My Antonia Summary

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In My Antonia, Jim Burden tells the story of his friendship with Antonia. Her family emigrated to Black Hawk, Nebraska from Bohemia. Their friendship survives Jim's long absences from home and reminds him fondly of his youth.

  • Jim, an orphan, goes to live with his grandparents in Nebraska around the same time that Antonia's large family moves from Bohemia. They become friends, despite their different financial, social, and familial situations.

  • In their teenage years, Antonia gets a job as a maid in town and starts going out to parties. She gets in trouble when a young man impregnates her and then refuses to marry her.

  • Jim leaves Black Hawk to attend law school. Years later, he returns to visit Antonia, who has gotten married, had several children, and settled down on a farm.


Book I

My Antonia is narrated by Jim Burden, a young white man who in the course of the novel goes to college, leaves his home of Black Hawk, Nebraska, and later becomes a lawyer. He tells the story of the titular character, Antonia Shimerda, the eldest daughter of a family of Bohemians living in a little farm community to the west of Black Hawk. Jim, who is orphaned at the beginning of the novel and sent to live with his grandparents, spends most of his childhood playing with Antonia, his neighbor, whom he teaches to read.

Jim and Antonia also spend time with Peter, one of the two Russians who live nearby and work a small farm with chickens on it. When Peter's friend Pavel grows ill, Jim and Antonia finally hear the story of how, when they lived in Russia, their sledge was run down by wolves, and everyone in their caravan was killed. Peter and Pavel fled Russia in shame. Unable to support themselves, they fall into debt in Nebraska and lose their farm. Jim and Antonia never see them again.

In January, Mr. Shimerda kills himself after a long battle with homesickness. His family, Antonia included, must fend for themselves. Upon moving into a new log cabin their neighbors helped to build (the Shimerdas were living in a roomy cave before), the mother buys a windmill on credit, preparing herself for the long planting and harvesting seasons. Meanwhile, Jim starts going to the country school and sees less of Antonia. Mostly, they spend time together in the summer.

Book II

Jim relates how he and his grandparents move from the farm to Black Hawk and transition from being farm people to town people . Their neighbors the Harlings have a small farm of their own, and Jim regularly spends time with the Harling children. Most of their country friends stop in to visit on their way to and from various destinations. Antonia visits often and becomes a servant to the Harlings. One day, their friend Lena Lingard, who grew up in a Norwegian settlement, comes to town. Soon, everyone settles into a routine.

Ostensibly, this book of the novel is about servants, and after Jim tells about Antonia becoming a servant, he introduces readers to a blind piano player named Samson who plays at Mrs. Gardener's hotel. One weekend, when Mrs. Gardener is out of town, Jim, Antonia, Lena, and Tiny all dance. Spring comes, and with it dances, roller-skating, and more. Lena gets involved with a young man named Sylvester Lovett, who leads her on and then marries a widow. Jim begins to feel contempt for certain town people like Lovett.

Antonia goes to work for Wick Cutter, the money-lender who destroyed Peter back in Book I. As soon as she starts her new job, she starts partying like Lena does. Jim often fantasizes about Lena and kissing her, but never fantasizes about Antonia like that, and they never enter into a romantic relationship. She's dating Larry Donovan, a kind of "professional ladies' man," and still thinks of Jim as a boy because he's four years younger than her. She's proud of his success in school, and he's proud to be seen walking around town with her.

In part because Antonia and Jim are so close and in part because she has no one else to turn to in this case, Antonia asks Jim to go sleep in her room at the Cutter place while she stays with Jim's grandmother. Mr. and Mrs. Cutter are out of town then, and Antonia doesn't feel safe alone in the house. One night, Mr. Cutter comes home alone and sits down on Antonia's bed, only to fly into a rage when he finds Jim sleeping there. This proves that Antonia has been abused by Mr. Cutter, but no charges are brought against him. Antonia moves out, with Jim's help.

Book III

Jim leaves Black Hawk to go to university in Lincoln, Nebraska. He doesn't come back that first summer, instead staying in Lincoln to study Greek and to build a friendship with his teacher, the sickly Gaston Cleric. Then, in his sophomore year, Lena Lingard comes to visit him. She lives in Lincoln now and owns a little dressmaking shop. She tells him Antonia is still dating Larry, that cad, and that she won't hear a bad word about Larry, though there are plenty of things Lena could say about him. She sighs, then asks Jim if he'd like to go to a show together sometime. As it turns out, Lincoln has a vibrant theatre scene, and Jim and Lena spend a lot of time together, watching shows and eating breakfast on Sundays. Then Cleric unexpectedly offers to take Jim East, and he leaves Lena behind in Lincoln after some consideration.

Book IV

Jim returns home for vacation the summer before entering law school. He knows, even before he arrives, that Larry Donovan abandoned Antonia, leaving her unwed and pregnant. He's extremely disappointed in her, especially considering how well Lena turned out. He then tells the story of a girl named Tiny, who went West, became the proprietor of a lodging house, moved to the Yukon in search of gold, laid claim to some land, spent years cooking for miners and amassing a small fortune, then moved to San Francisco and lived in luxury.

One day, while getting his grandparents' photo taken, Jim decides to see Antonia. He goes first to Mrs. Harling, who has always been good to Antonia, and then to the Widow Steavens, who cared for Antonia when the baby was born. The widow tells Jim about how Larry Donovan sent a letter to Antonia asking her to marry him, only to abandon her almost as soon as she arrived in the city. Antonia had no choice but to return to Black Hawk in shame and work for her keep. She had the baby one night after coming in from the fields and has by all accounts been a very good mother.

Finally, Jim visits Antonia at her family farm. Together, they walk out into the fields, where Jim finally confesses to Antonia that he would've liked her to be his sweetheart, or his wife, or even his mother or sister—"anything that a woman can be to a man." He promises to come back and visit her so she won't get lonely.

Book V

Twenty years later, Jim finally keeps his promise and visits Antonia. This visit is precipitated by a trip to San Francisco, in which Jim sees Lena and Tiny and learns that Antonia has about ten or eleven children and is now called Antonia Cuzak. He stops in Nebraska on his way back east and goes to Antonia's farm, where he meets her children and talks with her a while. Her husband isn't home then, but Jim gets a good picture of Antonia's life with him on the farm, learning the names and ages of their children and walking around their large, bountiful orchard. Jim joins Antonia and the children for dinner, then listens to one of the boys, Leo, play the organ. Jim is struck by Leo's liveliness, which stems from Antonia's own large, generous heart.

Jim winds up spending the night and is still there when Antonia's husband Cuzak returns the next afternoon. Cuzak brings some Bohemian papers, and he and Jim speak briefly of a famous singer named Maria Vasak, who has broken her leg. Antonia then relates the story of Wick Cutter: how he grew old, bought a pistol, killed his wife, and then shot himself to cheat Mrs. Cutter out of the money she would've inherited after his death. Jim has to admit that in all his years as a lawyer, he has never heard of anything so cruel. Cuzak himself is a much simpler man: the son of a cobbler, he met Antonia while visiting his cousin Anton Jelinek and immediately asked her to marry him. They've been together ever since.

Jim leaves the next night and spends a disappointing day in Black Hawk, where he hardly knows anyone anymore. He happens to stumble onto one of the old roads from his childhood and takes comfort in the knowledge that no matter how far apart he and Antonia are, they will always share "the precious, the incommunicable past."

My Antonia Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

One of Cather’s best-loved novels, My Ántonia is a moving tribute to the spirit of the pioneers whose strength and endurance made possible the settlement of the American frontier. In its portrait of its title character, the book gives an individual face to the myriad experiences facing the immigrants who composed a large portion of the Midwest’s early homesteaders.

The story is told from the point of view of Jim Burden, a young boy from Virginia who has lost his parents and travels to Nebraska to live with his grandparents. On the same train as Jim is an immigrant family, the Shimerdas, whose oldest daughter, Ántonia (pronounced in the Eastern European manner, with accents on the first and third syllables), will become the companion of Jim’s childhood days. Through Jim’s eyes, the reader sees the family’s early struggles as they suffer cold and deprivation in a dugout house, lose the sensitive Mr. Shimerda to suicidal despair, and gradually begin to pull free of hardship through diligence and hard work.

Ántonia Shimerda is an intelligent girl who must forgo any thought of serious study in order to work for her family. First in the fields and later as a “hired girl” in Red Cloud, she is cheerful and uncomplaining, shouldering her share of the backbreaking work required to support a family farm. Ántonia’s patient, gentle spirit stays with Jim long after he has left his small community, coming to represent for him the very best of what the pioneer experience can draw from the individual.

Ántonia is not, however, a simplistic character or a lifeless symbolic figure. Cather brings her fully to life, flawed and warmly human, and her story is both specific in its details and universal in its larger themes. A practical, sensible girl, she is nevertheless passionate in her love of the dances that provide all the hired girls with one of their few pleasures, and her trusting nature leads her into trouble—in the form of an illegitimate child—when she is unable to recognize dishonesty, so foreign to her own nature, in the man she loves.

My Ántonia draws its inspiration from Cather’s own childhood memories, and Ántonia herself is modeled after a woman named Annie Sadilek, who worked as a maid for the Cathers’ neighbors in Red Cloud. Like Ántonia, Annie’s father had tragically committed suicide when faced with the hardships and cultural deprivations of his new home, and Annie’s strength and perseverance left a deep impression on Cather over the years. The book’s narrator, Jim Burden, who leaves his small community first for college and then to become an attorney for the railroad, is essentially Cather herself, and Jim’s growing understanding in the book’s later passages of the importance of those early years parallels Cather’s own.

My Ántonia is also filled with a wealth of memorable supporting characters: Jim’s strong, loving grandparents, the family’s colorful farmhands, Ántonia’s friends, Lena Lingard, who becomes a successful dressmaker, Tiny Soderball, who makes her fortune in the Alaska gold rush, and Cuzak, the good-hearted immigrant who marries Ántonia and makes his life as a farmer although he longs for the city life he knew as a boy. The novel is peopled with a rich cast of characters culled from Cather’s memory and transformed by her writer’s imagination.

There is perhaps no other book that captures quite as well as this one does the look and feel of the prairie. An eye accustomed to more spectacular landscapes may miss the subtleties of the land’s beauty, but Cather’s deep feeling for the Midwest, with its rolling plains, wildflowers, and open sky, creates an almost palpable picture of her story’s setting—one that is crucial to the reader’s understanding of the characters and their lives. In the beauty of its language and the humanity of its characterizations, My Ántonia remains a major achievement among Cather’s work.

My Antonia Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Willa Cather’s ambivalent feelings about the Nebraska prairie in which she came to young adulthood are most evident in My Ántonia, her novel about the immigrants who settled there. While she fully understood the inability of some of the settlers to adjust to the harsh extremities of weather and bleak environment, she most admired those who survived, prevailed, and later prospered. The prairie was such a force in her life that it is no wonder that the setting of the novel is considered to have as great an impact on the characters as any other character could have.

My Ántonia is a novel of interaction between people and their environment. The prairie, cruel and lovely, is too palpable, too moving and changing, to evoke picture-postcard images. The seasons are distinct, the extremes great: “Burning summers when the world lies green and billowy beneath a brilliant sky, when one is fairly stifled in vegetation, in the color and smell of strong weeds and heavy harvests; blustery winters with little snow, when the whole country is stripped bare and gray as sheet iron.” The elements are a constant companion. Every day calls for interaction. The sun can be “blinding,” the thaw can be a “broth of grey slush,” the wind can have the “burning taste of fresh snow.” This land is, at times, “impulsive and playful,” able to moan, howl, and sing. The elements are punishing, kind and caressing, acting willfully, just as people might.

Into this comes a train from the east, carrying ten-year-old orphaned Jim Burden, the narrator, and Bohemian immigrants, the Shimerdas. The eldest daughter of the Shimerdas is Ántonia, the subject of the narration. Jim is going to live with his grandparents; the family is seeking a new life in farming. At first the new arrivals are overwhelmed with what they see: the inhospitable landscape, the sod huts, the abject poverty. The Shimerdas, however, do what is required and set about establishing a home. Ántonia throws herself into a full embrace of the land. She is suited to the challenge: strong, industrious, self-sufficient. Jim also comes to love the prairie, but he determines that he must seek friendlier climes, eventually becoming a New York lawyer.

When he returns to his once-loved prairie twenty years later, he finds Ántonia has changed. Although she is still life-affirming and still has the power to charm, she is slightly bedraggled, slightly mannish, surrounded by equally bedraggled, but happy, children and a childlike husband.

Willa Cather’s prairie is hard and cruel, beautiful and vibrant. The land and the weather provide a setting that is as multidimensional, as complex, as any fictional character might be. Her novel is a tribute to the land and the pioneering spirit of those who tamed it.

My Antonia Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Jim Burden’s father and mother die when he is ten years old, and the boy makes the long trip from Virginia to his grandparents’ farm in Nebraska in the company of Jake Marpole, a hired hand who is to work for Jim’s grandfather. Arriving by train in the prairie town of Black Hawk late at night, the boy notices an immigrant family huddled on the station platform. Jim and Jake are met by a lanky, scar-faced cowboy named Otto Fuchs, who drives them in a jolting wagon across the empty prairie to the Burden farm.

Jim grows to love the vast expanse of land and sky. One day, Jim’s grandmother suggests that the family pay a visit to the Shimerdas, an immigrant family just arrived in the territory. At first, the newcomers impress Jim unfavorably. The Shimerdas are poor and live in a dugout cut into the earth. The place is dirty, and the children are ragged. Although he cannot understand her speech, Jim makes friends with the oldest girl, Ántonia.

Jim often finds his way to the Shimerda home. He does not like Ántonia’s surly brother, Ambrosch, or her grasping mother, but Ántonia wins an immediate place in Jim’s heart with her eager smile and great, warm eyes. One day, her father, with his English dictionary tucked under his arm, corners Jim and asks him to teach the girl English. She learns rapidly. Jim respects Ántonia’s father, a tall, thin, sensitive man who had been a musician in the old country. Now he is worn down by poverty and overwork. He seldom laughs any more.

Jim and Ántonia pass many happy hours on the prairie. Then, during a severe winter, tragedy strikes the Shimerdas when Ántonia’s father, broken and beaten by the prairie, shoots himself. Ántonia had loved her father more than anyone else in her family. After his death, she shoulders his share of the farmwork. When spring comes, she goes with Ambrosch into the fields and plows like a man. The harvest brings money, and the Shimerdas soon have a house. With the money left over, they buy plowshares and cattle.

Because Jim’s grandparents are growing too old to keep up their farm, they dismiss Jake and Otto and move to the town of Black Hawk. There, Jim longs for the open prairie land, the gruff, friendly companionship of Jake and Otto, and the warmth of Ántonia’s friendship. He suffers at school and spends his idle hours roaming the barren gray streets of Black Hawk. At Jim’s suggestion, his grandmother arranges with a neighbor, Mrs. Harling, to bring Ántonia into town as her hired girl. Ántonia enters into her tasks with enthusiasm. Jim notices that she is more feminine and laughs more often; though she never shirks her duties at the Harling house, she is eager for recreation and gaiety.

Almost every night, Ántonia goes to a dance pavilion with a group of hired girls. There, in new, handmade dresses, the girls gather to dance with the village boys. Jim goes, too, and the more he sees of the hired girls, the better he likes them. Once or twice, he worries about Ántonia, who is popular and trusting. When she earns a reputation for being a little too loose, she loses her position with the Harlings and goes to work for a cruel moneylender, Wick Cutter, who has a licentious eye on her.

One night, Ántonia appears at the Burdens and begs Jim to stay in her bed for the night and let her remain at the Burdens. Wick Cutter is supposed to be out of town, but Ántonia suspects that, with Mrs. Cutter also gone, he might return and try to harm her. Her fears prove correct, for Wick returns and goes to Ántonia’s bedroom, and finds Jim.

Ántonia returns to work for the Harlings. Jim studies hard during the summer, passes his entrance examinations, and in the fall leaves for the state university. Although he finds a whole new world of literature and art, he cannot forget his early years under the blazing prairie sun and his friendship with Ántonia. He hears little from Ántonia during those years. One of her friends, Lena Lingard, who had also worked as a hired girl in Black Hawk, visits him one day. He learns from her that Ántonia is engaged to be married to a man named Larry Donovan.

Jim goes to Harvard to study law and for years hears nothing of his Nebraska friends. He assumes that Ántonia is married. When he makes a trip back to Black Hawk to see his grandparents, he learns that Ántonia, deceived by Larry, had left Black Hawk in shame and returned to her family. There she works again in the fields. When Jim visits her, he finds her the same lovely girl, though her eyes are somber, and she has lost her old gaiety. She welcomes him and proudly shows him her baby.

Jim believes that his visit will be the last time he will see Ántonia. He tells her how much a part of him she has become and how sorry he is to leave her again. Ántonia knows that Jim will always be with her, no matter where he goes. He reminds her of her beloved father who, though he had been dead many years, still lives on in her heart. She tells Jim good-bye and watches him walk back toward town along the familiar road.

Jim does not see Ántonia again for twenty years. On a Western trip, he finds himself not far from Black Hawk and, on impulse, drives in an open buggy to the farm where she lives. He finds the place swarming with children of all ages. Small boys rush forward to greet him, then fall back shyly. Ántonia has married well, at last. The grain is high, and the neat farmhouse seems to be charged with an atmosphere of activity and happiness. Ántonia seems as unchanged as she was when she and Jim used to whirl over the dance floor together in Black Hawk. Cuzak, her husband, seems to know Jim before they are introduced, for Ántonia had told her family about Jim. After a long visit with the Cuzaks, Jim leaves, promising that he will return the next summer and take two of the Cuzak boys hunting with him.

Waiting in Black Hawk for the train that will take him East, Jim finds it hard to realize the long time that has passed since the dark night, years before, when he saw an immigrant family standing wrapped in their shawls on the same platform. All his memories of the prairie come back to him. Whatever happens now, whatever they had missed, he and Ántonia had shared precious years between them, years that will never be forgotten.

My Antonia Chapter Summary and Analysis

My Antonia Book I, Introduction and Chapters 1-10 Summary and Analysis

Book I, Chapter I Summary

The novel opens with the narrator Jim Burden traveling to Black Hawk, Nebraska, where he will live with his grandparents now that he's an orphan. On the way there, the passenger conductor, a friendly man, tells Jim and his traveling companion Jake, his grandfather's new hired hand, about the foreigners going to settle in Nebraska, only one of whom (the titular Antonia, a girl just four years older than Jim) knows a few words in English. It's clear that Jake is disgusted by this influx of foreigners, but Jim withholds judgment, focusing instead on surviving the long, bumpy ride to Nebraska.

Upon arrival, Jim and Jake are met by a man named Otto Fuchs, who drives them out to the farm just west of Black Hawk. Jim notes that Otto looks like he could be a character in the Jesse James book he's been reading during the long trip. Otto has a huge scar across one cheek, half of his left ear is gone, and he has a deep brown tan, along with "the face of a desperado." He drives Jim and Jake in an old straw-filled wagon and covers them with buffalo hides to keep warm. Jim marvels somewhat at the size of the land, feeling very small and "blotted out." He doesn't say his prayers, reasoning that in this landscape, "what would be would be," regardless of his prayers.

Book I, Chapter I Analysis


Cather uses alliteration when she writes that "Jake's experience of the world was not much wider than mine," where "mine" is Jim's.


Jesse James (1847 - 1882). A Confederate guerrilla and bushwhacker, James is best known as a bank robber and gunslinger who terrorized the Wild West for a couple decades. In his final years, he and his gang members were under increasing pressure from the law, and it became difficult for them to remain active. Eventually, James was killed by one of the gang members, Ford, who was hoping for a reward.

Life of Jesse James. Likely, this is a dimestore novel about Jesse James, the famed gunslinger and bank robber.


One example of a metaphor from this chapter is the description of the conductor's gold cufflinks as being inscribed with "hieroglyphics," where hieroglyphics are a metaphor for the symbols and etchings that Jim finds incomprehensible (they aren't, of course, real hieroglyphics).


Jim personifies an engine when he describes it as "panting heavily after its long run," as if it were a person who'd just run a marathon.


The passenger conductor uses a simile when he says Antonia is "as bright as a new dollar." Later, Jim uses a few similes when describing Otto, whose moustache turns up at the corners "like little horns."


Nature. When Jim looks up at the big, Midwestern sky, unridged by mountains, he feels "erased, blotted out" by the incredible size and grandeur of the sky. In comparison to the vastness of nature, Jim feels small and insignificant, and he abandons his prayers for the night, thinking that nature, with all its glory, will be more powerful than any prayer he utters.

Travel. There are many forms of travel in this novel: the journey from east to west, from town to country and country to country, and from one home to another. Jim, an orphan, travels to Nebraska at the same time as Antonia, an immigrant, who has come to America from Bohemia in order to pursue a better life with her family. Antonia's travels, though certainly more arduous and significant than Jim's, get comparatively little attention, and no emphasis is placed on the journey itself.

Xenophobia. Both Jake and the passenger conductor expresses xenophobic views in this chapter, but Jim, who doesn't have strong feelings on the matter, merely parrots their views to prevent a confrontation. Though there will be some other examples of xenophobia in the novel, Jim, as narrator, does not himself approve of this kind of conduct, and he accepts Antonia and the immigrants easily.

Book I, Chapter II Summary

Exhausted by his journey, Jim takes a long nap and is later woken up by his grandmother, whose deep tan looks much like Otto's. She has been crying a little and says, emotionally, that he looks just like his father, her late son. She tells Jim to come down to the kitchen for a bath. While Jim bathes, his grandmother bakes gingerbread, and a Maltese cat comes to rub against the tub. The kitchen is very welcoming, and Jim spends some time exploring his cozy new home before his grandfather comes back.

Jim immediately takes to his grandfather, whose dignity Jim respects. Together, they sit and eat dinner with Jim's grandmother and Otto Fuchs, the Austrian hired hand who drove Jim and Jake to the farm. After dinner, Otto takes Jim aside to say that his grandparents bought him a "perfect gentleman" of a pony as a present. Jim spends the next day exploring the countryside, excited by everything he sees, including the cornfield, the hills, the garden, the prairie.

Book I, Chapter II Analysis


Bismarck, North Dakota. Currently the capital of North Dakota, the city of Bismarck was founded in 1872, when its white settlers stole land from the Mandan Native American tribe. It was renamed Bismarck in honor of the first German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck (1815 - 1898), who'd earned the nickname "Iron Chancellor" due to his iron-firsted rule over the German bureaucracy.

Book of Kings. Originally written as one book of the Bible, the Book of Kings was later broken into two books, both of which detail the history of Israel and Judah in the years following the death of David. Jim wishes that his grandfather, with his deep, sympathetic voice, would read Jim's favorite passages from the Book of Kings. This allusion underscores the fact that Jim was raised a Christian, even though he doesn't practice his religion much in this novel.


Jim equates happiness with the thought of dissolving "into something complete and great," or, in other words, of being part of something bigger than one's self. In this case, that thing is nature.


Jim uses metonymy when he says, "I felt that the grass was the country, as the water is the sea." Here, "grass" stands in for the entirely of the countryside, as "water" stands in for the waters of the sea. This standing in of the small for the whole further emphasizes the grandeur of nature.


Jim personifies the wind when he says that he could hear it "singing its humming tune."


Religion. Jim periodically makes reference to his Christian upbringing, as he does in this chapter when he alludes to the Book of Kings from the Bible. His awe in the face of nature stands in for his faith, becoming in itself a kind of religious experience that fosters the love, peace, and happiness that Christianity is supposed to bring to its followers.

Book I, Chapter III Summary

On Sunday morning, Jim and Otto visit their new neighbors, the Shimerdas, Antonia's Bohemian family. Jim's grandmother sends the Shimerdas provisions, knowing that they've moved to a new homestead that doesn't yet have a garden or means to support such a large family. Their house is really a cave that a fellow Bohemian, Peter Krajiek, sold them for an exorbitant price. Antonia is a strong young girl, and her brothers are prepared to work on a farm, but Mr. Shimerda, a weaver by trade, is old and frail and doesn't know how to run a farm. Jim's grandparents worry that their newest and nearest neighbors will have a rough time of it. Otto wishes that he'd helped negotiate the price of the land and horses for Mr. Shimerda, but Otto is Austrian, and the Bohemians don't trust Austrians.

One of Antonia's brothers, Jim learns, had webbed fingers and likes to frighten people with them. Otherwise, Antonia's siblings are well-mannered and obedient, and they're prepared to work for a living. Jim immediately finds Antonia pretty, and they run hand in hand to the top of a hill to get a better view of the countryside. Antonia, who doesn't speak English yet, struggles to tell Jim his eyes are blue like the sky. Later, Mr. Shimerda asks Jim to teach Antonia English.

Book I, Chapter III Analysis


Jim personifies the road when he says it "ran about like a wild thing."


Cather uses a simile when she writes that Mr. Shimerda's face "looked like ashes."


Antonia's Ring. When Antonia attempts to give Jim her ring, it becomes a symbol of her gratitude for the English lessons Jim gives her.

Clothes. Mr. Shimerda's clothes symbolize his professionalism and his dignity, which stems from his prior life as a prominent weaver and textile artist in Bohemia. By wearing his great coat, his gray vest, his green tie and his perfectly coiffed hair, he's clinging to his former social status and presenting an image of himself that no longer exists.


Language. In Chapter I, Cather made it clear that there's a language barrier between the immigrants going to Black Hawk and the white families like Jim's whose native language is English. However, in this chapter, that language barrier is punctured when Antonia learns the words for blue, sky, and eyes. Mr. Shimerda's request that Jim teach Antonia English promises that this language barrier will be torn down with time.

Book I, Chapter IV Summary

That same Sunday, Jim takes his first ride on his pony, Dude. Otto supervises, just in case. When Otto's satisfied that Jim can ride on his own, Jim starts acting as a messenger for Otto, riding his pony across the fields to ask to borrow something, for instance, or tell people that there will be a religious service at the schoolhouse. When Jim rides, he follows a trail of sunflowers left behind by Mormons as they traveled across the country. Antonia often comes over to play with him, and the two watch owls burrow into the ground near a place called "dog-town," where strays dogs all congregate. The chapter ends with two unsettling images: of Mrs. Shimerda allowing fermented, grayed bread dough to substitute for yeast in her recipe, and of Peter Krajiek, living amongst the Shimerdas like a snake.

Book I, Chapter IV Analysis


Jim equates Peter Krajiek with a rattlesnake that the Shimerdas don't know how to get rid of, like the dogs and owls who don't know how to get rid of snakes.


Rattlesnakes. In the country, rattlesnakes take over the burrows that owls and other birds are forced to make in the ground because of the absence of trees. Once the snakes take over these burrows, they kill the birds, eat their eggs, then move on to the next victim. These rattlesnakes are metaphors for Peter, who takes advantage of the Shimerdas, and symbols of nature's brutality.

Sunflowers. Legend has it that the first groups of Mormons who traveled across the country spread sunflower seeds behind them, leaving a long trail of bright yellow sunflowers for the next groups to follow. These sunflowers are symbols of the desire for others to have a safe journey.

Water. Traditionally, water is a symbol of life, and Cather uses it (and its absence) to suggest that life on the prairie is, in additional to being beautiful, very harsh, and the stray dogs must search for fresh drinking water wherever they can.

Book I, Chapter V Summary

Antonia is excited when her father becomes friends with two Russian men, Pavel and Peter, who is not to be confused with Peter Krajiek, a Bohemian. Pavel and Peter live up in dog-town, where they run a little farm. Pavel is tall, sickly, and prone to wild gesticulations. Peter is short, fat, and rather jolly. They're good farm-hands and spend the summer working together in the sun. Peter is pleased with the fact that he owns a cow, because in Russia only the rich had cows. He cuts up a couple melons for Antonia and Jim, and they all sit down to eat. He sends them home with a pail of milk and a sack of cucumbers for Mrs. Shimerda. He gives nothing to Jim, because he doesn't need it.

Book I, Chapter V Analysis


Cather uses a simile when she describes Peter's facial hair as being "as thick and curly as carded wool."


Friendship. In this chapter, a great friendship develops between Peter and Pavel, Mr. Shimerda, and Antonia and Jim. This friendship will do Mr. Shimerda good, momentarily freeing him of his depression and homesickness. Their departure in VIII will throw Mr. Shimerda into a spiral ending with his suicide. Antonia and Jim, however, place less stock in their friendship with Peter and Pavel, and though they enjoy their time with the Russians, their friendship with each other takes precedence over all others. In future chapters, we'll see how Antonia and Jim's relationship gets complicated over time.

Book I, Chapter VI Summary

 Most days, when Jim and Antonia finish their lessons, they head out into the open fields to enjoy their great beauty. When the sun hangs low, the prairie glows red and gold, and Jim thinks of it as the burning bush from the Bible. One day, they see Mr. Shimerda slowly making his way through the fields. Though he's sick, he has managed to shoot three rabbits, the skin of which he promises to fashion into a winter hat for Antonia. Mr. Shimerda says that he'll give his gun to Jim when he gets older. Apparently, the gun was given to Mr. Shimerda by a rich Bohemian at whose wedding Mr. Shimerda played the fiddle. Jim is uncomfortable with this offer, but doesn't decline.

Book I, Chapter VI Analysis


The Burning Bush. The Biblical tale of the burning bush is told in Exodus 3, in which Moses sees an angel of God in a bush, its glory burning like fire. God calls out to Moses from the bush, telling him that he must lead the Jews out of Israel. Jim compares the open prairie to the burning bush to suggest that God is inside it, too, and that the fields are holy.


Jim uses a simile when he says the red fields are like "the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed." This is also an allusion to the burning bush of the Bible.

Book I, Chapter VII Summary

 Jim briefly resents Antonia for acting superior to him because of their age difference (she's about four years older than him). Then something happens that makes her think of him as an equal. The two of them are walking through dog-town when Antonia stumbles across a long, old rattlesnake in one of the burrows. Jim kills it with a spade, then marvels at the green poison that oozes out of its head. He takes the dead snake home as a trophy, proud of himself for defending Antonia. Otto praises Jim in front of Antonia, but once they're alone the two men realize that Jim got lucky: his rattlesnake was old and lazy, made complacent by years of easy meals and nonexistent predators, and wouldn't have been so easy to kill if he were younger. Still, Jim hangs the dead snake on the fence, and everyone agrees that it's the biggest rattlesnake any of them have ever killed.

Book I, Chapter VII Analysis

Alliteration. Cather uses alliteration to great effect in the line: "He lifted his hideous little head."


Jim uses a simile when he says that the air "was clear and heady as wine."


Rattlesnakes. For Jim, the dead rattlesnake symbols both his masculinity and coming of age, because it proves to Antonia that he is, in fact, her equal. The significance of this kill is somewhat undermined by the realization that Jim got lucky and wouldn't normally have been able to kill a rattlesnake. Still, this chapter marks an important shift in Jim and Antonia's relationship, as Antonia stops treating Jim like a little boy.


Age. We learned in Chapter I that Antonia is four years older than Jim, but little has been made of this fact until now. Jim, who teaches Antonia English and feels, because of this, that he's more mature than her, intellectually speaking, acts as if there's no age difference between them at all. This can be interpreted as arrogance on Jim's part, because Antonia is perfectly within her rights to think of Jim as a child, given that she's four years older. Then again, it may just be a byproduct of Jim's desire to be more to Antonia than the boy next door who teaches her English.

Book I, Chapter VIII Summary

Near the end of Autumn, Peter confesses to Mr. Shimerda that he has fallen deeply into to debt to Wick Cutter, Black Hawk's much-reviled moneylender. Soon after, Pavel hurts himself on the job and starts coughing up blood. One afternoon, when Jim and Antonia go visit the sick Pavel, they find him huddled in bed, frightened by the sound of wolves in the distance. Pavel then relates the story of why he and Peter came to America: when they were in Russia, their sled was run down one day by a pack of wolves, and everyone in their caravan was killed. In shame, Peter and Pavel left their homeland and moved to America, where they moved around, working odd jobs, before settling in Nebraska, where Peter took out a series of bad loans that cause them to lose their farm at the end of this chapter. Pavel dies not long after he unburdens himself of the story, and Peter is forced to sell off all his possessions. Jim and Antonia never see him again.

Book I, Chapter VIII Analysis


Jim uses foreshadowing when he tells the reader that he'll write more about Wick Cutter later.


Cather uses Pavel's story about the wolves as a metaphor for their financial situation. When these wolves attack that sled caravan, they're effectively destroying Peter and Pavel's future, just as the moneylender Wick Cutter destroys Peter's dream of having his own farm. In this metaphor, Wick Cutter is the wolf and the two Russians are just his latest kill.


Melons. For Peter, the ripe, juicy melons he grows on his farm become a symbol of all his hard work and, later, of comfort. When he's taken away, his beard is dripping with melon juice, indicating that he has once again turned to his favorite food to make himself feel better.

Book I, Chapter IX Summary

Otto makes Jim a sturdy little sled so he can ride around on the snow in winter. Jim loves his new sled and uses it to take Antonia and her sister Yulka out on an adventure one afternoon. It's much too cold, however, and the girls nearly freeze in their ineffective winter clothes. Jim comes down with quinsy (a form of tonsillitis) immediately after and stays in bed for two weeks. While he's at home, he sits with his grandmother in the kitchen and reads The Swiss Family Robinson to her as she bakes. Otto sings them old cowboy songs and tells them the story of how, when he first came to America from Austria, he was asked to look after a woman traveling on the same boat. He had a rough time of it because she gave birth to triplets on the boat and he was obliged to take care of them until they arrived in Chicago.

Book I, Chapter IX Analysis


"Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie" and "For I Am a Cowboy and Know I've Done Wrong." Popular old cowboy songs from the 1800s. "For I Am a Cowboy and Know I've Done Wrong" is technically a lyric from the song "Streets of Laredo," which has been adapted by many singers in the past century, including Johnny Cash.

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss. First published in 1812, The Swiss Family Robinson has since become on the most popular books written in the 1800s, having spawned many sequels and film adaptations over the years. It stars a large Swiss family who are shipwrecked on an island and forced to fend for themselves. Near the end of the book, the family is rescued, but some of the Robinsons choose to stay behind and live on their tranquil, beautiful island.


There are many similes in this chapter, including: "My horse's breath rose like steam."


Jim's Sledge. Unlike Peter and Pavel's sledge from Chapter VIII, Jim's sledge isn't a reminder of wolves and of death but rather a fun means of transportation that Jim rides happily and shows off to his friends.

Book I, Chapter X Summary

During Jim's convalescence, the Burdens don't see much of the Shimerdas. Mr. Shimerda is often seen hunting birds in an old coat that isn't nearly warm enough for the weather. In part because of this and in part because she's worried about Mrs. Shimerda and the kids, Jim's grandmother gives them a rooster in the hopes that they'll start a hen house. The Burdens are once again shocked by the Shimerda family's poor living conditions and the fact that the girls sleep in what's little more than a badger hole. They give the Shimerdas a large hamper full of food.

Mr. Shimerda makes a point of saying that his family isn't broke, and that they still have enough of their savings to by cows and chickens in the spring. Mrs. Shimerda, who broke down crying at the sight of the food hamper, shows the Burdens a sack of what turns out to be dried mushrooms, which they carried with them all the way from Bohemia. Jim eats one, but finds it a little strange.

Book I, Chapter X Analysis


Food. Food and its abundance or scarcity are closely tied with the theme of poverty, and in the context of this novel those who have food are well to do and those who don't are poor, living in caves or on credit like Peter and Pavel. The foods that recur most often are staples like potatoes, meat, and bread, emphasizing that one must survive before one can prosper.


Mushrooms. The Shimerdas' dried mushrooms are symbolic of their homeland and Bohemian heritage. When Mrs. Shimerda offers these mushrooms to the Burdens, it's as if she's inviting them to learn about the Shimerdas' past and culture.


Poverty. Despite Mr. Shimerda's pointed remarks about his family's finances, Cather makes it abundantly, painfully clear that the Shimerdas live in poverty and that they're struggling to feed themselves in the hard, bitter winter. Their poverty sets them in a different social class than the Burdens, but for the most part Jim leaves this fact unexplored, never bothering to delve into the power differential inherent to this experience. Jim's grandmother in particular looks on the Shimerdas with pity, and this slight condescension never quite dissipates.

My Antonia Chapters 11-19 Summary and Analysis

Book I, Chapter XI Summary

Jim's grandparents plan to send Jake into town to do all their Christmas shopping, but this plan is foiled when a snowstorm shuts down the roads and make it impossible for them to drive to town. The Burdens instead settle in for a country Christmas. Jim makes Yulka a scrapbook for a present and sends it along with the other things the Burdens are sending the Shimerdas. He then helps his grandparents decorate the Christmas tree and feels grateful for his family and friends.

Book I, Chapter XI Analysis


Tree of Knowledge. Officially called The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, this is the tree of whose fruit Eve ate in the Garden of Eden. Though tradition holds that this fruit was an apple, in fact, the tree has never been definitively identified, and the fruit has become a symbol of man's downfall.


Once again, this chapter is rich in similes, including this one: "...legends and stories nestled like birds in [the tree's] branches."


Family. For Jim, Christmas means family and holiday traditions. He takes comfort in having a Christmas tree and giving presents, and he enjoys talking to and observing Jake and Otto, his family's hired hands, who live with the Burdens and become not unlike his family. This is especially important when one considers that Jim was orphaned at the beginning of the novel.

Book I, Chapter XII Summary

On Christmas Day, Jim joins his grandparents and their hired hands, Jake and Otto, for morning prayers. Jim's grandfather isn't a verbose man, but leads the prayers beautifully. After breakfast, Otto sits down to write a letter to his mother while Jim and Jake play dominoes. Mr. Shimerda comes over, and the Burdens invite him to stay for dinner.

Book I, Chapter XII Analysis


Cather uses alliteration when she describes Mr. Shimerda wearing a "rabbit-skin cap and collar."


St. Matthew. One of the twelve apostles of Jesus. St. Matthew was a tax collector who was called by Jesus to become an apostle. Cather refers to the Gospel According to Matthew, the first book of the New Testament.


Cather uses internal rhyme in the line, "new mittens his wife had knitted."


Language. Cather continues to develop the theme of language by using it to characterize Jim's grandfather, a reserved man who doesn't often express his emotions. It's only through Grandfather's prayers that his family comes to know him. Language becomes a kind of window into the character's psyche. That window can close, however, and Otto's struggle to communicate in his native language has the effect of closing his past to the reader.

Religion. In this chapter, Cather emphasizes the differences between Mr. Shimerda's religious experience and the Burdens' religious experience. Mr. Shimerda is depicted as rigid and serious, whereas the Burdens enjoy a warm and genial Christmas replete with candles and presents.

Book I, Chapter XIII Summary

After Christmas, the ground thaws. Mrs. Shimerda and Antonia visit the Burdens. Mrs. Shimerda guilts Jim's grandmother into giving the Shimerdas a pot. Mr. Shimerda, Antonia says, has fallen into a depression and refuses to play his violin, but Jim is so put off by Mrs. Shimerda that he has no sympathy for her husband. Then, on Jim's eleventh birthday, a big storm hits. The Burdens are forced inside, and Jake and Otto spend all day digging just to make a path to the chicken coop.

Book I, Chapter XIII Analysis


The Prince of the House of David by Joseph Holt Ingraham. An historical novel relating the story of Christ's years on Earth, as told through the eyes of a girl. The novel was published in 1859 and remained popular in Christian communities for years after.


Cather uses onomatopoeia when she writes, "Thud, thud, we could hear the impact…"


When Jake and Otto come in out of the storm, Jim describes them as being "white as snow-men."


Nature. At the end of this chapter, a huge storm buries the Burdens and their livestock under several feet of snow. The men are obliged to spend an entire day doing chores that normally take a fraction of the time. Jim says this is "unnatural." Here, we see two different meanings of the word "nature": the natural world, and the natural order of life in the country. These two things are not always in synch, and this disconnect will only become more pronounced as Jim grows older and leaves the farm.

Book I, Chapter XIV Analysis


Dives. In Latin, "dives" means rich man. This word is used as the name of the rich man in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. During his life, the rich man allowed Lazarus to starve on the street. In the afterlife, Lazarus goes to heaven and the rich man lives in perpetual torment. Jim briefly fears for Mr. Shimerda's soul because of Dives, but concludes that Mr. Shimerda never did anything to deserve such a fate.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. A classic novel about a man shipwrecked on an island. His solitude mirrors Jim's in this chapter, but, as Jim says, Crusoe's life isn't as exciting as life in Black Hawk.


Jake uses a simile when he says Mr. Shimerda's corpse was "as stiff as a dressed turkey you hang out to freeze."


Death. Mr. Shimerda's suicide isn't the first death in this novel. In the first chapter, we learned that Jim had been orphaned suddenly and that he was going to live with his grandparents. It's especially interesting to view Jim's response to Mr. Shimerda's death in light of his own circumstances. He hopes that Mr. Shimerda's soul will find peace, rather than salvation. He doesn't believe that Mr. Shimerda will go to Purgatory. He instead thinks Mr. Shimerda's soul has settled in the Burdens' home, where he finds warmth and peace. The sentimental nature of this belief characterizes Jim as a sensitive young man.

Religion. Jim and Ambrosch have very different religious beliefs. Ambrosch believes that his father's soul has gone to Purgatory and that the Shimerdas will have to pray for years to get his soul out. Jim, on the other hand, doesn't think Mr. Shimerda's soul deserves to suffer. In the Catholic Church, suicide is a mortal sin and risks eternal damnation. As a Protestant, Jim doesn't believe this, and instead imagines Mr. Shimerda's soul finding peace in the Burdens' home.

Book I, Chapter XV Summary

Otto Fuchs returns from Black Hawk with Anton Jelinek, a Bohemian man who has also settled in Black Hawk. Otto tells the Burdens that the coroner should arrive that afternoon, but that the country priest is a hundred miles away. Over dinner, Jelinek explains that this is very bad for the Shimerdas, who believe that, because Mr. Shimerda committed suicide, a priest must pray for his soul. Jelinek lived through a war and knows how bad it is for a man to die without receiving the Holy Sacrament.

Otto builds Mr. Shimerda's coffin. Meanwhile, many different people come to visit the Burdens, having heard about the tragedy. Jim's grandmother makes a small feast, including chocolate cake, and the men eat and talk that night. Ambrosch and his mother want to bury Mr. Shimerda's body on the corner of their property, where they hope a crossroads will be built over his grave.

Book I, Chapter XV Analysis


Coffin. The coffin Otto makes for Mr. Shimerda in this chapter is a clear symbol of death. Cather makes a point of describing the process of building the coffin as beautiful or soothing, using the sounds of the plane to suggest that the coffin is a fine example of craftsmanship. By extension, the death the coffin symbolizes seems like less of a tragedy.


Death. In the aftermath of Mr. Shimerda's suicide, death becomes a major theme in the novel. Otto tells Jim stories about "violent deaths and casual buryings, and the queer fancies of dying men." Otto believes that a man's true character is revealed only in death, both in the manner of his death and in the way he faces it. Mr. Shimerda, the reader infers, wasn't afraid of death.

Religion. Cather continues to emphasize the religious differences between the Burdens and the Bohemians. Anton, like Ambrosch, thinks that it's wrong for a man to die without the Sacrament or be buried without a priest's blessing. Jim's grandfather doesn't agree, but understands the sentiment.

Book I, Chapter XVI Summary

Jim and the mourners ride up to the Shimerdas' cave house for the funeral. They cut the body out of the ice, then place it in the coffin and carry it out to the edge of the Shimerdas' property on the wagon. Jim's grandfather says prayers over the grave, and Otto leads all the mourners in a hymn. Mr. Shimerda's grave is marked by a wooden cross with a wire fence around it. The roads never do cross over his grave, the way Mrs. Shimerda wanted, but Jim still visits the grave, moved by his memories of Mr. Shimerda.

Book I, Chapter XVI Analysis


"Jesus, Lover of My Soul" by Charles Wesley. A hymn written in the 1700s. It asks that Jesus bring the singer's soul to him. By singing it at Mr. Shimerda's funeral, the mourners are effectively asking Jesus to take Mr. Shimerda to Heaven.


Music. Otto has long been associated with music, and his singing often lightens the mood in scenes that might otherwise be very dark. In this chapter, the hymn Otto leads turns Mr. Shimerda's cold and dreary funeral into a communal expression of emotion.


The Wooden Cross. The Shimerdas place this wooden cross over the site of Mr. Shimerda's grave. It's a symbol of the love people had for him. Whenever Jim sees it, he's flooded with emotion.

Book I, Chapter XVII Summary

Spring comes to Black Hawk, and with it, hope for the future. Jim enjoys the warm weather, and the Shimerdas prepare for the planting season. After Mr. Shimerda's death, the community came together to build the Shimerdas a log cabin, and Mrs. Shimerda bought a windmill on credit. The family is now ready to build a new life in America.

Antonia, meanwhile, has turned fifteen and become a strong young woman. She works very hard and takes care of the farm along with her brothers. Jim asks her if she'll start school with him, but she says no, because she has to help her family. She asks him to tell her about some of the things he learns in school. Jim fears that her work on the farm has stripped her of her kinder and gentler mannerisms. She thinks now only of money.

Book I, Chapter XVII Analysis


Jim uses a simile when he compares the wind to "a big puppy that pawed you and then lay down to be petted."


Education. Antonia knows that she must stay behind on the farm while Jim goes to school. She doesn't seem to begrudge him this, and even asks him to tell her about the things he learns there, but the reader can tell from her tone when she asks this and from the way she praises her father's education that she would like to go to school, as well. Unfortunately, Antonia's financial situation prevents her from doing so.

Money. Jim is disappointed when Antonia speaks of the prices of things and the value of her hard work. He feels that this is somewhat unbecoming of a young woman, and he, like the other men in the country, judges her because of it. This distaste might stem from the fact that Jim himself comes from a fairly well-off family and doesn't understand what it's like to be poor or have to work on the farm. He, of course, will be going to school that year.

Nature. Jim stresses the enormous vitality of spring after the cold and deadening winter. The new season brings with it the promise of prosperity and good health, especially for the Shimerdas, who buy a windmill on credit and move into the new log house their neighbors helped them build. Now that winter is over, life can begin.

Book I, Chapter XVIII Summary

Once school starts, Antonia and Jim drift apart. She starts treating him like a child, and he resents her for prizing her brother's opinions over his own. A feud breaks out between the Shimerdas and the Burdens when Ambrosch tries to kick Jake in a fight. Jake had come to collect a horse-collar he'd loaned out to the Shimerdas, and Ambrosch had returned it in such deplorable condition that Jake rightfully got mad at him. During the fight, Jake nearly breaks Ambrosch's nose. He pays a fine of ten dollars, which the Shimerdas assume he raised by selling his pig (in fact, Mr. Burden gave him the money to settle the matter once and for all).

Ambrosch and his little brother Marek go to work for Mr. Bushy for a week. While they're gone, one of the Shimerdas' horses falls ill, and Jim's grandfather feels obliged to help, unaware of the feud between Jim and the Shimerdas. Ambrosch returns, having used all of Marek's wages to pay a priest to pray for Mr. Shimerda's soul.

Jim's grandfather effectively ends the feud that summer. He needs a few more hired hands to help cut the wheat that July, so he rides up to the Shimerdas' house to offer Antonia and Ambrosch the job. When he arrives, Mrs. Shimerda assumes that he wants to take the cow he sold her. She tries to hide it, to no avail. Grandfather then tells her that she needn't pay the rest of the fifteen dollars for the cow. Mrs. Shimerda thanks him profusely and makes amends with Jake.

Book I, Chapter XVIII Analysis


Color. Cather repeatedly uses color to describe the variations in the seasons. Whereas winter is associated with white and the frozen red of Mr. Shimerda's blood, spring brings with it yellow birds, purple flowers, and lush greenery, in addition to bright blue skies.


Work. This chapter makes it clear that the Shimerdas and the Burdens are from different socioeconomic classes. The Shimerdas are forced to work constantly in order to make ends meet, whereas Jim's grandfather has enough money to hire extra hands to help with the harvest. This economic divide often makes it difficult for the two families to understand one another.

Book I, Chapter XIX Summary

Summer comes, and with it the heat that makes the corn grow better in the plains than anywhere else in the United States. Jim and Antonia work in the fields, where they reconnect after months of feuding. Antonia tells Jim that she likes working outdoors like men and she doesn't care what other people think about her. He has it easy, she says. This is how Book I ends.

Book I, Chapter XIX Analysis


Jim uses a number of similes when he describes the sky as looking like "deep blue water" in one place and "like mottled pavement" in another.


Gender. Traditionally, women in the country don't work in the fields, but stay inside to do the household chores. Antonia eschews these gender roles and decides to work in the fields, despite what other people say about her. This is a fine example of her willfulness, which will, unfortunately, get her in trouble later in the novel.

My Antonia Book II, Chapters 1-8 Summary and Analysis

Book II, Chapter I Summary

When Jim is thirteen, his grandfather decides to rent the farm and move into town. Otto and Jake won't be able to come with them, so after the move the two men leave for the "wild West," where Jake hopes to find a silver mine in Colorado. The Burdens fear for Jake's safety in particular, but can't convince him to stay in their Christian community. Jim never sees them again.

In town, Jim's grandfather becomes a deacon at the Baptist church, and his grandmother becomes involved with missionary societies. Jim goes to school in town, where he meets boys his own age and learns how to fight, tease, and play keeps, which he'd never done before, having lived on the farm for three years.

Paradoxically, the Burdens see more of their country neighbors in town than they ever did in the country. Jim keeps hoping that Antonia will come visit, but she doesn't. Eventually, Grandmother gets Antonia a job working in town so she doesn't have to work on the farm that winter.

Book II, Chapter I Analysis


Yankee Girl Mine. A real galena and silver mine discovered in 1882. Otto and Jake go to work in it after leaving the Burdens. Their fate remains uncertain.


Age. In this chapter, Jim's grandparents grow too old for farm work just as Jim grows old enough to go to school in town, instead of in the sod schoolhouse in the country. Coming of age means change for Jim, who believes that he has become "quite another boy" because of it. Though he remains a sensitive young man, he learns how to fight and play games, and this changes him forever.

Friendship. Moving to town means new friends for Jim, who has never had friends his own age. On the farm, he spent much of his time with Otto and Jake, who had to soften their adult language around him, and with Antonia, who always treated him like a child. Now he has male friends to play with and picks up mannerisms that have an obvious effect on his character.

Book II, Chapter II Summary

The Burdens love their new neighbors, the Harlings. Mr. Harling runs a successful business. Mrs. Harling employs Antonia as a cook. Jim befriends the Harling children, Frances, Charley, Sally, and Julia. Frances helps her father run the family grain business, and Charley intends to go to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Antonia works in the house.

When Jim's grandmother first suggests that the Harlings hire Antonia, Mrs. Harling goes to visit the Shimerdas. She wants to know where Antonia came from and how she was raised before she hires the girl. Though Jim isn't privy to the details of the visit, he knows that it went well because Mrs. Harling is laughing when she comes back. She found Mrs. Shimerda charming and amusing and agrees to pay Antonia three dollars a week to be a cook.

Book II, Chapter II Analysis


Gender. This chapter introduces a curious twist to Cather's development of the theme of gender. Frances Harling, the eldest daughter, helps her father run the business and displays an extraordinary level of business acumen. She's praised for this, despite the fact that it subverts traditional gender roles in Black Hawk. Meanwhile, Mrs. Harling explicitly says that she wants to soften Antonia's rough edges and teach her to be more feminine, after all her years of farmwork.

Book II, Chapter III Summary

Antonia proves to be a good fit for the Harlings. She loves the children, and Mrs. Harling doesn't mind that much when Antonia gets distracted from her work and goes to play. Jim, the Harlings, and Antonia have a lot of fun together when Mr. Harling is away. When he's home, however, he demands that they all be quiet. Somehow, Mrs. Harling finds time to practice piano every day.

Book II, Chapter III Analysis


Music. Once again, music lightens the atmosphere in what might otherwise by a tense or sad situation. Mr. Harling demands silence when he's at home, which makes the joyful noise that Mrs. Harling and the children make when he's gone all the more satisfying.


Mr. Harling's Clothes. Mr. Harling dresses himself in a way that seems both fastidious and self-important. He's proud of his success in business and likes to think that it gives him power over the other citizens of Black Hawk. His clothes (and, in particular, the diamond ring he wears on his little finger) are symbols of his wealth and arrogance.

Mrs. Harling's Piano. This piano is a clear symbol of joy and freedom. When the children play on it, they're celebrating Mr. Harling's absence. When Mrs. Harling plays, she partakes in what may her greatest pleasure in life.

Book II, Chapter IV Summary

One day, while Antonia is mixing batter for a cake, Lena Lingard knocks on the door. She works for Mrs. Thomas, the town's dressmaker, and consequently wears very nice clothes that make her look like a different person. She was dating a young man named Nick, but now she just wants to enjoy herself. She never wants to marry. She asks Antonia to come see her sometime so they can go out on the town, but Antonia demures. She knows Lena has a reputation.

Lena grew up in the Norwegian settlement nearby. She hated farm work and took to knitting and keeping house. She was well-mannered and gentle, but didn't shy away from the attention of men and was even accused of having an inappropriate relationship with Ole Benson, whose wife once escaped from an asylum. Lena was still young then, but everyone talked about the relationship as if it was a real love affair. Ole's wife Mary threatened Lena with a knife on several occasions, but that didn't stop Ole from coming to see Lena.

Book II, Chapter IV Analysis


Cather uses a simile when she says Mary's feet were "as hard as hoofs."


Lena's Clothes. In this chapter, Cather uses different styles of clothing as symbols of Lena's perceived innocence or impropriety. When she's wearing rags, she's a poor, sweet girl who would never in her life lead a man astray. When she's dressed up in fine clothes, she's a potential temptress with the power to drive even married men crazy. Like Mr. Harding's diamond ring, Lena's clothes are in some way a symbol of her social status.


Innocence. In a flashback, Jim describes Lena as a gentle girl with good manners and a fondness for knitting socks. Her violet eyes and sleepy gaze make her seem perfectly innocent, but her indifference to the gossip about her suggests that she's anything but.

Book II, Chapter V Summary

Jim often meets up with Lena in town. Lena spends much of her time with Tiny Soderball, a wild woman with whom she rides trains and go to shows in the city. One afternoon, Jim sees Lena and her little brother Chris standing in front of a town store. Chris buys monogrammed handkerchiefs for his mother for Christmas. After he leaves, Lena tells Jim that she sometimes feels homesick.

Book II, Chapter V Analysis


Music. With the disappearance of Otto, Cather must rely on other characters to weave the motif of music through the novel. Mrs. Harling and her children picked up this motif beautifully when they were introduced, and now a young man named Anson Kirkpatrick builds on it by playing piano in the hotel where Tiny and Lena like to socialize. His "sentimental songs" no doubt set the mood for a number of romantic encounters.


Gifts. There are several different gifts in this chapter: the gifts that men bestow on Tiny, the excess gifts that Tiny bestows on Lena, and the monogrammed handkerchiefs Chris buys for his mother, Mrs. Lingard. With the exception of Chris's handkerchiefs, the gifts are all symbols of the "loose" kind of behavior that gives Lena and Tiny bad reputations. The handkerchiefs symbolize Chris's love for his mother.

Book II, Chapter VI Summary

Winter hits Black Hawk hard. Jim hates that the world has gone gray and cold and describes the harsh winter light as the light of "truth," which mocks him for believing that the world was ever anything other than a desolate place. He hangs around town after school and enjoys standing in front of the church's stained glass, soaking in the colors. In the evenings, he goes to the Harlings' house to listen to music.

One night, Antonia tells Jim and the Harlings the story of a tramp who approached her while she was working in the fields. This tramp was obviously crazy, but Ole Iverson let him cut bands for the thresher. Without warning, the tramp threw himself into the thresher and was beaten to death inside the machine. They never found out who he was. This story upsets Nina Harling, but Mrs. Harling doesn't mind it. She and Antonia are alike in many ways.

Book II, Chapter VI Analysis


Martha by Friedrich von Flotow. A romantic comic opera adapted from a ballet. First performed in 1847 and revived several times in the Twentieth Century, Martha enjoyed widespread popularity when it premiered and remains von Flotow's best known work.

Norma by Vincenzo Bellini. One of Bellini's most famous operas, the title role of Norma has been performed by such operatic luminaries as Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland. Mrs. Harling relates the story of Norma and her children while playing well-known pieces from the opera for her own family.

Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi. In Rigoletto, the Duke of Mantua and his hunchbacked servant, Rigoletto, fall under the curse of one of the Duke's former conquests. This tragicomedy is widely regarded as one of Verdi's finest operas and is frequently performed today.


Colors. Once again, Jim associates color with warmth, vitality, and summer. He writes that "a hunger for colour" came over him, and that he would often stand in front of the church just to be near the stained glass. This bright splash of color offsets the bleak whites and grays of winter.


Jim compares the harsh light of winter to "the light of truth itself."


Suicide. Though the story of the tramp's suicide amounts to little more than an anecdote, it is nevertheless a thematically significant element of this chapter, because it echoes Mr. Shimerda's suicide. This tramp was obviously tired of being poor and hungry, just like Mr. Shimerda, and was looking for an opportunity to end his suffering. Unlike Mr. Shimerda's death, however, the tramp's suicide is completely undignified, and Antonia shows little sympathy for him.

Book II, Chapter VII Summary

Jim and the Harling children often go skating at night and build big bonfires on the island in the frozen river. They're briefly distracted from the dreariness of it all when Blind d'Arnaut, a famed African American pianist, comes to Black Hawk to give a concert. Blind d'Arnaut grew up on a plantation, where he was named Samson by his mother, Martha. He learned piano as a boy after listening to his mistress, Miss Nellie, taking a piano lesson. Miss Nellie encouraged his playing, and Blind d'Arnaut quickly became a prodigy.

During one of d'Arnaut's concerts, Tiny, Antonia, and the other girls start waltzing together in the next room. Anson Kirkpatrick asks them why they won't dance with the men. Tony tells him that Mrs. Gardener, their boss and the proprietor of the establishment, wouldn't like it. She happens to be out of town that day, however, so the girls decide to break the rules this once. They dance into the night, until d'Arnaut leaves and they have to go home.

Book II, Chapter VII Analysis


Edwin Booth and Lawrence Barrett. Two stage actors from the 1800s. Mrs. Gardener goes to Omaha to see them perform.

"My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night!" by Stephen Foster. An anti-slavery ballad composed around 1852. This is an appropriate song for Blind d'Arnaut to sing, given that he himself grew up a slave.

Samson. One of the judges of the ancient Israelites. According to the Bible, Samson had two weaknesses: untrustworthy women and his hair, which gave him his strength. He's perhaps best known for his relationship with Delilah, who nagged him into revealing the truth about his hair. She then shore off his hair and handed him over to the Philistines, who blinded him. This is why Blind d'Arnaut was named Samson at birth.

The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare. One of Shakespeare's tragedies, The Winter's Tale dramatizes the story of King Leontes, who has turned against his best friend, King Polixenes. Leontes orders that his wife Helena be imprisoned and that his infant daughter be left to die in the wilderness. According to Mrs. Gardener, there's a production of The Winter's Tale in London.


The Piano. For Blind d'Arnaut, the piano symbolizes freedom, both physical and spiritual, from slavery. He learned to play the piano on a plantation, but his talent as a pianist allowed him to escape slavery and pursue a career in music.

Book II, Chapter VIII Summary

Summer comes, and with it a relief from the boredom of winter. Three Italians arrive in town and hop around, working on any farm that'll take them. A dancing pavilion opens up, and Jim and his friends spend every Saturday and some afternoons dancing together, despite the heat. The Vannis run the dancing pavilion and are strict enough that the dancing never becomes rowdy or obscene. Everyone has a good time.

Book II, Chapter VIII Analysis


"Home, Sweet Home." A popular song written in the 1800s by Sir Henry Bishop.


Music. In this chapter, music (and the dancing that goes along with it) acts as a great equalizer, bringing together, bringing together people from different social groups, age groups, and professions. The dances are joyous without being raucous, happy without being overly indulgent, and fun without being degrading.

My Antonia Chapters 9-15 Summary and Analysis

Book II, Chapter IX Summary

Jim notes that country girls aren't always treated with the respect they deserve in Black Hawk. In most cases, these country girls have come into town to help their families pay off the initial debts they incurred upon moving to America. Jim finds this very admirable, and knows that these girls will go on to marry other debt-free immigrants and manage big farms of their own. And yet, the girls work as servants in town and are treated as such.

Mothers in Black Hawk worry that their sons will be tempted by "hired girls" like Lena and Tiny and that they'll embarrass the family by having an affair or wishing to marry one of these country girls. Of course, this will never happen, because Black Hawk boys have been raised to prize their honor and social station over their carnal desires.

The three Marys become notorious for engaging in scandalous affairs. They have a reputation for tempting married men and having illegitimate children, and yet they're such good cooks that they always manage to find jobs. Meanwhile, a young banker named Sylvester Lovett falls head over heels in love with Lena and starts making mistakes at work. Desperate to take his mind off Lena, he married a widow and settles into a respectable life.

Book II, Chapter IX Analysis


Society. Never has the social stratification in Black Hawk been more apparent than in this chapter, where Jim discusses the unfair treatment Antonia and the other "hired girls" get from the townsfolk. To Jim, these girls are hardworking, strong, beautiful people who will go on to own successful farms and businesses, but to his more condescending counterparts, these hired girls are objects of desire unworthy of their respect. This divide prevents the two groups from understanding each other.

Book II, Chapter X Summary

Soon after Antonia starts attending the dances, she gains a reputation like Lena's. She's known to dance with many men a night and to allow one or another of them to walk her home every night. She becomes so obsessed with the dances that her work suffers, and Lena must come to help her with her work. One night, a man named Harry Paine kisses Antonia, and she slaps him, because he's engaged to be married the next Monday.

Mr. Harling happens to hear the slap. He tells Antonia that her behavior is unacceptable and that she's to stop attending the dances immediately. Antonia rebels, declaring that he has no authority over her private life, and that if she won't let her go out with her friends, then she'll find another job. She goes to work for the Cutters, in spite of Wick Cutter's reputation as a moneylender.

Book II, Chapter X Analysis


Broken Dishes. When Antonia allows her social life to interfere with her work, she starts accidentally breaking a lot of dishes. These dishes are symbols of her dissatisfaction with her position as a servant.


Gender. It should be abundantly clear to readers by now that women in Black Hawk are held to different standards than men. Whereas the girls at the dances are considered "loose" and "wild," the boys these girls date aren't, and their reputations aren't destroyed by their actions. In fact, many of the men are described merely as being crazy in love, as if they've fallen victim to Antonia or Lena's beauty. This is a double-standard that does more harm than good.

Popularity. What Mr. Harling calls being "free" and "easy" is more appropriately called being "popular," and it's this popularity that gets Antonia and the other "hired girls" into trouble. This is a symptom of the double-standard that chastises women for behavior for which men are never penalized.

Book II, Chapter XI Summary

Jim introduces readers to Wick Cutter, the town moneylender. Cutter grew up in Iowa, where he learned a little Swedish from the settlers there. He was thus able to take advantage of the earlier Scandinavian settlers in Black Hawk and make himself a fortune. He married a gray, terrifying, mean-spirited woman, and they settled into a life of anger and bickering. Cutter frequently took up with his servants and drove them to prostitution.

Of the many things about which the Cutters bicker, perhaps the most important is the question of inheritance. Since they have no children, Mrs. Cutter stands to inherit Mr. Cutter's fortune, but he refuses to allow this. He threatens to chop down their cedar trees, and she threatens to leave him. And yet they stay together. They seem to enjoy their fights.

Book II, Chapter XI Analysis


Poor Richard's Almanack. An almanack published yearly from 1732 to 1758 by renowned statesman and scientist Benjamin Franklin. Franklin adopted the pseudonym Poor Richard for this almanack, which included small facts about the calendar, the weather, and astronomy, in addition to collections of Franklin's many proverbs and aphorisms. Wick Cutter quotes some of these aphorisms to Jim to indicate that he's a man of culture.


Marriage. Marriage had been variously represented as a happy union of like-minded people, a happenstance with no real meaning, a means of securing one's finances, and a bitter struggle for dominance. To the citizens of Black Hawk, the Cutters' marriage appears both laughable and horrifying, and Jim regards it with both curiosity and distaste.

Book II, Chapter XII Summary

Antonia starts working for the Cutters. She makes more money for less work and spends most of her afternoons downtown with Lena and Tiny. Sometimes, Jim takes them out for ice cream, and he asks for news about their families. After the Vannis leave town, the dances move indoors, but Jim stops attending. He's shut out of one of the two saloons in town when the proprietor, Anton Jelinek, says Jim's grandfather wouldn't like Jim to hang out in there. So Jim searches for other forms of entertainment that winter.

Eventually, Jim caves in and starts attending the Saturday night dances at the Firemen's Hall. He sneaks out of the house and joins Antonia and her friends. Jim characterizes all of them in turn: the four Danish girls are "kind, simple girls" who work in the laundry; Lena dances as if every song is a waltz; and Tony dances as if every song is a new adventure.

Antonia starts dating a passenger conductor named Larry Donovan. He's something of a cad, and Jim doesn't think their relationship will last. One night when Larry is away, Jim walks Antonia to Cutter's house and asks her to give him a goodnight kiss. Antonia tells him it isn't right for him to kiss her on the lips, then advises him not to fool around with the other girls, especially Lena. She goes inside, and he sneaks back into his house. He dreams that they'll be together one day, but he knows this will never happen. She doesn't love him that way.

Book II, Chapter XII Analysis


Jim uses alliteration when he says he wishes that he and Tony were in the country, "sliding down straw-stacks" as they used to.


Love. Though Jim has never explicitly said so, it becomes clear in this chapter that he loves Antonia as more than a friend. This was likely the source of his irritation in Book I, Chapter XVIII, when he complained that Antonia was treating him like a child. In this chapter, his love is thwarted when Antonia tells him he shouldn't kiss her on the lips. Antonia will never love him the way he loves her.

Maturity. When Jim and Antonia were children, their age difference was little more than a source of benign irritation. Here, it means the difference between being a schoolboy and being sexually mature. In effect, Jim and Antonia's age difference precludes the possibility of them ever being romantically involved.

Book II, Chapter XIII Summary

One day, Jim notices that his grandmother has been crying. She tells him that his sneaking out to the Firemen's Hall has caused some gossip, and she's afraid that he's growing up to be a bad boy. He promises not to attend any more dances and consequently grows very bored. He gives a good Commencement speech, of which Antonia is very proud.

Book II, Chapter XIII Analysis


Jim describes the country girls' growing "smaller and smaller" as they walked, using repetition to emphasize the fact that they're moving away from him, both literally and figuratively.


Education. Without the distraction of the dances at the Firemen's Hall, Jim has abundant free time in which to study for his college exams. He starts reading Latin, prepares his Commencement speech, and prepares to leave Black Hawk early. His education gives him opportunities that Antonia and the other country girls don't have. Anna even says, "It must make you very happy, Jim, to have fine thoughts like that in your head all the time." Her wistfulness and envy characterize most of the country girls, who wish for better lives.

Family. Jim's grandparents have been secondary figures in his life for the last several chapters, and their relative absence has allowed Jim to mature and enjoy a certain level of freedom. That freedom, however, has driven Jim and his grandparents apart. Only after Jim's grandmother cries are they able to bridge some of the gap between them.

Book II, Chapter XIV Summary

Jim moves his desk upstairs, where he spends the summer studying trigonometry and Latin. One day, Antonia invites him to collect elder down by the river with the other country girls. He thinks of this as his one vacation. He heads down early and goes for a swim. While he's swimming, the girls drive up in a wagon. He joins them in the sandy bottoms where the elder grows.

Antonia sits down to think about her father. Jim tells her about feeling her father's presence in the house on the day they found his body. She finds this very comforting and wishes Jim had told her about it sooner. She tells him about her grandmother and how she never let Antonia's mother into her house. Jim expresses a desire to visit Bohemia, and Antonia reminisces about her town.

Lena sees them sitting down and chides them for being lazy. Together, they pick the elders clean, then walk up to the chalk bluffs to have lunch in the breeze. There, they talk about their families, who have had to work hard in the country. Tiny has six siblings, all of whom think that she's rich because she wears nice clothes and brings them toys for Christmas. Tiny and the girls all admire Selma Kronn, a Scandinavian girl who has recently become a teacher.

After lunch, the group plays a game, and Jim tells them about Francisco Vázquez de Coronado y Luján, a Spanish explorer who searched for the Seven Golden Cities. Coronado led an expedition from Mexico through Kansas, and someone in his party evidently left a sword behind near Black Hawk's river. During this discussion, the sun starts setting. It's a lovely, golden sunset, and when the sun reaches the horizon, a plough appears silhouetted in front of it.

Book II, Chapter XIV Analysis


Aeneid by Virgil. Virgil's epic Latin poem about the hero Aeneas, the Aeneid is broken into two parts of six books each. In the first part, Aeneas and his fleet land in Carthage, where Queen Dido falls in love with Aeneas. In the second part, Virgil tells the story of how Aeneas defeated the Italians and fulfilled his destiny. Jim reads the Aeneid to prepare for college.

Francisco Vázquez de Coronado y Luján (1510 - 1554) and the Seven Golden Cities. Coronado, as he's referred to in the novel, was a Spanish conquistador and explorer. He dreamed of finding the Cities of Cíbola, also known as the Seven Cities of Gold, a mythical place rumored to be located in the pueblos of New Mexico. Coronado led an expedition from Mexico to Kansas in search of the Seven Golden Cities. His expedition was a failure, of course, but Antonia and her friends are nevertheless excited by the idea of Spanish explorers in Black Hawk.


Colors. Gold traditionally represents wealth and luxury, and that's especially true in this chapter. Spanish explorer Coronado was looking for the Seven Golden Cities when, according to Jim and Antonia, he led his exposition through Black Hawk. These Cities of Gold are like El Dorado in that they're mythical places of wealth and grandeur and were, of course, never found. The color gold appears at the end of the chapter, as the sun sets brilliantly behind a plough. Cather uses this image, along with the color gold, to suggest that this prairie is a kind of paradise.


Plough. When the sun sets, it casts the plough in perfect silhouette. This plough represents all the manual labor that the country girls aren't doing, thanks to their positions as servants in town. As such, the plough is a symbol of work (and, in this case, its absence).

Seven Golden Cities. These Seven Cities of Gold symbolize wealth, paradise, and the pursuit of one's dreams. That the Spanish expedition never realizes its dream of finding the Seven Golden Cities may indicate that the country girls (all foreigners, like the explorers) will never find happiness. However, Cather's use of the color gold during the sunset scene suggests that Jim, at least, has found his paradise in the prairie.


Nature. Unlike the country girls, who think of the prairie as a place of toil and hardship, Jim views it as a kind of paradise. In previous chapters, Jim had an almost religious experience with nature, which reinforces the idea that he views the prairie as a kind of paradise.

Book II, Chapter XV Summary

In August, the Cutters leave town for a few days. Before they leave, Cutter gives Antonia a series of suspiciously specific instructions about keeping his possessions safe. He tells her to stay home alone and not to go out at night. Antonia rightfully finds all this strange and talks to the Burdens about it. Jim agrees to sleep at the Cutters' house in Antonia's place.

One night, Cutter returns alone and sits down on Antonia's bed, not realizing at first that Jim has been sleeping in it. He makes a sexual advance, then grabs Jim by the throat when he realizes he has made a mistake. The men scuffle, and Jim escapes. He runs back home, where he falls asleep in his bloodied nightshirt. His grandmother treats his wounds the next morning.

Jim's grandmother accompanies Antonia to the Cutters' house, where Antonia packs her trunk. In his drunken fury, Cutter had thrown all her clothes onto the floor, and her room was in shambles. While Antonia's packing, Mrs. Cutter returns and is forced to knock to get in, because Mr. Cutter hasn't given her the key to the new lock he installed before they left. Evidently, Cutter tricked his wife into going all the way to Kansas City just so he could get home a day ahead of her and take advantage of Antonia. This will lead to a huge fight.

Book II, Chapter XV Analysis


Cather uses assonance when she writes that Jim's lip "stood out like a snout."


The Yale Lock. This Yale lock would normally be installed to keep someone or something safe. However, Cutter subverts the traditional use of the lock in order to keep Antonia in and keep his wife out. He does this in the hopes of taking advantage of Antonia, but also to exert his control over the women in his life. The Yale Lock thus becomes a symbol of Cutter's power.

My Antonia Book III, Chapters 1-4 Summary and Analysis


Book III, Chapter I Summary

Jim rents two rooms (a bedroom and a study) from an old couple in Lincoln. In his first year, Jim studies under Gaston Cleric. Cleric moved to Lincoln at the urging of his doctors, who suggested that a peaceful life in the country would help Cleric recover from an illness he contracted in Italy. Jim respects Cleric, and the two of them talk about literature and philosophy.

Book III, Chapter I Analysis


Aeneid by Virgil. For a description of the Aeneid, see Book II, Chapter XIV: Allusions.

Dante Alighieri (1265 - 1321). An Italian poet famous for his epic poem The Divine Comedy.

The Divine Comedy. Dante's alter ego, "Pilgrim," travels through Hell and Purgatory on his way to Heaven in Dante's The Divine Comedy. The Pilgrim's guide for most of this journey is Virgil, the Roman poet, who acts as a kind of teacher to the Pilgrim. This relationship mirrors that of Jim and Cleric, who are also student and teacher.

Statius (45 - 96). A Roman poet from the Silver Age of Roman literature. He serves as one of the Pilgrim's guides in the second section of The Divine Comedy, Purgatory.

Tragic Theatre at Pompeii. Also known as the amphitheatre of Pompeii, this "Tragic Theatre" was buried during the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in 79 AD. The structure, however, was preserved under the ash and lava. It has become a subject of much archaeological study since its excavation.

Virgil. An ancient Roman poet famed for the Aeneid, an epic poem about the Trojan hero Aeneas. Virgil acts as the Pilgrim's guide through much of The Divine Comedy.


Education. Much has been made of Jim's intelligence and his abilities as a student in previous chapters. Not long after enrolling at university, however, he realizes he doesn't have the temperament of a true scholar. He will later become a lawyer, which should indicate to the reader that Jim's inability to focus on his studies is really a symptom of his homesickness and his desire for Antonia.

Book III, Chapter II Summary

One evening, Lena Lingard comes to visit Jim in Lincoln. He's studying Latin at the time and is grateful for the excuse to stop. She tells him that she has opened up her own dressmaking shop in Lincoln and is doing very well for herself. She plans on building her mother a wooden house and bringing her new furniture. She would've visited him sooner, but she thought he'd be too busy to see her. Everyone back home is so proud of his studiousness.

Jim asks after Antonia, who is, unfortunately, still dating Larry Donovan. She's working for Mrs. Gardener at the hotel now and is safe from Wick Cutter. Antonia has even made up with Mr. and Mrs. Harling, whose daughter Nina still loves Antonia. Lena invites Jim to see a show with her at the theatre in Lincoln. She then leaves, asking Jim to come see her sometime. Returning to Virgil and the Georgics, Jim realizes that without beautiful women like Lena, poets like Virgil wouldn't have anything to write about.

Book III, Chapter II Analysis


Georgics by Virgil. Virgil's second most famous work, Georgics is primarily considered with agriculture and nature. Divided into four books and depicting man's struggle with the harsh natural world, it inspired the style of poetry called "georgic," which concerns itself primarily with rules about cultivating land. Jim quotes a line from the Georgics: "Optima dies...prima fugit." This is Latin for: the best days are the first to flee. We can assume, from this quote, that Jim feels his best and happiest days (in the country, in his youth) are behind him.


Poetry. Near the end of this chapter, Jim has an important revelation: that Lena and Antonia are the kinds of women who inspire great poetry. Virgil's great love Beatrice became his muse in the same way that Antonia becomes Jim's muse, inspiring him to ruminate on the themes of nature and beauty.

Book III, Chapter III Summary

Jim attends a number of plays with Lena that season. He spends much of this chapter recounting the plot of The Lady of the Camellias, a stage play which was adapted from the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas. In the play, Marguerite works as a courtesan in France. She contracts consumption and falls in love with Armand. Marguerite is pursued by the Baron de Varville, one of her former lovers. In the end, Marguerite dies.

Despite the bad acting of the woman in the lead role, the play moves Jim to tears, and he's happy to have seen it with Lena. He walks her home in the rain, then goes for a stroll through the lilacs. He associates the beauty of nature with the emotions caused by the play.

Book III, Chapter III Analysis


The Lady of the Camellias (Camille) by Alexandre Dumas (fils). Marguerite works as a courtesan in France. When she's available for lovers, she displays a white camellia. When she's menstruating, she displays a red one. Marguerite is supported in large part by the Baron de Varville, but has fallen in love with the young, naive Armand. She understands that Armand's association with her will damage his future, so she pushes him away. She falls ill with consumption, dying in Armand's arms at the end of the play. Jim and Lena see a production of the play in Lincoln.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (père). Dumas's famous novel about imprisonment and revenge. Edmond Dantès assumes the identity of the Count of Monte Cristo after he escapes from the Château d'If, where he was imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit. Upon escaping, he sets about systematically destroying his enemies.

La Traviata by Giuseppi Verdi. Verdi's famous opera about a "fallen woman" named Violetta. La Traviata was inspired in large part by The Lady of the Camellias, which Verdi saw on the stage before writing the opera. All of the incidental music played during the play Jim and Lena see is drawn from Verdi's opera.

"Oh, Promise Me!" Written in 1887, this song was not originally intended to be part of Reginald de Koven's musical Robin Hood, but was included in order to appease the lead actress of the production.

Rip Van Winkle (play) by Joseph Jefferson. Jefferson adapted Hawthorne's short story "Rip Van Winkle" for the stage. The character of Rip Van Winkle is a husband and father who wakes to find that the world has changed after he sleeps for twenty years. Jim and Lena also see this play in Lincoln.

Robin Hood by Reginald de Koven. A comic opera based on the legend of Robin Hood. In the musical, Robin Hood makes an enemy of the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin is sentenced to death, but pardoned at the last minute by King Richard I, who has just returned from the Crusades. Jim and Lena also see this musical.

Shenandoah. A stage play of unknown origin about the Civil War and the Shenandoah Valley Campaigns that took place from May to October of 1864. It's worth noting that Jim, who grew up in Virginia, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was very likely born in the Shenandoah Valley, which is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains. His ancestors likely experienced the horror and devastation of the Civil War first hand. If this means something to Jim, however, he doesn't dwell on it.


Music. This chapter, though primarily focused on the theatre, does make reference to two musical works (La Traviata and Robin Hood). Music from La Traviata accompanies the performance of Dumas' The Lady of the Camellias that Jim and Lena see together. It's especially moving because it's part of a tragic love story that tells the story of a popular courtesan who falls in love with Armand, an innocent, naive young man whose reputation could be ruined by their relationship. Music, which has often been used to bring characters together in this novel, here inspires the deepest emotions in Jim. He equates it with love, beauty, and nature.


Nature. When Jim walks around after the play, the streets are "shining with rain." This shining recalls the glittering of Marguerite's jewels, which Jim admired for their beauty and grace. With this image, Jim reinforces the idea that nature is somehow idyllic or precious. When he associates nature and the play, he's imbuing the earth with the emotions he felt at the theatre: love and admiration and a deep, romantic sadness.

Book III, Chapter IV Summary

Jim praises Lena for her style and skill as a young business owner. She isn't the most punctual of dressmakers, but she does have the best style, and he admires her fine clothes. They regularly go to the theatre and meet for breakfast on Sundays. Lena has a little dog, Prince, and they train him to do tricks.

One day, they happen on the subject of Ole, who was once said to go mad over Lena. Years later, Lena finally corrects this misconception: Ole was just lonely and liked having someone to talk to when he grew tired of the farmwork. His wife, Crazy Mary, made him unhappy, and Lena was a welcome distraction from his troubles. He also had some beautiful tattoos.

Lena's neighbor Ordinsky, a violin-player, has taken an interest in Lena. Their landlord, Colonel Raleigh, has been similarly charmed by Lena. She's uninterested in both of them. Ordinsky drops by one evening on the pretense of needing his dress clothes mended for a concert. Jim happens to be visiting at the time, and Ordinsky treats him coolly until it becomes clear that Jim has Lena's best interests at heart.

Jim, Ordinsky, and Colonel Raleigh becomes friends, in part because all three of them are in love with Lena. Gaston Cleric realizes that Jim will never be able to focus on school if he continues to see Lena, so he asks Jim to come east with him to study. Jim hesitates, but agrees. He visits Lena, who insists that she'll never get married, not even to Ordinsky or Colonel Raleigh. In the midst of this, Jim blurts out that he's planning to leave town. They say a series of sad goodbyes before Jim finally travels east.

Book III, Chapter IV Analysis


The Porcelain Bathtub. Lena's landlord installs the porcelain bathtub for Lena even though she doesn't really need it. The bathtub becomes a symbol of his love for her, which will forever go unrequited.


Love. Lena tells Jim that she always wanted to be his first sweetheart. She refrained for so long because Antonia didn't want Lena to involve Jim in any "nonsense," meaning distracting love affairs. Jim has always been a romantic, however, and has always been distracted by love, beauty, nature, and country girls. It seemed inevitable that he and Lena would get together, and that they would part.

The Past. Jim has been narrating this entire novel in the past tense, which lends everything in it a veneer of nostalgia. It's clear from Jim's tone that his love of Black Hawk and the country girls he left there has never truly left him. His love has imbued the past with emotions that make it difficult for him to differentiate the truth (for instance, Lena's relationship with Ole) from his perception of it.

My Antonia Book IV, Chapters 1-4 Summary and Analysis

Book IV, Chapter I Summary

Jim visits Black Hawk after graduating from Harvard. His grandmother has already told him the sad news about Antonia: that Larry Donovan deserted her and left her unwed and pregnant. Lena and Tiny, on the other hand, have become extraordinarily successful. Tiny moved to Seattle, ran a lodging-house, and then moved to the Yukon during the Gold Rush. She started cooking for the miners, including a man only referred to as "a Swede." When he died, he bequeathed his claim to Tiny, who used it to build a small fortune. She then moved to San Francisco. Jim visits her years later, after she has already convinced Lena to come to California. He finds them both very well.

Book IV, Chapter I Analysis


Gold. Gold appears in this chapter not as the color but as the precious metal. Tiny makes her fortune as a prospector during the Gold Rush, and these hard years leave her very wealthy and comfortable.


Success. For the country girls of Black Hawk, success is measured primarily by their financial status and their ability to avoid being taken advantage of by men. In this, Antonia appears to fail miserably, whereas Tiny and Lena are lauded for their success in business.

Book IV, Chapter II Summary

Jim arranges for his grandparents to sit for a proper photograph. While waiting for it to develop, Jim notices a series of pictures of Antonia's new baby. He thinks it bold of her to put the picture of her illegitimate child on display, but can't forgive her for ruining her reputation on such a cad as Larry Donovan. With men, Larry is cold, distant, and even a little arrogant, but with women, he's charming, not because he's extroverted or flirtatious but because he's quiet and sincere. This may be his true personality or it may just be a ruse he uses to seduce women. Either way, he does very well for himself.

Book IV, Chapter II Analysis

Alliteration. There are several examples of alliteration in the line: "...girls in Commencement dresses, country brides and grooms holding hands, family groups of three generations." Every case of alliteration serves to bring people together (holding hands, gathering in groups).


Larry Donovan's Clothes. Larry makes a point of changing out of his work uniform immediately after getting off the train, in part because he feels he should be promoted from a mere passenger conductor to the General Passenger Agent, a position based out of Denver. When on the train, his uniform is a symbol of his dignity, which is affronted every time someone mistakes him for a porter.

Book IV, Chapter III Summary

Jim visits the Widow Steavens. He wants the story of Antonia's marriage, but she refuses to tell it until after they've had their supper. It seems Antonia and the Widow Steavens became very close in the months leading up to the wedding. Antonia had moved back home to get ready and sew all the fine linens she would need as a married woman. Antonia was waiting for a letter that said she was to join Larry in Denver. She waited a long time.

Finally, the letter came, and Antonia packed her things. Ambrosch gave her $300 to start her new life. She took the train west to Denver, where she discovered that Larry was sick and hadn't been working. He kept putting off the wedding, burned through her money, and then left her in Denver while he ran off to Mexico. Antonia was forced to return to Black Hawk, where she worked with her brother on the farm. She hid her pregnancy as best she could and gave birth alone on her bed in the middle of winter. Ambrosch wanted to get rid of the baby, but Antonia kept it.

Book IV, Chapter III Analysis

Simile. Jim uses a simile when he compares the Widow Steavens' head to that of a Roman senator's. The comparison paints the Widow as a proud, stately woman.


Antonia's Sewing. Antonia spends months sewing the linens and underclothes she needs for her wedding. Her hard work imbues these clothes with her hopes and dreams, which are dashed when Larry deserts her.


Marriage. This novel examines many different kinds of marriages and presents many different views on the institution of marriage itself, which Lena repudiates entirely. Here, Cather depicts a marriage that thankfully never happens, a marriage that's doomed even before it begins. Antonia is devastated, but, as the reader will soon learn, their aborted marriage is perhaps the best thing to ever happen to Antonia. Her life will only get better.

Book IV, Chapter IV Summary

After spending the night at the Widow Steavens' house, Jim goes to see the Shimerdas. Antonia's sister Yulka shows him the baby, then directs him to the fields, where Antonia is working. They sit in the grass and talk. Jim tells her about everything—Lena, law school, love. He tells her that he wishes she'd been his girlfriend or his wife—anything, really. She meant so much to him. She knows that she has disappointed him, but is glad that they shared such a beautiful childhood. She asks him to visit her again so she won't be lonely.

Book IV, Chapter IV Analysis


Colors. Several colors appear in this chapter, including red, gold, and the deep tan of Antonia's skin. The colors collectively emphasize the vitality and the beauty of life in the country.


When Jim and Antonia walk back to the house, the sun looked "like a great golden globe."


Tall Red Grass. This tall red grass grows over Mr. Shimerda's grave. Its height and color symbolize his continued presence in Antonia's life. It comforts her to think that her father is still with her.

My Antonia Book V, Chapters 1-3 Summary and Analysis

Book V, Chapter I Summary

Despite his promise, Jim doesn't visit Antonia again for twenty years. He means to, but life keeps getting in the way, and deep down he fears that time hasn't been kind to her. Tiny tells him, rather uncharitably, that Antonia has had a hard life, but Lena corrects her: Antonia married a nice man, Cuzak, and had a bunch of children. Hearing this, Jim finally decides to visit.

When he arrives, two of Antonia's sons are standing in a plum thicket, staring at a dead dog. The younger brother is lost in his grief, but they manage to pull themselves away and walk Jim to the house. Antonia's daughters greet him at the door, offering him a chair. Antonia appears suddenly in the doorway. She doesn't recognize him at first, but then rushes around excitedly, gathering all her children to introduce them to her old friend.

Antonia takes Jim down to their new fruit cellar, where she shows him their massive stockpile of preserves. With so many children, it takes a lot of food to keep them fed. Antonia says that this is why their family isn't rich, even though theirs is one of the best producing farms around. Antonia then takes him to the orchards, where she points out individual fruit trees, speaking of them as if they were her children.

While the children measure out a grave for the dead dog, Antonia tells Jim about how hard those first years of marriage were. Her husband wasn't a good farmer, and she had to work hard to keep them out of debt. Her children were a great help. Jim tells Antonia that she should've never gone to work in town, but in spite of everything that happened there, she's still glad she went. The nice ways she learned there helped her raise her children.

Jim agrees to spend the night. He tells Antonia's eldest sons that she was very beautiful once and that he was deeply in love with her. Naturally, the boys are a little embarrassed. After dinner, the entire family sits in the parlour to listen to music. Antonia then brings out a box of photographs, and everyone sits around admiring the pictures of friends and family.

Later, Jim carries his things into the barn, where the boys make their beds. He lies awake a long time, staring up at the moon and thinking of Antonia's remarkable vitality.

Book V, Chapter I Analysis


John D. Rockefeller. A wealthy American industrialist known for his success in business. His namesake plaza in New York City is proof of his fame in the early 20th Century. His name has became synonymous with wealth and prestige, and Cather's allusion to him indicates that Mr. Harling was rich, but not that rich.


Leo uses a metaphor when he says, "I'm a big bull snake!" This is in reference to the fact that he has been hiding in some ironweed and jumped out, as a snake would. Later, Jim calls Antonia a "rich mine of life," indicating that she has vast stores of energy and vitality, which she imparts to her children and the world around her.


Color. Cather continues to use color to emphasize the beauty and vitality of life. Flowers, grasses, fruits, and trees continue to be described in reds and green (colors which reappear in the descriptions of Antonia's children). Leo's red tongue represents his impishness, whereas his green eyes represent his sensitivity. All of the Cuzaks have a deep tan that Jim describes as healthy.


Jim uses a simile when he says the orchard "seemed full of sun, like a cup." Later, Jim describes Leo as "faun-like." This is in keeping with Cather's other descriptions of Leo, which all relate in some way to the animal world.


The Framed Photographs of Bohemia. Jim sends these to Antonia after he visits Bohemia on a business trip. The mere fact that he's able to visit Bohemia when she isn't indicates that he's of a much higher social status than her and that his white male privilege has opened up many opportunities for him that Antonia will never have. He seems to think nothing of this, however, and Antonia is glad for the photos.

Mr. Shimerda's Violin. Antonia kept this violin after her father's death and gave it to her son, Leo, who plays admirably, considering that he's self-taught. The violin, like the pictures Jim sent of Bohemia, is a symbol of Antonia's homeland and her connection with her ancestors.

Book V, Chapter II Summary

When Jim wake up in Antonia's barn, he finds Leo already awake and entertaining himself with a small bunch of dried flowers. After breakfast, Antonia tells Jim that her eldest daughter, Martha, is doing very well, despite Antonia’s initial fears that marriage would suffocate her. Her husband, Cuzak, returns that afternoon. He's small, but lively, and tells them all about the fair he attended on his vacation. He loved riding the Ferris wheel.

Though Antonia and Cuzak speak primarily in their native tongue, Jim picks out a familiar word, Vasakova, and asks if they're referring to the singer, Maria Vasak. He and Cuzak bond over their shared love of Vasak. At dinner, Antonia's son Rudolph tells the story of Wick Cutter, who killed his wife just to prevent her from inheriting his fortune. Cutter himself then died, and his massive fortune was divided up. Lawyers seem to have gotten most of it.

Later, Cuzak tells his life story to Jim. He went to work in Vienna as a young man, but had a bad habit of spending all his money, so he moved to New York, where he was blacklisted by a union because he worked during a strike. He decided to grow oranges in Florida, but soon fell ill with malaria. He then visited his cousin, Anton Jelinek, in Black Hawk, where he met Antonia. They were married at one and started their new life together. He loves his life, but misses Bohemia.

Book V, Chapter II Analysis


Coffin. When Martha got married, Antonia cried as if she were putting Martha "into her coffin." It's clear that this metaphorical "coffin" is really Martha's marriage and that Antonia feared Martha would be stifled by her husband, buried under the work of being housewife; but this turns out not to be the case, and Martha appears very happy.


Marriage. Cather uses Cuzak's monologue in this chapter to compare and contrast his marriage with that of the Cutters. Wick Cutter, a greedy, spiteful man, killed his wife to prevent her from inheriting his fortune, which amounted to a hundred thousand dollars. This terrible, contentious, and ultimately violent marriage makes Cuzak's marriage look that much better. Though Cuzak still prefers cities to the country, he enjoys his life. It just wasn't what he was expecting.

Book V, Chapter III Summary

Jim finally takes his leave of the Cuzaks. His train doesn't leave until later that night, so he walks around town for a while, eventually finding the old country road that led up to his farm. Since he left Black Hawk, highways have been built through the region, but Jim can still find some of the old ruts left behind by wagons. He thinks about his past and his plans to come back and visit the Cuzaks, and he realizes that this is what he and Antonia share: this road that leads them back to each other.

Book V, Chapter III Analysis


The Country Roads. These dirt and sod roads have been all but destroyed by the highways paved through the country. Jim stumbles upon one of these roads while walking around town. As it happens, this is the same road he and Antonia rode down when they first moved to Black Hawk on that cold winter night in the first chapter.


Home. Despite his long absences, Jim has never stopped thinking of Black Hawk as his home. It shaped his entire personality, affecting the way he thinks about the world, about immigration, and about people in general. At a crucial stage in his development, he associated home with nature, beauty, and love, and this turned him into a romantic with a tendency toward nostalgia.

The Past. One could argue that the entire novel is about the pull of the past on Jim. He dwells on it, revisits it, even surrenders to its beauty. It's very possible that Jim's inability to let go of the past has kept him from marrying and having a family of his own. Jim skirts over the details of his adult life as a lawyer while at the same time delving into Antonia's in detail, suggesting that he places more emphasis on the past than Antonia does.