Study Guide

My Ántonia Book 1, Chapter 5

By Willa Cather

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.