What does Mr. Shimerda want Jim to do for Antonia? 

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mr. Shimerda never fully settles down in America. In fact, he never even wanted to come over in the first place. His inability to speak English is just one of many reasons why he doesn't fit in to his new environment. But though unable to adapt to life in his new country, Mr. Shimerda is determined that things will be different for his daughter.

That's why he wants Jim to teach Antonia English. This way, she'll be able to deal more effectively with the rigors of pioneer life on the plains. Unlike her father, she also won't be left at the mercy of unscrupulous swindlers like Krajiek. Mr. Shimerda wants his daughter to thrive in the United States in a way that he never could. But she won't be able to do this without a good command of English, hence his request that Jim teach Antonia.

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Margarete Abshire eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mr Shimerda wants Jim to teach Antonia to speak English.

The passage is in Book I, Chapter 3:

We went with Mr. Shimerda back to the dugout, where grandmother was waiting for me. Before I got into the wagon, he took a book out of his pocket, opened it, and showed me a page with two alphabets, one English and the other Bohemian. He placed this book in my grandmother’s hands, looked at her en- treatingly, and said with an earnestness which I shall never forget, “Te-e-ach, te-e-ach my Án-tonia!”

Mr Shimerda, who spoke only Bohemian, depended on Peter Krajiek as his interpreter. None of the Shimerdas could speak English -- "They could not speak enough English to ask for advice, or even to make their most pressing wants known" -- so they were completely at Krajiek's mercy. Mr Shimerda's plea for Jim to teach Antonia is both a token of his trust in the Burdens and Jim and Antonia's budding friendship, and a ploy to become independent of Krajiek.


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