Study Guide

My Ántonia Book 1, Chapter 4

By Willa Cather

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.