Although Jim and Antonia arrive in Black Hawk at the same time, their situations are entirely different. Jim has been sent to Nebraska to live with his paternal grandparents because his parents have both died in Virginia within the past year. Jim's grandparents, the Burdens, have been on the prairie for awhile, long enough to have built a comfortable "white frame house, with a storey and half-storey above the basement (and a) windmill close by the kitchen door". Their farm is thriving, and Mr. Burden has bought a pony for Jim to ride, and as he enters the kitchen, Jim is greeted by "the pleasant smell of gingerbread baking" (Bk.I,Ch.II).
Antonia Shimerda has come with her family across the ocean from Bohemia to start a new life. They do not speak English, and are met at the train station by a countryman who is "shouting and exclaiming", and who, taking advantage of their dependence, manages to cheat them out of their money. Upon arriving on the land they have purchased at an inflated price, the Shimerdas have nothing, and are forced to live in a cave-like dwelling dug into a rough red hillock, and to subsist upon little more than meager portions of corncakes and sorghum molasses (Bk.I, Ch. III).