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

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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.


(The entire section is 2,335 words.)