Study Guide

My Ántonia Book 2, Chapter 8

By Willa Cather

Book 2, Chapter 8

  • When spring comes, everyone is happy. Jim and Tony help Mrs. Harling take care of her garden, and the kids play outside.
  • Summer is coming, which narrator-Jim says will change everything.
  • When boys and girls are supposed to grow up, he writes, nothing can stop them. Their parents often don't remember this.
  • In June Jim stops at the Harlings' to tell them that a dancing pavilion has come to town. Three Italian immigrants came to town and found a vacant lot to set up a tent for dancing. In the winter they work in Kansas City and in the summer they settle down in some farming town to teach dancing. Whenever business starts to slow down they just move on to another town.
  • Soon after the tent is put up everyone starts sending their kids there to learn how to dance. Mrs. Vanni, one of the three Italians, dresses very nicely and teaches the children. Her husband, Mr. Vanni, plays the harp for them.
  • Many of the mothers come and watch their children learn how to dance. Others come as spectators, and vendors start selling snacks there.
  • The Vannis are very organized and always close up on time.
  • Jim is glad that there's finally something to do other than sit on your porch all night. The girls finally have an excuse to wear new clothes. He wonders why they haven't had one of these before.
  • Dancing becomes the new fad in town. Everyone who pays to get in is welcome.
  • Jim goes to every Saturday night dance, when the pavilion is open until midnight. Everyone comes in, the country boys from the farms and the people from the town. Many of the hired girls are there – girls like Ántonia and Tiny and Lena who used to live on farms but have come to town to work. The town boys like to dance with them, even though their girlfriends don't like the idea.