Study Guide

My Ántonia Book 1, Chapter 2

By Willa Cather

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.