Study Guide

My Ántonia Book 2, Chapter 1

By Willa Cather

Book 2, Chapter 1

  • Three years after Jim came to Nebraska, Grandfather decides to move them into the town of Black Hawk. Jim is thirteen and his grandparents are getting too old for farm work. They rent the farm out to the Widow Steavens and her brother, and they buy a house in town. They plan to move in March.
  • Otto decides to go back out West and Jake wants to go with him, though the Burdens try to change his mind as he's not as well suited to rough terrain and people. But he decides to go off and be a prospector in Colorado anyway.
  • Both Jake and Otto help with the move into town before they leave. Jim reflects on how loyal these men have been throughout the years. He thinks of them as brothers.
  • Months later they get a postcard from Otto that says they are working in a mine, but that Jake has mountain fever. Jim tries to write back to them, but his letter comes back as unclaimed and he never hears from either of the young men again.
  • Black Hawn is a small prairie town with brick buildings and several churches. The Burdens' new house overlooks the town and a nearby river, where Jim gets to play.
  • It only takes about a month in town for them to start feeling like they belong there. Grandfather is a deacon at church and Grandmother helps organize events there. Jim starts adapting to the town children's games and habits. Their neighbor, Mrs. Harling, tries to keep him civil, however.
  • Jim finds that he sees even more of his country neighbors than he used to because their house is on the edge of town and it's a convenient stopping place for anyone coming in to Black Hawk. They let the visitors stop and rest and eat. He hopes that Ambrosch will bring Ántonia and Yulka to town some time so that he can show them his house.
  • But Ambrosch always comes alone and never wants to stay for dinner or talk. So they get much of their news from Mrs. Steavens, who also likes Ántonia. She reports that Ambrosch hires Ántonia out like a man to do farm work, and that she's good at it.
  • When fall arrives, Grandmother gets Mrs. Harling to hire Ántonia to work for her in town so that the girl doesn't have to go out in the fields.