Study Guide

My Ántonia Book 1, Chapter 10

By Willa Cather

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.