Study Guide

My Ántonia Book 1, Chapter 9

By Willa Cather

Book 1, Chapter 9

  • The first snow comes in December. The pond freezes and the red grass pales. Jim looks at a circle in the grass where the Indians used to ride around and torture prisoners, according to Otto. But his grandfather says that they probably just trained their horses there.
  • Fuchs makes Jim a sleigh that he can use to ride around in the snow. (He's very handy because he was once apprenticed to a cabinetmaker.) Jim uses his sleigh to go to the post-office, and then he goes over to take Yulka and ├üntonia for a ride.
  • Jim brings two hot bricks with him for warmth. The girls wear rabbit-skin hats. On the way, Jim looks at the landscape. The sky is blue and the prairie completely white. The trees are mostly dead.
  • The girls are cold but enjoying themselves; they make Jim drive all the way to Russian Peter's old house and joke about how they should all live there together.
  • It's cooler on the way home so Jim gives his comforter to Yulka. He drops the girls off at their house and goes straight home.
  • Jim ends up getting sick with quinsy and having to stay inside for two weeks.
  • During the winter Jim's kitchen is nice and warm. The men work outside in the day and come home in the evening. Jim starts reading The Swiss Family Robinson aloud to his grandmother, but he thinks his own adventurous life is more exciting than the fictional novel.
  • He decides that man's worst enemy is the cold. He admires his grandmother for keeping everyone cheerful in the winter months. She makes them chicken every Sunday and always bakes something sweet every day.
  • Staying warm and eating supper are the most important things in the winter. Jim wonders how the men can come in from the fields every day and be so tired from working and still do the household chores. After supper, everyone sits around trying to get warm.
  • On Saturday nights they pop corn or make taffy and Otto sings songs. Jim thinks both Otto and Jake are great men. Otto has done a lot more than Jake, but he can't read and he has a bad temper. Still he is very soft-hearted. Both he and Jake work very hard.
  • Sometimes at night they can all hear the sound of coyotes, which reminds them of animal stories they heard in their childhood. Sometimes Otto talks about the crazy characters he used to know. He tells the following story about when he came to America from Austria:
  • On the trip over he was supposed to look after a woman who was going to meet her husband in Chicago. She had two children with her and was pregnant. On the ship, she gave birth to triplets, and everyone eyed Otto suspiciously.