Study Guide

My Ántonia Book 3, Chapter 4

By Willa Cather

Book 3, Chapter 4

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  • When Jim goes to visit Lena he has to wait in the parlor. He's surprised that Lena is so successful because she isn't domineering and business-like. But she does have a great talent for making clothes and following fashion, though she never finishes anything on time and she always goes over budget. Jim thinks she is good with customers.
  • Sometimes Jim sees her downtown in her business suit, when she looks nice.
  • Often they have breakfast together on Sunday at her place. She has a dog named Prince who growls at Jim.
  • Lena's landlord is named Colonel Raleigh, and he's the man who gave Lena the dog to begin with.
  • Jim is amused by Lena's manner of speaking. She learned lots of conventional English expressions even though it is not her first language.
  • Jim thinks Lena looks pretty in the mornings. He understands why Ole was so crazy about her.
  • Lena tells him that Ole never meant her any harm. He just liked to talk to her. He only married Mary because he thought she would keep him straight, because he had a problem with women taking advantage of him. Lena feels sorry for him, she says.
  • If Jim stayed too late at Lena's place the Polish violin-teacher who lived across the hall would come in and say threatening things to Jim.
  • Colonel Raleigh and the Polish neighbor don't get along. The latter is always trying to stop the former from flirting with Lena.
  • One night while Jim is having supper with Lena, the neighbor, named Ordinsky, comes in. He's trying to pin together his waistcoat, which split, so he could go play at a concert.
  • Lena goes to sew it up for him. While she's gone, Ordinsky warns Jim to respect her. Jim convinces the man that he is honorable.
  • After that, Ordinsky is always friendly to Jim. One day he writes a newspaper article and asks Jim to take it down to the editor of the paper to publish it. Jim does, and so Ordinsky always likes him for helping him out.
  • Because he's spending a lot of time with Lena, Jim isn't taking his studies seriously anymore.
  • Jim explains that he, Colonel Raleigh, and Mr. Ordinsky are all in love with Lena.
  • Gaston Cleric is offered a chance to teach at Harvard and he accepts it. He tells Jim that he should come along to Harvard where Lena won't be around to distract him.
  • Cleric writes to Jim's grandfather suggesting that Jim go to Harvard. Grandfather agrees that it's OK with him.
  • Jim spends an evening thinking things over.
  • He goes to see Lena the next morning. There are some flowers there that Mr. Ordinsky left for her. Jim tells her that she should be careful or else Mr. Ordinsky might propose to her some day soon.
  • Lena says that he has proposed often, but doesn't mind when she says no. Old men like to be in love with someone, she says, because it makes them feel important.
  • Jim tells Lena he hopes she won't marry some old rich fellow.
  • Lena tells him not to worry, because she's not going to marry anybody. She doesn't want a husband, because married men are always trying to tell their wife what to do. She also likes having time to herself.
  • Finally Jim tells her that he's going away, because he'll never get anything done if he sticks around here. Lena says she never should have started things with Jim. She muses that it was probably ├üntonia telling her not to that made her want to do it.
  • She gives Jim a good-bye kiss and says that she used to think she would be Jim's first sweetheart.
  • After he leaves Lincoln Jim goes home to see his grandparents. Then he visits his relatives in Virginia and goes on to join Cleric in Boston. (Jim is nineteen at this point.)