gives Jim's grandmother a book with two alphabets in it (English and Bohemian) and asks her to teach Ántonia.
  • Book 1, Chapter 4

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    • That afternoon Jim takes a ride on his pony for the first time. Otto helps him. Once he's learned how to tide, he starts going to the post-office twice a week so that the men no longer have to make the trip. He also carries messages for the family to save Otto the time.
    • Narrator-Jim reflects fondly on his first autumn in Nebraska. He used to frolic around in the prairie.
    • The roads are bordered with sunflowers, and Otto tells Jim that the Mormons planted those seeds in order to mark the way for future travelers. But botanists say that that story is not true.
    • Jim likes to find trees, since there are so few of them in the country.
    • He also likes to go to the prairie-dog town and watch the owls flying around. Ántonia often goes with him. They speculate on how the dogs get water.
    • Ántonia is a very opinionated girl. Every day she goes to see Jim to get English lessons from him. Mrs. Shimerda doesn't like this, but she knows that someone in the family should speak the local language. After the lesson is done, Jim and Ántonia go and eat watermelons behind the garden. The Shimerdas like fruit because they didn't have any while they were on the ocean.
    • Ántonia often helps Jim's grandmother in the kitchen so that she can learn about cooking and housekeeping. Mrs. Shimerda was a good housewife back home, but things are hard for her in this new country. She makes bad-tasting bread for her family and leaves the residue in the pan to ferment to use as yeast for the next batch.
    • Their first few months in Nebraska the Shimerdas don't go into town, because Peter convinced them the town would take their money from them. They don't like Peter, but they have to keep him close because he's the only one who can translate for them. They don't know how to get rid of him.
  • Book 1, Chapter 5

    • Although the Shimerdas have it tough, the two girls never complain. They like to frolic about with Jim. One day Ántonia comes into Jim's kitchen and excitedly announces that her father found friends, some Russian men who live nearby. She's happy that her father has finally laughed and smiled in this new country.
    • Jim knows about these two Russians but has never met them. They are strange and aloof and go by the names Peter and Pavel. They avoid Bohemian Peter because he once cheated them in a trade.
    • Pavel is tall and an anarchist and does not speak English, and he coughs a lot. Russian Peter is short and fat and jovial and has curly hair. They both work as farm hands, on their own land and for hire to others. Everyone makes fun of Peter because he keeps a cow as a milk source.
    • Mr. Shimerda goes to see the Russians almost every night. He frequently takes Ántonia with him. Their Russian is not all that different from the Bohemian the Shimerdas speak.
    • One night, Jim and Ántonia go together in Jim's pony to visit the Russians. The Russians have a log house and a melon patch. They find Peter in front of a washtub. He takes the two of them to see his chickens and explains that he likes having his own cow because the milk is good for Pavel, who gets sick a lot.
    • Peter takes a wheelbarrow full of watermelons up the hill. Pavel is out somewhere digging a well. Jim gets to look around their house and he thinks it's nice.
    • Peter splits the melons and gives them to Jim and Ántonia to eat. He says that in his country everyone eats them all the time. He looks at Ántonia and laments that he if he had stayed home he would have a daughter to cook and clean for him. Then he says he left Russia because of a great trouble, but doesn't tell anyone what that means.
    • Then Peter looks around for something to entertain the two kids. He plays them music on his harmonica. When they leave, he gives them a sack of cucumbers and a pail of milk to take with them.
  • Book 1, Chapter 6

    • One afternoon Jim is giving Ántonia a reading lesson outside on the grass. By now she can speak English well. They are sitting by the badger hole and Ántonia is talking about how the badger is highly esteemed where she's from, and how the men hunt him using a special kind of dog.
    • Jim looks at all the rabbits running around. Ántonia captures a small green insect and listens to him chirp. She tells Jim about an old beggar woman named Old Hata who used to live in her village. If you took her in and let her sit by the fire she would sing you songs.
    • When it's time to go home, Ántonia puts the green insect in her hair for safe keeping.
    • Jim loves those fall afternoons. He looks at the miles of red grass.
    • They see a man walking along with a gun. He looks sad, and it turns out to be Ántonia's father. She explains to Jim that he is sick all the time. When they run to meet him, Mr. Shimerda shows them a rabbit he just shot. Ántonia explains that they will eat the meat and use the skin to make hats for the winter.
    • Then Ántonia talks to her father in Bohemian and shows him the little green insect. Meanwhile Jim checks out his gun. Ántonia translates from her father, who tells Jim that when he's older he will give him that gun as a present.
    • Jim notes that the Shimerdas are poor but like to give away everything they own. Ántonia and her father go home, and Jim goes back to his own farm.
  • Book 1, Chapter 7

    • Jim likes Ántonia, but he doesn't like her superior attitude. She is older than he and so she treats him like a child sometimes. But then one adventure changes that.
    • One day Jim rides over to the Shimerdas and finds Ántonia getting ready to go to Russian Peter's house to borrow a spade for Ambrosch. He ends up taking her there on his pony. On the way home with the spade, Ántonia gets him to stop at the prairie-dog town and dig into one of the holes to see what it looks like.
    • The prairie-dog town is large and spread out. Jim notes how orderly it seems. The dogs scurry underground as Jim approaches. He and Ántonia check out a big hole with two entrances. Then Ántonia screams, and Jim spots the biggest rattlesnake he's ever seen. She starts yelling in Bohemian. The snake rattles, and Jim sees that he is about to strike. He starts jabbing at the snake with his spade until it's dead.
    • After, Ántonia tells Jim he should have run. But she's impressed that he's so brave. She insists that they bring the dead snake back home for everyone to see. Jim points out the green liquid coming out of the snake's head and says it's the poison. They measure the snake to be five and a half feet long with 24 rattles. Ántonia says this means the snake is 24 years old.
    • Jim starts to feel proud of what he did. He respects the snake as the ancient and oldest Evil. Dude is too scared to let them come near him with the dead snake, so Ántonia rides him home while Jim walks beside, dragging the snake behind him and feeling proud of himself.
    • When they get home Otto greets them first. He asks how Jim killed the snake, and he thinks it's lucky they had a spade with them. Ántonia gushes about Jim's bravery. He and Otto go to hang the snake up in the windmill, while Ántonia goes into the kitchen to tell the story once again.
    • Later, Jim learns that this particular snake was old and that's why he didn't fight too much. He knows that a younger snake that size would have outmatched him.
    • The snake hangs there and several neighbors come to admire it over the next few days. Ántonia likes Jim much better from then on and she stops acting so superior.
  • Book 1, Chapter 8

    • As fall comes to an end the Russians start having some trouble. Peter tells Mr. Shimerda that he had to mortgage all his stuff to pay a bill to Wick Cutter, a terrible moneylender who lives in town who took advantage of Peter on interest rates.
    • Then Pavel hurt himself working and is now laid up in bed. Everyone says the Russians have bad luck.
    • One day Ántonia and her father come to the Burdens' to get some buttermilk. Before they leave, Russian Peter drives up. He says Pavel is very sick and wants to see Mr. Shimerda and Ántonia. Grandmother lets Jim go along as well, and gives him sandwiches and doughnuts to take.
    • Ántonia and Jim ride together in the back of the wagon and huddle for warmth.
    • Peter groans that Pavel might die. Jim looks up at the stars and wonders what influence they have on earthly events.
    • When they arrive, Pavel seems to be asleep. His breathing is labored. It's very windy outside and Jim can hear coyotes. Pavel cries out as though he's having a bad dream.
    • Ántonia tells Jim that Pavel is scared of wolves, because in his country the wolves eat people. Jim can't stop looking at the ghastly sight of Pavel. Peter mixes the sick man some water and whiskey. Pavel drinks it.
    • Finally Pavel tells Mr. Shimerda a long story in Russian which Jim cannot understand. Ántonia listens and holds Jim's hand the whole time. She tells Jim that the story is about wolves. Pavel gets all worked up as he tells it. He coughs up blood and then falls asleep.
    • Peter drives the guests home. On the way back, Ántonia repeats the story to Jim.
    • When Peter and Pavel were young men in Russia they were groomsmen for a friend getting married. After the wedding everyone had to travel by sledge over to the after-party. After the party everyone had to go home by sledge; by then it was late at night.
    • It was winter and there were lots of wolves everywhere. On the way home all the sledges were attacked by a huge pack of wolves.
    • Peter and Pavel were driving the sledge with the groom and bride in it, and they tried to get the groom to throw the bride over so as to lighten their load and let them outrun the wolves. When the groom refused, they threw both him and the bride overboard to save their own lives.
    • Peter and Pavel ended up being the only survivors, but they were then pariahs in their town and so they left and came to America. End of the story.
    • Pavel dies several days later. Peter buries him, sells all their stuff, and goes off to work as a cook. The Burdens buy some of the stuff he auctions off. Peter looks depressed the whole time. Supposedly he kissed his cow before it was sold, but Jim doesn't know if this is true or not. Before Peter leaves he eats the melons he had been saving for winter.
    • Afterwards, Mr. Shimerda gets very depressed now that his two friends are gone. He often goes out to the empty log house and sits in it alone.
    • Jim and Ántonia never repeat the story of the wolves to anyone; they get a strange sense of pleasure out of this. Jim often dreams that he is in a sledge pulled by horses, just like in the story.
  • Book 1, Chapter 9

    • The first snow comes in December. The pond freezes and the red grass pales. Jim looks at a circle in the grass where the Indians used to ride around and torture prisoners, according to Otto. But his grandfather says that they probably just trained their horses there.
    • Fuchs makes Jim a sleigh that he can use to ride around in the snow. (He's very handy because he was once apprenticed to a cabinetmaker.) Jim uses his sleigh to go to the post-office, and then he goes over to take Yulka and Ántonia for a ride.
    • Jim brings two hot bricks with him for warmth. The girls wear rabbit-skin hats. On the way, Jim looks at the landscape. The sky is blue and the prairie completely white. The trees are mostly dead.
    • The girls are cold but enjoying themselves; they make Jim drive all the way to Russian Peter's old house and joke about how they should all live there together.
    • It's cooler on the way home so Jim gives his comforter to Yulka. He drops the girls off at their house and goes straight home.
    • Jim ends up getting sick with quinsy and having to stay inside for two weeks.
    • During the winter Jim's kitchen is nice and warm. The men work outside in the day and come home in the evening. Jim starts reading The Swiss Family Robinson aloud to his grandmother, but he thinks his own adventurous life is more exciting than the fictional novel.
    • He decides that man's worst enemy is the cold. He admires his grandmother for keeping everyone cheerful in the winter months. She makes them chicken every Sunday and always bakes something sweet every day.
    • Staying warm and eating supper are the most important things in the winter. Jim wonders how the men can come in from the fields every day and be so tired from working and still do the household chores. After supper, everyone sits around trying to get warm.
    • On Saturday nights they pop corn or make taffy and Otto sings songs. Jim thinks both Otto and Jake are great men. Otto has done a lot more than Jake, but he can't read and he has a bad temper. Still he is very soft-hearted. Both he and Jake work very hard.
    • Sometimes at night they can all hear the sound of coyotes, which reminds them of animal stories they heard in their childhood. Sometimes Otto talks about the crazy characters he used to know. He tells the following story about when he came to America from Austria:
    • On the trip over he was supposed to look after a woman who was going to meet her husband in Chicago. She had two children with her and was pregnant. On the ship, she gave birth to triplets, and everyone eyed Otto suspiciously.
  • Book 1, Chapter 10

    • The Burdens don't hear anything from the Shimerdas for several weeks after the sleigh ride. One night, Otto tells them that he saw Mr. Shimerda out hunting, wearing his rabbit-skin hat and collar. He says that the family only has one overcoat between them and they take turns wearing it. The winter has been very tough on the Shimerdas.
    • Jake says that the oldest child never wears the coat, because he's so strong and the cold doesn't bother him.
    • Then he says that Ambrosch showed him three prairie dogs he'd shot the other day and wanted to know if they were edible. Jake told him no, but Ambrosch chose not to listen.
    • Grandmother doesn't like the idea of the Shimerdas eating prairie dogs, so grandfather tells her to make a trip over there the next day.
    • Fuchs explains that prairie dogs are fine to eat, it's just that they belong to the rat family so no one likes to.
    • The next morning Grandmother and Jake pack a basket of food to bring over to the Shimerdas. Grandmother wants him to bring an old dead rooster. She says that Mrs. Shimerda should have a hen house going by now.
    • Jake says he doesn't want Krajiek to get to eat any of the rooster.
    • Jim goes with Jake and his grandmother over to the Shimerdas'. When they arrive, they see Ántonia outside pumping water. She runs inside.
    • The visitors make their way to the doorway. Mrs. Shimerda greets them but she's talking very fast in Bohemian and doesn't seem very friendly. Mr. Shimerda is sitting behind the stove with Yulka, and Ántonia is washing dishes. Marek lies under the window by the door.
    • Mrs. Shimerda shows the visitors two barrels, one with rotting potatoes and one with a little bit of flour. She also shakes an empty coffee pot at them.
    • Jim's grandmother tries to be polite, and finally Jake brings in the hamper of food they brought. Mrs. Shimerda starts crying on the floor, so Grandmother asks Ántonia to help her unload the basket. She tells Grandmother not to pay attention to her mother, who is very sad.
    • Then Mr. Shimerda takes Grandmother by the arm and shows her a place where they've dug a hole in the earth and laid down straw and quilts. He explains that Yulka and Ántonia sleep in there because it's warm.
    • Grandmother tells Ántonia that she'll have a nicer house soon enough, and then she will forget these hard times.
    • Then Mr. Shimerda has Ántonia translate so he can talk to Grandmother. He says that in his old country, they were respected and lived well, and left for America with a thousand dollars in savings.
    • It was just that everything on the way cost more than they thought it would. If they make it to spring, he says, they should do very well for themselves. Ántonia explains that they're going to build themselves a real log house once the spring comes.
    • Grandmother encourages them while Jim plays on the floor with Yulka and Marek.
    • Mrs. Shimerda starts to calm down. When the visitors get ready to leave, she gives them a cup of weird-smelling stuff that she cooks with. Grandmother hesitates to accept it, but Ántonia assures her that it is very good and that you can put it on anything.
    • On the way home, Grandmother complains that the Shimerdas don't have great common sense. Jake says that Ambrosch is a good worker but he's mean.
    • When they get home, they can't figure out what the smelly stuff is. Narrator-Jim says that he later found out that they were dried mushrooms and probably came from Bohemia.
  • Book 1, Chapter 11

    • Jake is assigned to do the Christmas shopping for the family, but it starts snowing on December 21st and there is no way to get to town. The men can't even do much work outside so they stay in and grease their boots.
    • Grandfather realizes that no one will be able to go into town to buy presents, and refuses to let Jake go in by horseback. So they decide to have a country Christmas without presents from town. Jim had wanted to get picture books for Yulka and Ántonia, so Grandmother helps him make some using pieces of cotton cloth like Jim pastes in cut shapes to make scenes. He also uses cut-up magazines. Otto makes candles and grandmother bakes gingerbread men.
    • On the day before Christmas Jake packs up all the handmade gifts and sets off by horseback to the Shimerdas'. When he goes, Jim sees that he's wearing a hatchet and has planned a surprise for him (Jim). When Jake returns, he has a Christmas tree with him.
    • That Christmas Eve they all gather around the tree and decorate it. Otto contributes with relics from his cowboy trunk.
    • Narrator-Jim still remembers how his whole family looked sitting around that tree. He thinks it's remarkable that Otto had no children of his own but liked children so much.
  • Book 1, Chapter 12

    • On Christmas morning Jim wakes up to see the men coming in from their morning chores. They all shout "Merry Christmas" to each other. Grandfather says particularly long prayers that morning and reads aloud from the Bible. He thanks God for Christmas.
    • Narrator-Jim remarks that Grandfather had a special talent for saying prayers.
    • They have waffles and sausage for breakfast. Jake tells them that the Shimerdas were happy with their presents, even Ambrosch. That afternoon Jake and Jim play marbles while Otto writes a letter to his mother, as he does every Christmas.
    • At 4pm Mr. Shimerda shows up with his rabbit-skin winter gear. He's there to thank them for everything they've done for his family.
    • He seems to be very content, though it's only a break from his constant sadness.
    • At 9pm, he leaves to go home. As he departs, he makes the sign of the cross over Grandmother and tells her that she's a good woman.
    • He adds that the prayers of all good people are good.
  • Book 1, Chapter 13

    • In the next week the land finally thaws out, and everything is slushy by New Year's. Jim starts doing his regular chores again. One morning Ántonia and Mrs. Shimerda come over; Ántonia's mother has never been in the Burdens' house before. She runs around looking at everything and ends up taking one of their pots on the grounds that they have several and she has none. Jim resents that his grandmother lets them take it.
    • After dinner Mrs. Shimerda tells Grandmother that if she had all the luxuries grandmother had, she would make much better food than Grandmother does. Jim isn't happy about this either.
    • Ántonia tells Jim that her father is very sad, because he misses his old country. He doesn't even play his violin anymore because he hates this country.
    • Jim responds that people who don't like this country should have stayed home.
    • Ántonia explains that her mother made them come to America, thinking they would make a lot of money here. Then they argue about whether or not Jim's grandparents ought to have to help the Shimerdas. Ántonia thinks they should help because, once Ambrosch is rich, he'll pay them back.
    • We learn that Ambrosch is the main man of the family. He calls the shots and they pin their hopes on his future.
    • After the Shimerdas leave, Jim expresses his anger at Mrs. Shimerda to his grandmother. She tells him that poverty brings out different things in people. Then she makes him read religious literature.
    • The weather remains good for three weeks. The bulls start fighting each other because they think it's spring. Fuchs has to pitchfork them apart.
    • On Jim's eleventh birthday, a giant blizzard begins. The men make themselves some shovels and Jim has to stay inside and let the men do the outdoor chores.
    • The next day the men shovel all morning to clear the snow. It's the biggest storm in ten years. They decide not to go out and feed the cattle. After dinner Jake and Otto dig a tunnel through the snow to the hen house so that Grandmother and Jim can walk there to get eggs. They don't finish the chores until 5pm.
  • Book 1, Chapter 14

    • On the 22nd Jim wakes up. He hears voices and knows that something has just happened. Jake and Otto are in the kitchen looking tired, and Grandmother keeps praying to God.
    • Finally, Grandfather explains that Mr. Shimerda is dead, and that Otto and Jake have been at the Shimerdas half the night. He shows him that Ambrosch is there asleep.
    • Everyone has breakfast and Jim knows better than to ask too many questions.
    • Otto tells Jim's grandfather that no one heard the gun go off. Grandmother wonders how such a sweet man could inflict this much trouble on the people he loved.
    • Fuchs says it was no accident, that the man shaved and got dressed all nice before he shot himself in the head. Since all he had was a long rifle, he had to use his big toe to pull the trigger.
    • But Jake isn't sure that Mr. Shimerda committed suicide. He says he found Peter Krajiek's axe there and that it fit the gash in the old man's face. Krajiek is afraid that if anyone finds that out they'll hang him.
    • But Fuchs is sure that it was a suicide.

    (Click the plot infographic to download.)

    • Grandmother wants to go along with the men to the Shimerdas. She is particularly worried about Ántonia, because she thinks Ambrosch will take advantage of her willingness to work and not take good care of her.
    • Otto rides into town to get the priest and the coroner.
    • This leaves Jim with Ambrosch. Jim is surprised to see that he is devout and praying all the time, which is very unlike him.
    • Finally Grandfather, Grandmother, Jake, and Ambrosch set off for the Shimerdas, and Jim is left by himself in the house for the first time ever. He does some of the chores and tries to read a book. He thinks Robinson Crusoe's life is boring compared to his own adventures. So instead he thinks about Mr. Shimerda's soul.
    • Jim decides that homesickness killed Mr. Shimerda. He wonders whether the man's spirit will go back to Bohemia, or just rest there in Nebraska. He decides that the spirit is right here in the Burden house, but this doesn't frighten him.
    • Jim goes into the kitchen and thinks some more about Mr. Shimerda. He pictures what the man's life was like.
    • Everyone returns after dark. Grandmother goes to bed while Jake and Jim get supper ready. Jake explains that no one can touch the body until the coroner arrives, and now it's frozen stiff in the barn. The Shimerdas keep taking turns going into the barn in the cold to pray by the body. Ambrosch thinks it will take several years of prayers for them to get his soul out of purgatory.
    • This confuses Jim, because he likes to think that Mr. Shimerda's spirit is on its way back to Bohemia.
    • He thinks about how religious literature says that suicides are selfish and will be tormented. But he doesn't think that Mr. Shimerda was selfish, just unhappy.
  • Book 1, Chapter 15

    • Otto gets back from town the next day, exhausted from his trip. He reports that the coroner is coming later that day. He brought with him a young Bohemian eager to help his countrymen, named Anton Jelinek. He immediately thanks Grandmother for helping the Shimerdas.
    • Jim admires Anton. The young man goes to school in town.
    • At dinner Grandfather talks more than usual. He also likes Anton. The men discuss whether or not a priest will be willing to come to a suicide. Grandfather thinks no priest is necessary for Mr. Shimerda's soul to reach heaven, but Anton thinks prayer is necessary. He tells a story to explain:
    • When he was young he was an altar boy. During war with the Prussians lots of men died, and he used to go with the priest to say the last rites. Everyone in the camp got sick from cholera except for he and the priest, because they were carrying the holy sacrament with them.
    • Grandfather admires the young man's faith.
    • After dinner Anton starts trying to cut a path through the snow to the Shimerda's house so that a wagon can get through. Otto sets to making a coffin.
    • Jim admires Anton's long wolf skin coat, which was made from coyotes he shot and skinned himself. He watches Anton start to cut the path through the snow.
    • Grandfather rides off to the Shimerdas to meet the coroner there. Otto starts work on the coffin while Jim watches. He tells a story about the last time he made a coffin, when he was working in Colorado. An Italian died in a mine and he was the only guy around who knew how to make a coffin.
    • Everyone agrees that it's a good thing Otto is around to make the coffin.
    • Jim likes listening to the sounds of the coffin being made. He wonders why Otto didn't choose to become a cabinetmaker, since he seems to like carpentry so much. He even sings while he works.
    • At 4pm Mr. Bushy the postmaster stops by. He is another neighbor who is on his way to the Shimerdas' house. Several other neighbors stop by and Grandmother feeds them all cake. Everyone wants to know details about the suicide and they all discuss where Mr. Shimerda will be buried. They worry that a suicide won't be allowed to get buried in the Catholic graveyard.
    • Jim thinks it's nice that everyone is talking to each other. He listens to several more of Otto's stories, but we don't get to hear any of them in detail.
    • The postmaster stops back at the Burdens' again on his way home from the Shimerdas'. He reports that the Norwegian burial yard has refused to take in Mr. Shimerda's body. This angers Grandmother.
    • Then Grandfather returns with Anton and the coroner. The coroner thinks that Krajiek killed Mr. Shimerda, but Grandfather has talked him into letting that possibility go. Also, Krajiek is acting very guilty.
    • At supper everyone continues to talk about where they should bury Mr. Shimerda. Ambrosch and Mrs. Shimerda want to bury him on the corner of their land. Grandfather tells Ambrosch that someday there will be a crossroads there, but Ambrosch doesn't care. Grandfather seems to think there is some superstition in Bohemia about burying a suicide at cross-roads.
  • Book 1, Chapter 16

    • On the fifth day after his suicide Mr. Shimerda is finally buried. On Friday Anton helps Ambrosch to dig the grave. On Saturday Jake and Anton have to pry the frozen body off the ground.
    • Grandmother and Jim go to visit the Shimerdas; the women are there alone. Ántonia is very sad and clings to Jim. Mrs. Shimerda sits by the window and watches all the people arriving. It starts to snow.
    • When it's time to go outside for the funeral Ántonia wears the rabbit-skin hat that her father made for her. The men carry the body in the coffin up the hill. Mrs. Shimerda prays over the body, as do the other members of their family. Mrs. Shimerda tries to get Yulka to look at the dead body, but Grandmother intervenes and says that she doesn't have to. Then they nail down the top of the box over the dead body.
    • Ántonia comforts her little sister. The coffin is placed into a wagon and everyone goes with it to the grave site where they lower it down. Mrs. Shimerda wants Grandfather to say a prayer over the body. He complies. He asks that God forgive this man and says that men don't have the right to judge other men.
    • Then Grandmother asks Otto to sing, so he delivers a religious song.
    • Narrator-Jim comments that years later the roads ran nearby to where Mr. Shimerda was buried. Jim always liked to look at that spot, and it always had a lot of emotional weight for him.
  • Book 1, Chapter 17

    • Spring arrives. It is different than the springs that Jim are used to in Virginia, because there aren't a lot of blooming flowers and budding trees. Everyone burns the grass so as to get rid of the old stuff before the new grass grows.
    • The Shimerda family now has a log house which was built in March with help from the neighbors. Mrs. Shimerda buys a cow from Grandfather, paying him 10 dollars and owing him 15.
    • In April Jim rides up to the Shimerdas' and is greeted by Yulka, to whom he is giving reading lessons. Mrs. Shimerda grills Jim for info about what the men are doing in the fields. Narrator-Jim expresses dislike for her.
    • He watches her cook and thinks it's funny that she wraps food in a comforter to keep it warm.
    • When the workday is over Ántonia comes in from the fields. Jim sees how much she has grown in the last eight months. She's wearing her father's old boots. She is very tan and muscular. She immediately starts telling Jim how much work she did that day. She says she wants to do more ploughing than Jake.
    • Jim says that he's there because Grandmother wants Ántonia to go to school next week. But Ántonia says he doesn't have time for learning, because she has to help around the barn like a man. But Jim sees that she is crying.
    • Jim worries that Ántonia will end up boastful like her mother.
    • Ántonia asks Jim to never forget her father, and he agrees he won't.
    • Jim stays for supper with the Shimerdas. Mrs. Shimerda complains that the cow Jim's grandfather sold her doesn't give as much milk as he said it would. Ambrosch complains that Jim's grandfather accused him of breaking a saw that he didn't. Jim knows this to be a lie. He also doesn't like that Ántonia is eating like a man.
    • He rides home. He hasn't seen much of Ántonia lately. He doesn't like that she's acting like a man in the fields, but Grandfather says that she will be a lot of help to her man someday.
    • Jim thinks about how Mr. Shimerda used to call out "My Ántonia!" (1.17.last paragraph).
  • Book 1, Chapter 18

    • Jim sees even less of the Shimerdas after he starts going to school in town. He rides into town every day and has made some friends among his classmates, which he considers revenge against Ántonia. He doesn't like that Ambrosch is influencing Ántonia more and more.
    • One event caused a rift between the Shimerdas and the Burdens. One day Jim and Jake rode over to the Shimerdas to get a horse-collar back that Ambrosch had borrowed. The whole family is working hard when they arrive.
    • At first, Ambrosch tries to say that he doesn't have the collar. But Jake insists. Jim can tell that Ambrosch is in a mean mood. Ambrosch comes back with a ratty old horse-collar, and Jake is angry since he loaned him a nice horse-collar.
    • Ambrosch drops the collar on the ground and turns to leave. Jake grabs him and pulls him back and the two start to fight. Ambrosch fights dirty, and Jake ends up smacking him in the head.
    • Ántonia and her mother come running. Mrs. Shimerda is yelling for the law, while Ántonia tells Jim that they aren't friends anymore. Jake calls them ungrateful and the two of them ride back home. On the way, Jake explains that you can't ever trust foreigners. Jim agrees he will never be friends with a foreigner again.
    • Grandfather listens to the story but seems amused by it. He tells Jake to ride into town tomorrow and pay the fine for knocking a man down. He also tells him to take a pig to market that he's been fattening up for selling.
    • The Shimerdas ride to town the next day to try and get Jake in trouble for slapping Ambrosch, but Jake gets to town first to pay the fine and so it's already taken care of. Ambrosch finds out that Jake sold a pig the same day and he thinks that the Burdens were forced to sell their pig to pay the fine (which they were not). The Shimerdas take great pleasure in taunting the Burdens about this.
    • Otto is unfazed by the Shimerdas' behavior, because he says Austrians know what Czechs are like.
    • Grandfather never took part in the feud between the two families. He always treated the Shimerdas well.
    • In June Ambrosch and Marek work for hire at Mr. Bushy's. That leaves Ántonia and Mrs. Shimerda to do the work at their own farm. One of their horses gets sick and so Ántonia rides over to the Burdens one night to get help. Grandfather goes with her to the farm and cures the horse.
    • Later they learn that Ambrosch gave the wages he earned working at Mr. Bushy's to a priest to pray for his father's soul. Grandmother thinks this is foolish, but Grandfather admires it.
    • Finally Grandfather gets the two families to reconcile. He decides to hire Ambrosch to help him in the fields and Ántonia to help in the kitchen. He brings Jim over there to make arrangements in person.
    • They head over after breakfast. Mrs. Shimerda sees them coming and hides behind the stable, but Grandfather just ties up his horse and follows her. They find her trying to hide the cow she bought from Grandfather. Grandfather ignores this and greets her. He asks where they can find Ambrosch.
    • Mrs. Shimerda points them in the direction of the North field and says Ántonia is there, too. Grandfather explains that he wants to hire both of them. Then he tells her they can call it even on the cow, that she doesn't owe him any more money.
    • Mrs. Shimerda kisses Grandfather's hand as a thank-you. As they drive away, Grandfather says she probably thought they were coming to take the cow back.
    • The next day Mrs. Shimerda comes over to the Burdens' to bring Jake a pair of socks she knitted. She clearly wants to make peace, though she still taunts Jake about having to sell the pig to pay for slapping Ambrosch.
    • Jake is unruffled, and says that it's fine with him and she can have the last word.
  • Book 1, Chapter 19

    • It's July and very hot. Ántonia and Jim are in the garden to pick vegetables for dinner. She says she likes to work outside and be like a man. She makes Jim feel her muscles.
    • All the Burdens are happy to have Ántonia back working for them.
    • One night during a storm Ántonia and Jim climb up on the roof together to watch the clouds. Ántonia wishes her father lived to see the summer. She hopes winter never comes.
    • Jim wants to know why Tony isn't nice like this all the time, instead of being like Ambrosch.
    • Ántonia says that things would be different if her life was easy like Jim's. But things will be hard for her and her family.
  • Book 2, Chapter 1

    • Three years after Jim came to Nebraska, Grandfather decides to move them into the town of Black Hawk. Jim is thirteen and his grandparents are getting too old for farm work. They rent the farm out to the Widow Steavens and her brother, and they buy a house in town. They plan to move in March.
    • Otto decides to go back out West and Jake wants to go with him, though the Burdens try to change his mind as he's not as well suited to rough terrain and people. But he decides to go off and be a prospector in Colorado anyway.
    • Both Jake and Otto help with the move into town before they leave. Jim reflects on how loyal these men have been throughout the years. He thinks of them as brothers.
    • Months later they get a postcard from Otto that says they are working in a mine, but that Jake has mountain fever. Jim tries to write back to them, but his letter comes back as unclaimed and he never hears from either of the young men again.
    • Black Hawn is a small prairie town with brick buildings and several churches. The Burdens' new house overlooks the town and a nearby river, where Jim gets to play.
    • It only takes about a month in town for them to start feeling like they belong there. Grandfather is a deacon at church and Grandmother helps organize events there. Jim starts adapting to the town children's games and habits. Their neighbor, Mrs. Harling, tries to keep him civil, however.
    • Jim finds that he sees even more of his country neighbors than he used to because their house is on the edge of town and it's a convenient stopping place for anyone coming in to Black Hawk. They let the visitors stop and rest and eat. He hopes that Ambrosch will bring Ántonia and Yulka to town some time so that he can show them his house.
    • But Ambrosch always comes alone and never wants to stay for dinner or talk. So they get much of their news from Mrs. Steavens, who also likes Ántonia. She reports that Ambrosch hires Ántonia out like a man to do farm work, and that she's good at it.
    • When fall arrives, Grandmother gets Mrs. Harling to hire Ántonia to work for her in town so that the girl doesn't have to go out in the fields.
  • Book 2, Chapter 2

    • Grandmother really likes the Harlings as neighbors. They used to be farming people, too, and are Norwegian. Mr. Harling is a merchant and one of the most enterprising men in the county. He's away a lot on business.
    • Mrs. Harling is strong and sturdy and energetic. She has bright eyes. They have lots of children, three of them close to Jim's age. Charley is sixteen, Julia is fourteen, and Sally is thirteen and a tomboy. Frances is their adult daughter and manages her father's business. She's very good at it. Sometimes she comes over to talk with Grandfather and together they figure out a way to save someone from Wick Cutter, the money-lender.
    • Frances is also good at making women happy; she can get people to talk to her and she always attends social events.
    • In August the Harlings' cook leaves and that's when Grandmother gets them to hire Ántonia. She has to convince Ambrosch to let this happen.
    • Mrs. Harling rides out to the Shimerdas' farm one day to see Mrs. Shimerda. She likes Ántonia and she thinks that Mrs. Shimerda is amusing.
    • They argue with Ambrosch to arrange the work. He wants to get every cent of Ántonia's wages himself, but Mrs. Harling wants Ántonia to get some of the money herself. Finally they work it out.
    • Mrs. Harling thinks Ántonia is pretty and decides to bring out some of her feminine side, also known as the cooking and cleaning side. Grandmother laments that Ántonia has led such a difficult life since her father died.
    • Mrs. Harling wants to know all the details of Mr. Shimerda's suicide, so Grandmother tells her.
    • Mrs. Harling says that Ántonia will be happy working for her.
  • Book 2, Chapter 3

    (Click the plot infographic to download.)

    • When Ántonia comes to town she is excited to see Jim. She suggests that Grandmother will like her better once she learns to live in town.
    • Jim enjoys having Ántonia around again. Mrs. Harlings sees that Ántonia stops work a lot to play with the children. She learns more English rapidly.
    • Jim gets jealous because Ántonia takes a liking to Charley Harling. She always does things for him like bake him cakes or sew buttons on his coat.
    • Ántonia also likes Nina Harling, who is six and very moody. She cries a lot.
    • When Mr. Harling is away, Jim has fun evenings at the Harlings. When he's home, though, everyone has to go to bed early, because Mr. Harling likes a quiet house. He works alone in his study and doesn't pay attention to anyone else. He seems like a very powerful nobleman to Jim.
    • But when he's away, the house of noisy and fun. They have a piano that everyone likes to play, even Mrs. Harling.
  • Book 2, Chapter 4

    • The kids all tease Ántonia about how much she likes Charley. They are in the process of making popcorn balls at the Harlings' when the door rings. It is a pretty, dressed-up girl named Lena Lingard. Jim almost doesn't recognize her, because she was a farm girl too at one point.
    • Lena explains that now she's come to town to work, just like Tony.
    • Mrs. Harling comes in and looks Lena up and down disapprovingly. She wants to know where the girl is working, and Lena says she's working for the dressmaker, Mrs. Thomas. She says she's going to use the money to help out her mother, who is still back on the farm.
    • Mrs. Harling is very rude to the girl, but Lena ignores it. Frances invites her to sit down with them.
    • We learn that Lena was supposed to marry a boy named Nick, except his father wouldn't allow it. Now Nick is marrying some other girl. Lena doesn't mind though, because she says she's seen a lot of married life and has decided she doesn't want it.
    • Another girl, Tiny Soderball, is in the same situation as Tony and Lena and has come to town to work to make money for her family back on the farm. She's working at a hotel in town run by Mrs. Gardener. Mrs. Harling doesn't like the idea of that.
    • Before Lena goes, she takes Ántonia aside and asks her to come visit sometime. Ántonia is hesitant, because Mrs. Harling doesn't like her out and about. Lena insists.
    • After Lena leaves, Frances asks Ántonia why she wasn't more friendly to Lena. Ántonia explains that she was afraid that Mrs. Harling wouldn't like a girl like that coming around, because Lena had a bad reputation out on the farm.
    • Jim runs home to tell his grandmother that Lena came to town, and they're glad that she gets to leave her hard life on the farm.
    • Lena lived on a farm in a Norwegian settlement and used to herd her father's cattle. Jim was always amazed that she managed to stay so feminine even though she was doing rough man's work. She has a gentle voice and violet eyes.
    • Her father is a bad farmer and they have a big family. Lena always tries to take care of her brothers and sisters. She was talked about because a man named Ole Benson fell in love with her.
    • Ole was lazy and had a crazy wife named Crazy Mary. She was put in an insane asylum after setting a barn on fire, but escaped and walked home two hundred miles and no one sent her back even though she made the landscape considerably less attractive.
    • When Ole was out in the field he used to go sit with Lena and watch the cattle with her. The whole settlement got upset and the preacher's wife tried to get Lena to start coming to church, which would probably make her less desirable. The preacher's wife also gave Lena a dress to wear, because Lena's was ragged and had lots of holes in it.
    • So Lena comes to church in one of the preacher's wife's dresses, and she looks so pretty dressed-up that everyone realizes how attractive she is, which means the preacher's wife really shot everyone in the foot. Ole is there too, and he makes a point of helping Lena onto her horse after the mass.
    • This makes Crazy Mary angry, and so she runs after Lena with a knife.
    • Lena finds the whole thing funny.
    • Except Crazy Mary continues to chase Lena with a knife, which is not so funny. One day she chases Lena all the way to the Shimderdas' farm and demonstrates to everyone how sharp her knife is. Lena hides in Ántonia's room and later Mrs. Shimerda tells her not to make eyes at Ole.
    • Lena says she didn't provoke Ole, and she can't help it if he comes around staring at her.
  • Book 2, Chapter 5

    • Now that Lena is in town, Jim sees her a lot down at the stores. He often walks her home and she talks with him about what's going on in town.
    • The other immigrant girl named Tiny Soderball works at the hotel in town, where all the commercial travelers stay. On Saturday nights there's usually music and singing there, and Lena and Tiny like to listen from the other room. Lena wants to be a travelling businessman when she grows up.
    • The travelling men like Tiny and they always give her gifts.
    • In the week before Christmas Jim finds Lena and her little brother Chris at the drugstore window. Chris came into town to do Christmas shopping for the family, and Lena is helping him pick out gifts. Jim joins them.
    • In the store Lena helps Chris pick out inexpensive gifts for each of their family members. Afterwards, Lena expresses her homesickness for her family and her farm.
  • Book 2, Chapter 6

    • The winter is always tough on a small town on the prairie. Everything starts to look ugly. Jim has a hard time even getting to school in the morning. He feels as though the winter is a punishment for their having enjoyed summer so much.
    • Sometimes Jim loiters around after school, and then it's dark by the time he goes home. The town always looks desolate at this time. Some of the windows have lights in them and the children are always running about. He wishes there were more color in the town. He wonders why they all hang around outside talking when it's so cold.
    • He's always drawn to the Harlings' house in the winter because they always have lights on in their windows. He doesn't go if Mr. Harling is home. He's starting to feel bored at home.
    • But when Mr. Harling isn't home he always has a grand time over there. They do things like play dress-up and dance and listen to Mrs. Harling play the piano.
    • Ántonia sews her own clothes now because she learned from Lena how to make dresses. She also likes the Harlings' house, especially compared to her own life back on the farm with Ambrosch and her mother. She's always happy to cook extra treats for the Harling children.
    • Nina likes to get Ántonia to tell stories from her childhood.
    • Ántonia thinks that Christ was born in Bohemia shortly before her family left the country.
    • One night Ántonia tells a story about when she and Ole were working on a farm in the Norwegian Settlement. They were throwing bundles of wheat into a threshing machine. A tramp came alone and said it was a very hot day and there wasn't enough water in the ponds to drown yourself, and could he work for them for money.
    • Tony thought the man was crazy and didn't want to let him near the machine. But Ole was eager to get some help working and so he let the tramp help. The tramp worked for a few minutes and then jumped into the threshing machine to kill himself.
    • That really messed up the machine.
    • Nine is crying, because when a small child asks you to tell them a story you should generally leave the chopped-up bodies out of it. Ántonia feels bad.
    • Mrs. Harling, who is all about this story, commands Nina to stop crying so she can hear more details.
    • Ántonia explains that they never knew where the tramp was from, but that he just came from a little town where he was trying to get beer. All he had on him was a wishbone which clearly didn't work and some poetry.
    • The poem was called "The Old Oaken Bucket' and he had cut it out of a newspaper.
    • Tony thinks it's strange that anyone would want to kill themselves on such a nice summer day.
    • Mrs. Harling offers to go help Ántonia thresh next summer.
    • Then they all enjoy taffy together.
    • Jim notes that Ántonia and Mrs. Harling are very well suited to each other. They are both strong and independent and like children and animals and music and cooking. And they're also charitable but strict with obnoxious people. They both seem to really enjoy life.
  • Book 2, Chapter 7

    • Jim thinks that winter lasts too long in town, and that it's worse to go through winter there than it was back on the farm.
    • He often goes with the Harlings to the river to ice skate and make bonfires on the shore. By March, though, he is tired of the weather.
    • So he is grateful when a famous Negro piano player named Blind d'Arnault comes to town to give a concert at the opera house. Before the concert, the piano player is spending the weekend at the town hotel where Tiny Soderball works. It turns out that Mrs. Harling has known this man for years, so she advises Ántonia to go visit Tiny at the hotel while he's staying there.
    • Saturday evening Jim goes down the hotel and sits in the parlor to wait for Blind d'Arnault to play. There is a stove at either end of the room and a piano in the middle.
    • Everyone is happy that night because the owner, Mrs. Gardener, was out of town for the week.
    • (Mrs. Gardener is the best-dressed woman in Black Hawk, owns the best horse and sleigh, but doesn't flaunt her possessions. She is rather cold and distant.)
    • Her husband isn't a great manager, and mostly just chats with the travelers.
    • There is a man named Anson Kirkpatrick at the piano when Jim comes in. Several of the men staying at the hotel are sitting around in the parlor chatting.
    • Johnnie Gardener enters, directing Blind d'Arnault where to go. The piano player is a heavyset man and his eyes are closed. He greets the men in a soft voice.
    • Jim thinks that Blind d'Arnault looks and sounds like a stereotypical black man should. He also thinks he looks happy.
    • Blind d'Arnault finds his way to the piano. Jim notices that he constantly sways a bit. He tries some scales on the piano and tells the crowd that it seems just fine to him. He says he wants to sing some plantation songs.
    • Then he plays, swaying in time to the music with his eyes closed.
    • Jim explains that the man was born in the far south on a plantation, where the spirit though not the fact, of slavery persisted. When he was an infant an illness left him blind, and soon after he had another illness that left him nervously swaying all the time.
    • His mother was ashamed of him and hid him from people. She called him Samson. When he was six he used to run away up to the plantation and listen to one of the plantation owners, Miss d'Arnault, playing the piano. His mother used to beat him if she caught him.
    • When Miss d'Arnault saw him listening, she saw how happy the music made him. One day, when the piano room was empty, he crept over to the piano and started playing. Miss d'Arnault returned with her teacher, which scared him so much he had a fit.
    • When Samson recovered, Miss d'Arnault got teachers for him at the piano. It turned out he had perfect pitch and memory. He didn't play in a technically correct manner, but the music sounded good anyway.
    • Back to the present time. As Blind d'Arnault begins to play, one of the men in the parlor hears dancing from the room next door. Anson looks into the next room to find Ántonia, Tiny, Lena, and another girl named Mary Dusak. He gets them to come into the parlor and dance with the men.
    • Tiny protests, because she knows Mrs. Gardener wouldn't like it. But the men convince them. Johnnie doesn't want to participate, however, because he's afraid of his wife finding out.
    • Blind d'Arnault starts playing dance music. Jim is fascinated by watching his face and body while he plays; he thinks the man looks very exotic and savage.
    • Jim describes some of the girls. Tiny is small and wears short dressed. Mary is broad and has marks from smallpox but is still pretty. In short, they all look good.
    • Blind d'Arnault finishes playing and shows the guests his fancy jewelry. Then he goes upstairs with his manager. Jim walks Ántonia home and they stand outside by the gate at the Harlings' whispering late into the night.
  • Book 2, Chapter 8

    • When spring comes, everyone is happy. Jim and Tony help Mrs. Harling take care of her garden, and the kids play outside.
    • Summer is coming, which narrator-Jim says will change everything.
    • When boys and girls are supposed to grow up, he writes, nothing can stop them. Their parents often don't remember this.
    • In June Jim stops at the Harlings' to tell them that a dancing pavilion has come to town. Three Italian immigrants came to town and found a vacant lot to set up a tent for dancing. In the winter they work in Kansas City and in the summer they settle down in some farming town to teach dancing. Whenever business starts to slow down they just move on to another town.
    • Soon after the tent is put up everyone starts sending their kids there to learn how to dance. Mrs. Vanni, one of the three Italians, dresses very nicely and teaches the children. Her husband, Mr. Vanni, plays the harp for them.
    • Many of the mothers come and watch their children learn how to dance. Others come as spectators, and vendors start selling snacks there.
    • The Vannis are very organized and always close up on time.
    • Jim is glad that there's finally something to do other than sit on your porch all night. The girls finally have an excuse to wear new clothes. He wonders why they haven't had one of these before.
    • Dancing becomes the new fad in town. Everyone who pays to get in is welcome.
    • Jim goes to every Saturday night dance, when the pavilion is open until midnight. Everyone comes in, the country boys from the farms and the people from the town. Many of the hired girls are there – girls like Ántonia and Tiny and Lena who used to live on farms but have come to town to work. The town boys like to dance with them, even though their girlfriends don't like the idea.
  • Book 2, Chapter 9

    • Jim explains the social situation in Black Hawk. The men who live in town are attracted to the country girls.
    • The country girls grew up with hard lives, like Ántonia, and they aren't formally educated. But Jim thinks they are smarter and more interesting than those who are more privileged.
    • Physically they are strong and fit, especially compared to the town girls who rarely go outside. This means they're better dancers.
    • And yet, the town girls still think that they're better than the country girls.
    • Jim notes that these girls' own families had just as hard a time when they were farmers, but that Americans weren't willing to send their daughters out to work the way the immigrants were.
    • All the Americans' daughters can do is teach, but the immigrant daughters don't know English well-enough for that, so they have to do service work.
    • This is why, says Jim, the foreign farmers are the ones who become successful first, and the younger generation ends up more wealthy than the American families they used to work for.
    • Jim thinks it's dumb that the town people don't respect the hired girls. He knows that many of the immigrants used to be respectable in their old countries – Lena's grandfather was a clergyman, for example.
    • Narrator-Jim is glad that he lived to see the day where the immigrants are more successful than the people they served once.
    • The town boys plan on marrying the town girls, but they are attracted to the immigrant girls.
    • Because of this, the immigrants threaten to upset the social order. But this is an empty threat, since the town boys wouldn't dare to marry any of them.
    • Yet the immigrant girls are still a temptation for any young man of position. He would run into them all over town and be tempted by their beauty.
    • Jim talks a bit about the three Marys, immigrant girls who also worked in town. Mary Dusak worked as a housekeeper for a bachelor, but he got her pregnant. Later she ended up working in the place of Mary Svoboda, who also got pregnant by her employer. Because of this, the three Marys are considered dangerous to have around. But they are very good at cooking and cleaning.
    • The dancing tent brings together everyone in town from different social positions. Sylvester Lovett is a town boy who always dances with Lena on Saturday nights and even walks her home. But he tries to hide if his friends walk by. He reminds Jim of Ole.
    • Jim finds out that Sylvester drove out to see Lena when she was visiting her family on the farm. He took her buggy riding. Jim hopes that Sylvester will marry Lena and erase the taboo about socializing with hired girls.
    • But instead, Sylvester marries a widow who is six years his senior. Then he was no longer tempted by Lena.
    • Jim dislikes Sylvester a lot on account of this.
  • Book 2, Chapter 10

    • Until the dances began, Ántonia wasn't considered one of the more attractive hired girls. She was just a girl who worked for and lived with the Harlings.
    • But once the dances start, she begins hanging out with Tiny and Lena a lot. Also, she is a great dancer. The boys start to talk about her the same way they talk about Tiny.
    • Ántonia is in love with the dances. She becomes a bit irresponsible around the house in her excitement.
    • Everyone always waits to dance with Ántonia at the Vannis'.
    • Trouble begins. Delivery boys who come to the Harlings' stay longer because they want to flirt with Ántonia. Boys come to visit her to ask for dances. Sometimes the boys who walk her home on Saturday night wake Mr. Harling up with their voices.
    • One Saturday night Mr. Harling hears a scuffle and slap on the porch. It turns out that Ántonia was with a boy named Harry Paine. He is engaged to be married on Monday, but Ántonia let him walk her home from the dance because she thought he was just a nice guy. When he tried to kiss her she fought and slapped him.
    • Mr. Harling is not happy to hear this. He tells Ántonia that she brought this on herself by hanging out with girls like Lena and Tiny who have bad reputations. He tells her that she's not allowed to go to the dances anymore if she wants to live with them.
    • Ántonia decides to leave the Harlings' rather than stop going to the dances. Frances and her mother try to get her to change her mind, but Ántonia is adamant. She says that she's going to go work for Wick Cutter.
    • Mrs. Harling warns her against this, since Cutter has a reputation for knocking up the girls who work for him. She tells Ántonia that if she goes to work for Cutter, she's not allowed to come back to the Harlings'.
    • Ántonia argues that she has to take her good times when she can get them. She worries there won't be a dancing tent next year.
    • Mrs. Harling warns her again that she might get pregnant if she works for Cutter.
    • Mrs. Harling is angry at Ántonia for her decision. She says she wishes that she had never gotten to like the girl so much.
  • Book 2, Chapter 11

    • Wick Cutter is the moneylender we've already heard about. He's a bad guy. His first name is Wycliffe and he is Protestant. He comes from Iowa and speaks a bit of Swedish.
    • Cutter gambles a lot and is a bad loser. He always tells people how to act morally and says not to drink very hard liquor or smoke cigars.
    • Cutter likes Jim's grandmother, and they always reminisce about the old days.
    • Jim hates Cutter and the way he looks. He has fake-looking white teeth and yellow whiskers. Jim implies that Cutter got two of the girls who worked with him pregnant. He took one of them to Omaha and he still visits her sometimes.
    • Cutter and his wife argue all the time. He has a thing for horses and trains them for the track. He's very nit-picky about his house and yard.
    • Mrs. Cutter is tall and has long teeth. Babies don't like her. She is also very formal.
    • She likes to paint china as a hobby and sells it to her neighbors when she and Mr. Cutter have arguments about money.
    • Cutter wants to cut down the trees around their house, but his wife says that she'll divorce him if he does. She likes that the trees provide her with privacy.
    • Jim says that he hasn't found anyone like Mr. Cutter, but that he's seen other people who are like Mrs. Cutter in his life.
  • Book 2, Chapter 12

    • Once Ántonia leaves the Harlings, she becomes even more interested in partying. She always makes clothes with Lena's help, copying the fancy dresses of older, wealthy women in town. This makes these rich women upset.
    • She also starts wearing gloves and high heels, which attract attention.
    • Jim is in high school now and at recess he always watches the girls walk by. He likes to think that Ántonia is prettier than all the others.
    • He hangs out with the hired girls a lot after school. One day they tease him because his grandmother said she wanted Jim to be a preacher. There's a lot of flirting all around.
    • Ántonia says that she wants Jim to be a doctor.
    • Jim says that he's going to be what he wants, not what other people want.
    • People in town start talking about how Jim is always hanging out with the hired girls. They think it's weird that he would rather hang out with them than town girls his own age.
    • After the Vannis' dance tent leaves town, dancing remains a fad. The Owl Club holds dances, but Jim doesn't go. He is moody because he's a teenager, and he's tired of his small town.
    • Mrs. Harling isn't nice to Jim because he's friends with Ántonia.
    • Jim gets bored in the evenings when there's nothing to do. Sometimes he walks around town looking for activity.
    • Black Hawk has two saloons, one of which is a nice place, owned by Anton Jelinek. Jim goes in there sometimes, until Anton asks him not to. Anton says that he's friends with Jim's grandfather, who wouldn't like his grandson going to a saloon.
    • Sometimes Jim hangs out at the drugstore listening to the old men who sit around there telling stories.
    • Other times he goes to the depot to watch the trains come in. He talks with the telegrapher who shows him pictures of famous people, or with the station agent who is generally unhappy.
    • Jim really doesn't like his town anymore. He's bored and he thinks people are too guarded.
    • Instead of going to dances at the Owl Club, Jim decides to go to dances at the Fireman's Hall, because it is a different crowd. But he can't tell his grandparents about it because they wouldn't approve.
    • So Jim has to sneak out of his house at night. He has fun at the dances, and the hired girls are always there.
    • Four Danish hired girls work for the laundryman. He pays them well and they live with him and his wife. He seems like a fairly happy man.
    • Jim notices that these girls aren't as ambitious as Tony or Lena and they don't know as much English, but he thinks they're nice anyway.
    • Tony and Lena are the most popular girls at these dances. Lena doesn't talk much and dances every dance as though it is a waltz. Tony adds more variety and is more lively.
    • Jim wonders what Ántonia's life would have been like if her father hadn't died but had stayed in New York and made a living playing his fiddle.
    • Ántonia starts dating Larry Donovan, a passenger conductor and a bit of a player.
    • One night when Larry is out of town, Jim walks Ántonia home from the dance. He tells her to kiss him good night. She says sure.
    • After they kiss, Ántonia chastises Jim for kissing her that way and threatens to tell his grandmother.
    • Jim replies that Lena lets him kiss her that way.
    • This upsets Ántonia. She doesn't want Lena to start something with Jim. Then she tells Jim that he has to go away to school and make something of his life. She tells him not to get mixed up with the Swedes.
    • Jim tells her not to treat him like a kid. Ántonia laughs.
    • After he leaves, Jim reflects that he is proud of Ántonia. She is still his Ántonia, he thinks. He might be just a boy, but he knows who the real women in town are.
    • Jim goes home to sleep. Sometimes he dreams that he and Ántonia are frolicking around in the country together. Sometimes he dreams sexy dreams about Lena. He wishes he could have sexy dreams about Ántonia, but he never does.
  • Book 2, Chapter 13

    • 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.
  • Book 2, Chapter 14

    • 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.
  • Book 2, Chapter 15

    • It's late August. The Cutters are going to Omaha for a few days. After they leave, Ántonia comes over to see the Burdens.
    • She tells them a story. Before Wick departed, he gave her all the valuables in the house in a basket and told her to keep them under her bed. He makes her promise that she won't leave the house or let any of her friends sleep over. He explains that he just put a new lock on the front door.
    • Now Ántonia feels uncomfortable staying alone in the house. They arrange for Jim to stay alone in the house in her place while she stays at the Burdens'.
    • Jim doesn't like the idea but he agrees anyway. Everything is fine the first night. He comes home the next morning and Ántonia has breakfast waiting for him.
    • The second night also passes without trouble.
    • The third night Jim wakes up in the middle of the night and hears a door close downstairs. He falls back asleep.
    • He wakes back up because someone sits down on the edge of his bed. He lies still and doesn't move. He feels a hand on his shoulder and something hairy on his face. He knows it's Wick so he pulls at the man's whiskers.
    • Wick goes crazy. He thinks Jim and Ántonia are in bed together. He has Jim by the throat and starts punching.
    • Jim manages to get free and jumps out the window. He runs home and gets into bed and goes to sleep.
    • Grandmother finds him the next morning. He's covered in blood because Wick punched him in the face.
    • Grandmother wants to call the doctor, but Jim won't let her. He asks her not to let anyone know what happened. So she takes care of his wounds herself.
    • Jim also refuses to see Ántonia. He hates her and never wants to see her again.
    • Grandfather finds out what happened. It turned out Wick came home on a late train and left again early the next morning. He has a sling on his arm and won't tell anyone how it all happened.
    • Ántonia and Jim's grandmother go over to Cutter's to pack her stuff. Her room is all torn apart and disheveled.
    • While they're packing up, Mrs. Cutter shows up at the door. Grandmother tells her what happened and says that Ántonia is going to be with them for a while.
    • Mrs. Cutter tells them what happened on her end. She and Cutter were on their way home from Omaha and had to stop at a junction. He told her he had to stay overnight there but that she should go on home alone. He puts her on a train. Later, she realized that she was headed to Kansas City. This way Cutter ended up going home alone.
    • Narrator-Jim thinks that Cutter liked making his wife upset. He thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the one thing he couldn't do without.
  • Book 3, Chapter 1

    • Jim goes off to college in Lincoln, Nebraska. He gets a tutor he likes named Gaston Cleric, who is the head of the Latin department.
    • For his first summer vacation Jim chooses to stay in Lincoln and get ahead on his studies again rather than go home. His tutor stays around, too, so the two of them spend a lot of time together.
    • Narrator-Jim considers this period of his life to be one of the happiest in his life.
    • There are different kinds of people at the university with Jim. Some of them come from the farms and can barely feed themselves while they study. The instructors are also an eclectic bunch.
    • The students have very free personal lives. They don't have dorms so they live wherever they want.
    • Jim lives with an old couple at the edge of town. He gets two rooms for the price of one so he uses one as a study.
    • He has a wardrobe and a table and bookshelf. He puts a large map of Rome on the wall that he got from Cleric.
    • Jim buys a nice big chair so that Gaston has a place to sit when he comes to visit. He also buys Benedictine and Gaston's favorite cigarettes so the man will stay and talk for a long time when he's there.
    • Gaston doesn't talk much in a crowd but he is verbose when alone with Jim. Jim thinks that Gaston could have been a great poet. He gets Jim to appreciate ancient cultures like the Romans and Greeks.
    • We learn that Gaston used to live in Italy.
    • One night while they talk about Dante, Cleric repeats passages from the Divine Comedy.
    • Jim knows that he will never be a scholar himself. He is always distracted looking back at his own childhood memories.
  • Book 3, Chapter 2

    • It's March of Jim's sophomore year. The snow has been thawing and Jim is sitting with his window open in his room after supper. He's feeling lethargic.
    • Jim looks at the blue sky outside his window. He sees the evening star.
    • Jim closes his window and lights his candle. He props open a book, the Georgics, to begin his homework. He reads the famous line in Latin which says that the best days are the first to flee. (Check out "What's Up with the Epigraph?" for more on this quote.)
    • Jim begins reading a passage that they covered in class that morning. He looks at the word patria, which his teacher taught him doesn't mean country, but instead refers to the author's little rural town.
    • Jim recalls that Cleric said that Virgil must have remembered this passage when he was dying. Cleric explained that on his death bed Virgil ordered that the Aeneid be burned. And he must have remembered the Georgics when he ordered this.
    • Jim remembers that everyone left the classroom with a great feeling after that.
    • Now that he is studying alone, Jim thinks about Cleric. He wonders about New England, which is Cleric's own patria.
    • There is a knock at the door and Jim hurries to answer it.
    • It is Lena Lingard. Jim hardly recognizes her. She's wearing a black suit and a black lace hat with blue flowers.
    • Jim invites her to sit down in Cleric's chair. He is embarrassed, but she is not.
    • Lena explains that she lives in Lincoln now and owns a dressmaking shop. She says she's doing very well. She's been there all winter.
    • Lena asks Jim if he thinks she's changed. He says she's prettier, but then again maybe it's just her clothes.
    • She explains that this coming summer she's going to build a house for her mother. The summer after she'll put nice furniture and carpets in it.
    • Jim looks at Lena, who is groomed and pretty. He remembers how she used to look when she was a barefoot little girl on the prairie. He's glad that she's done so well for herself.
    • Jim tells Lena that he's never earned a dollar himself, so he's proud of her. He asks about Ántonia.
    • Lena says that Ántonia is working for Mrs. Gardener at the hotel as a housekeeper. She's also made up with the Harlings. She's engaged to Larry Donovan and worships him.
    • Jim doesn't like Larry. He says he should go home and look after Ántonia. Lena sort of agrees.
    • The two of them decide that they should go to a show together sometime at the theatre.
    • Lena leaves to go meet some Swedes at the drugstore. Jim wouldn't like them, she says.
    • Before she goes, Lena tells Jim that he should come see her some time if he gets lonesome.
    • Jim finds his room more pleasant because Lena visited him. He closes his eyes and thinks about the hired girls. He decides that there would be no poetry without girls, and that this is a precious revelation he's just had.
    • Jim thinks about the dreams he used to have about Lena. He thinks about the line in the Georgics that says that the best days are the first to flee.
  • Book 3, Chapter 3

    • In Lincoln the best season for plays is in the late Spring.
    • Jim and Lena go to see a lot of shows together. Lena always insists on paying for her own seat. She pays more attention than Jim does to the costumes.
    • One night they go to see "Camille" together. They go early because Lena likes to watch the people coming in. Neither of them knows the play ahead of time, but they are awed by what they see.
    • Jim thinks the dialogue is great. He sees a champagne bottle opened for the first time. The props on stage amaze him. Also the women are stunning.
    • The actress playing Marguerite seems to be too old, and the character Armand is too young for her.
    • Between the acts they enjoy listening to the music played by the orchestra. After the second act Jim goes into the lobby alone to smoke. He is happy that he came with Lena and not some silly girl.
    • In another scene Lena cries while Jim feels touched.
    • Jim criticizes the leading actress. Her voice is too heavy and deep. Still, he thinks no one could ruin this play.
    • In a later scene Lena is terrified on account of the great acting and cowers closer to Jim.
    • During a bedroom scene, Jim cries himself.
    • When they leave the theatre, it is raining. Jim shelters them under the umbrella he got as a graduation present. Jim walks her home and meanders on back to his own room, thinking about the performance.
    • Narrator-Jim says that, since then, whenever he sees that play, he feels like it is April.
  • Book 3, Chapter 4

    (Click the plot infographic to download.)

    • When Jim goes to visit Lena he has to wait in the parlor. He's surprised that Lena is so successful because she isn't domineering and business-like. But she does have a great talent for making clothes and following fashion, though she never finishes anything on time and she always goes over budget. Jim thinks she is good with customers.
    • Sometimes Jim sees her downtown in her business suit, when she looks nice.
    • Often they have breakfast together on Sunday at her place. She has a dog named Prince who growls at Jim.
    • Lena's landlord is named Colonel Raleigh, and he's the man who gave Lena the dog to begin with.
    • Jim is amused by Lena's manner of speaking. She learned lots of conventional English expressions even though it is not her first language.
    • Jim thinks Lena looks pretty in the mornings. He understands why Ole was so crazy about her.
    • Lena tells him that Ole never meant her any harm. He just liked to talk to her. He only married Mary because he thought she would keep him straight, because he had a problem with women taking advantage of him. Lena feels sorry for him, she says.
    • If Jim stayed too late at Lena's place the Polish violin-teacher who lived across the hall would come in and say threatening things to Jim.
    • Colonel Raleigh and the Polish neighbor don't get along. The latter is always trying to stop the former from flirting with Lena.
    • One night while Jim is having supper with Lena, the neighbor, named Ordinsky, comes in. He's trying to pin together his waistcoat, which split, so he could go play at a concert.
    • Lena goes to sew it up for him. While she's gone, Ordinsky warns Jim to respect her. Jim convinces the man that he is honorable.
    • After that, Ordinsky is always friendly to Jim. One day he writes a newspaper article and asks Jim to take it down to the editor of the paper to publish it. Jim does, and so Ordinsky always likes him for helping him out.
    • Because he's spending a lot of time with Lena, Jim isn't taking his studies seriously anymore.
    • Jim explains that he, Colonel Raleigh, and Mr. Ordinsky are all in love with Lena.
    • Gaston Cleric is offered a chance to teach at Harvard and he accepts it. He tells Jim that he should come along to Harvard where Lena won't be around to distract him.
    • Cleric writes to Jim's grandfather suggesting that Jim go to Harvard. Grandfather agrees that it's OK with him.
    • Jim spends an evening thinking things over.
    • He goes to see Lena the next morning. There are some flowers there that Mr. Ordinsky left for her. Jim tells her that she should be careful or else Mr. Ordinsky might propose to her some day soon.
    • Lena says that he has proposed often, but doesn't mind when she says no. Old men like to be in love with someone, she says, because it makes them feel important.
    • Jim tells Lena he hopes she won't marry some old rich fellow.
    • Lena tells him not to worry, because she's not going to marry anybody. She doesn't want a husband, because married men are always trying to tell their wife what to do. She also likes having time to herself.
    • Finally Jim tells her that he's going away, because he'll never get anything done if he sticks around here. Lena says she never should have started things with Jim. She muses that it was probably Ántonia telling her not to that made her want to do it.
    • She gives Jim a good-bye kiss and says that she used to think she would be Jim's first sweetheart.
    • After he leaves Lincoln Jim goes home to see his grandparents. Then he visits his relatives in Virginia and goes on to join Cleric in Boston. (Jim is nineteen at this point.)
  • Book 4, Chapter 1

    • Two years later Jim graduates from Harvard and is ready to start law school there. He comes home for the summer vacation.
    • The night he gets back some of the Harlings come over to see him. Afterwards he walks them home and Frances she tells him about Ántonia.
    • Jim already knows some of the story because his grandmother wrote him while he was away at school. It turns out that Ántonia went away to marry Larry Donovan and that he deserted her and now she has his baby and is a single mom. She lives at home with Ambrosch.
    • Jim is disappointed in Ántonia. He notes that everyone pities her now while everyone respects Lena.
    • We learn that Tiny ended up conducting a lodging-house in Seattle. Jim reflects that he never knew her that well, and that she was always a little intimidating. It turns out that after she set up her lodging house in Seattle she ended up going to Alaska in a gold rush. She ran a hotel up there and made a ton of money from the prospecting men who needed a place to stay.
    • Once she nursed a Swede who ended up dying. He deeded Tiny his claim on a piece of land.
    • Tiny ended up buying other claims from other men and making a lot of money. She came to live in San Francisco. Jim met her in 1908 in Salt Lake City. She reminded him of Mrs. Gardener.
    • It turned out that by this time Lena was living with her in San Francisco and still making dresses. Tiny limped a bit on account of an injury but was doing fine.
  • Book 4, Chapter 2

    • Back to the summer before law school. Jim is in the photographer's store in town one day and sees a picture of a baby. The photographer tells him it is Tony's baby. She is proud of it even though it was born out of wedlock.
    • Jim decides he has to see Ántonia again. He likes her so much and wishes she hadn't thrown herself away like that.
    • Larry Donovan was the man who messed up her life. He was a passenger conductor and always complaining about something.
    • Jim stops to talk to Mrs. Harling. He tells her that he wishes he could know more details about Ántonia's story. Mrs. Harling recommends that he go out to see the Widow Steavens because she knows the whole thing.
  • Book 4, Chapter 3

    • In August Jim goes out to see the Widow Steavens. He looks at the landscape as he goes. The grass is replaced with crops and there are many more houses than there used to be.
    • The Widow tells Jim to have supper with them and then she'll tell him the story and he can stay overnight.
    • The Widow tells the following story:
    • Ántonia was sewing a lot of clothes and linens as she got ready to go away and be married. She was happy.
    • Ántonia worries when she learns that Larry wants them to live in Denver. She is a country girl, she says, so she thinks she might not do so well in the city. Finally she gets a letter from Larry telling her to come and meet him.
    • Ambrosch gives her three hundred dollars to take with her.
    • Ántonia gets to Denver and meets Larry. He says he wants to wait a few days to get his promotion before they officially get married. A month goes by and no one at home hears anything from Ántonia.
    • Finally Ántonia comes back home alone. The Widow goes to see her; Ántonia says that she's not married, but that she ought to be. Then she says that Larry ran away from her. He got fired and used up all Ántonia's money and then ran away, probably to Mexico.
    • The Widow is upset that such a good girl came to such a bad end.
    • That spring Ántonia works like a man out in the fields. Marek, the retarded Shimerda sibling, is sent away to an institution. Tony refuses to leave her farm.
    • One night Ántonia brings the cattle in, goes inside, and has her child without calling to anyone or making any noise.
    • The Widow goes over to help with the infant. Ambrosch wants to drown it because it's an illegitimate child but she tells him not to.
    • Ántonia loves the child and is not ashamed of it.
    • The Widow ends her story. Jim spends the night there and looks out his window at the windmill.
  • Book 4, Chapter 4

    • The next afternoon he goes over to the Shimerdas'. He sees the baby, but Ántonia is out. He goes out to the fields to find her. She's working with a pitchfork.
    • Ántonia looks thin but still strong. Jim notes that she's only 24 but that a lot has happened to her already.
    • The two of them sit down by a fence to talk to each other. Jim looks at the grass. He tells Ántonia what he's been up to the last few years. He reveals that Gaston died of pneumonia.
    • Ántonia talks about her father. She says that the older she gets, she better she understands him.
    • Then she asks if Jim has gotten to like living in cities, because she is definitely a country girl.
    • Jim tells Ántonia that he thinks of her more than anyone else in the world. He says he wishes he could have had her for a wife or mother or sister or anything that a woman could be to a man. She is in his mind and influences him all the time, he says.
    • Ántonia wonders at how this could be. She agrees that Jim means a lot to her and thinks that it is wonderful. She tells him that as soon as her daughter grows up she'll tell her all about him.
    • They walk home and watch the sun set. Jim looks at the landscape. He wishes he were a kid again.
    • Before he leaves Jim promises that he will come back. Ántonia says he will be there in spirit even when he is away.
    • As Jim leaves he imagines himself and Ántonia playing in the grass when they were kids.

    (Click the plot infographic to download.)

  • Book 5, Chapter 1

    • 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.

    (Click the plot infographic to download.)

    • 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.
  • Book 5, Chapter 2

    • The next morning Jim observes Leo some more. He is a quick, impatient boy.
    • Jim dresses and washes and comes into the house for breakfast. Ántonia wishes Jim could meet Martha except she doesn't get away from her own farm except on Sundays. Ántonia misses seeing her grandchild.
    • Ántonia explains to Jim that she always treated Martha just like her other children and so did Anton.
    • Finally Cuzak, Ántonia's husband, arrives home from his trip. He is a small, lively man with great teeth. He's wearing a fancy necktie.
    • Rudolph, one of the sons, has come with his father. He talks about the great sights they saw in the city.
    • Jim watches Ántonia and Cuzak together and sees that they fit each other well.
    • Cuzak brought little presents home for his children, mostly candy. He seems amused that he has so many children.
    • Cuzak brought some Bohemian papers home with him and starts telling his wife all the news. He talks about a singer named Vasakova who broke her leg.
    • Later he asks Jim if he heard about the Cutters. He tells the following story:
    • The Cutters grew old together. A new law was passed under which a wife who survived her husband was guaranteed a third of her husband's estate. Cutter was afraid he would die first and his wife's family would get his stuff. So he killed her and shot himself and then called in some men to witness that he outlived her. Then he died.
    • After supper Cuzak and Jim go for a walk. Cuzak tells him about himself. His father was a shoemaker and he was apprenticed to his uncle who was a furrier. He worked in Vienna and then came to New York. He ended up on Florida and then finally Nebraska. He married Ántonia shortly after he met her.
    • Cuzak admits that he is a city person, not a farm person. He says he is happy with Ántonia and that he'd like to go back to Europe some day. It doesn't seem like he's been away so long, he says.
  • Book 5, Chapter 3

    • Jim finally says good-bye and leaves for Black Hawk. Jim is sad to leave Ambrosch, whom he likes so much. He tells him and Rudolph that they'll go hunting together next summer.
    • Jim doesn't enjoy his day in Black Hawk because he doesn't recognize most of the people there. He hangs out with Anton Jelinek and an old lawyer who fills him in on the details of the Cutter case.
    • He walks outside of the town to look at the landscape. He feels at home again. He stumbles on the old road that leads out to his grandfather's old farm. It's mostly been ploughed under.
    • Jim sits down and looks out at the sun. He remembers the night he arrived on the train from Virginia. He feels as though he and Ántonia walked on the road of destiny to get where they are today, and that they possess the past together.