Study Guide

My Ántonia Book 3, Chapter 2

By Willa Cather

Book 3, Chapter 2

  • It's March of Jim's sophomore year. The snow has been thawing and Jim is sitting with his window open in his room after supper. He's feeling lethargic.
  • Jim looks at the blue sky outside his window. He sees the evening star.
  • Jim closes his window and lights his candle. He props open a book, the Georgics, to begin his homework. He reads the famous line in Latin which says that the best days are the first to flee. (Check out "What's Up with the Epigraph?" for more on this quote.)
  • Jim begins reading a passage that they covered in class that morning. He looks at the word patria, which his teacher taught him doesn't mean country, but instead refers to the author's little rural town.
  • Jim recalls that Cleric said that Virgil must have remembered this passage when he was dying. Cleric explained that on his death bed Virgil ordered that the Aeneid be burned. And he must have remembered the Georgics when he ordered this.
  • Jim remembers that everyone left the classroom with a great feeling after that.
  • Now that he is studying alone, Jim thinks about Cleric. He wonders about New England, which is Cleric's own patria.
  • There is a knock at the door and Jim hurries to answer it.
  • It is Lena Lingard. Jim hardly recognizes her. She's wearing a black suit and a black lace hat with blue flowers.
  • Jim invites her to sit down in Cleric's chair. He is embarrassed, but she is not.
  • Lena explains that she lives in Lincoln now and owns a dressmaking shop. She says she's doing very well. She's been there all winter.
  • Lena asks Jim if he thinks she's changed. He says she's prettier, but then again maybe it's just her clothes.
  • She explains that this coming summer she's going to build a house for her mother. The summer after she'll put nice furniture and carpets in it.
  • Jim looks at Lena, who is groomed and pretty. He remembers how she used to look when she was a barefoot little girl on the prairie. He's glad that she's done so well for herself.
  • Jim tells Lena that he's never earned a dollar himself, so he's proud of her. He asks about Ántonia.
  • Lena says that Ántonia is working for Mrs. Gardener at the hotel as a housekeeper. She's also made up with the Harlings. She's engaged to Larry Donovan and worships him.
  • Jim doesn't like Larry. He says he should go home and look after Ántonia. Lena sort of agrees.
  • The two of them decide that they should go to a show together sometime at the theatre.
  • Lena leaves to go meet some Swedes at the drugstore. Jim wouldn't like them, she says.
  • Before she goes, Lena tells Jim that he should come see her some time if he gets lonesome.
  • Jim finds his room more pleasant because Lena visited him. He closes his eyes and thinks about the hired girls. He decides that there would be no poetry without girls, and that this is a precious revelation he's just had.
  • Jim thinks about the dreams he used to have about Lena. He thinks about the line in the Georgics that says that the best days are the first to flee.