Study Guide

My Ántonia Book 1, Chapter 3

By Willa Cather

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.