Study Guide

My Ántonia Book 1, Chapter 7

By Willa Cather

Book 1, Chapter 7

  • Jim likes Ántonia, but he doesn't like her superior attitude. She is older than he and so she treats him like a child sometimes. But then one adventure changes that.
  • One day Jim rides over to the Shimerdas and finds Ántonia getting ready to go to Russian Peter's house to borrow a spade for Ambrosch. He ends up taking her there on his pony. On the way home with the spade, Ántonia gets him to stop at the prairie-dog town and dig into one of the holes to see what it looks like.
  • The prairie-dog town is large and spread out. Jim notes how orderly it seems. The dogs scurry underground as Jim approaches. He and Ántonia check out a big hole with two entrances. Then Ántonia screams, and Jim spots the biggest rattlesnake he's ever seen. She starts yelling in Bohemian. The snake rattles, and Jim sees that he is about to strike. He starts jabbing at the snake with his spade until it's dead.
  • After, Ántonia tells Jim he should have run. But she's impressed that he's so brave. She insists that they bring the dead snake back home for everyone to see. Jim points out the green liquid coming out of the snake's head and says it's the poison. They measure the snake to be five and a half feet long with 24 rattles. Ántonia says this means the snake is 24 years old.
  • Jim starts to feel proud of what he did. He respects the snake as the ancient and oldest Evil. Dude is too scared to let them come near him with the dead snake, so Ántonia rides him home while Jim walks beside, dragging the snake behind him and feeling proud of himself.
  • When they get home Otto greets them first. He asks how Jim killed the snake, and he thinks it's lucky they had a spade with them. Ántonia gushes about Jim's bravery. He and Otto go to hang the snake up in the windmill, while Ántonia goes into the kitchen to tell the story once again.
  • Later, Jim learns that this particular snake was old and that's why he didn't fight too much. He knows that a younger snake that size would have outmatched him.
  • The snake hangs there and several neighbors come to admire it over the next few days. Ántonia likes Jim much better from then on and she stops acting so superior.