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

Willa Cather

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

Symbols

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.

Themes

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).

Symbols

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.

Symbols

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.

Themes

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

Motifs

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.

Simile

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

Symbols

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.