Jim asks Ántonia if she would like to go to school for the next semester. Ántonia refuses, saying that she is kept too busy by farm work:
Ántonia stood up, lifting and dropping her shoulders as if they were stiff. “I ain't got time to learn. I can work like mans now. My mother can't say no more how Ambrosch do all and nobody to help him. I can work as much as him. School is all right for little boys. I help make this land one good farm.”
Ántonia’s tears show that she is deeply saddened that she has to give up her dream of going to school. Ántonia would really like to attend school. She has always been interested in education, in books, in reading but now she feels obligated to work on the farm. She must give up the dream she had about school when she was younger. Jim does not understand this.
He and Ántonia have been growing apart for some time now and Jim does not really understand what is happening. He thinks that her family is ungrateful. He stays for dinner, but becomes more annoyed with Ántonia for ignoring him and talking to her brother in Bohemian, and talking about farm work and such. He does not understand the immigrant experience in America, that education is secondary. Family and survival are first. Ántonia is proud that she can help her family, even though she is sad she cannot attend school.
The significance of this episode shows how Jim and Ántonia have been growing apart, and also how little Jim understands or appreciates the immigrant experience.