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Chapters 11-19 Summary and Analysis

Book I, Chapter XI Summary

Jim's grandparents plan to send Jake into town to do all their Christmas shopping, but this plan is foiled when a snowstorm shuts down the roads and make it impossible for them to drive to town. The Burdens instead settle in for a country Christmas. Jim makes Yulka a scrapbook for a present and sends it along with the other things the Burdens are sending the Shimerdas. He then helps his grandparents decorate the Christmas tree and feels grateful for his family and friends.

Book I, Chapter XI Analysis

Allusions

Tree of Knowledge. Officially called The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, this is the tree of whose fruit Eve ate in the Garden of Eden. Though tradition holds that this fruit was an apple, in fact, the tree has never been definitively identified, and the fruit has become a symbol of man's downfall.

Similes

Once again, this chapter is rich in similes, including this one: "...legends and stories nestled like birds in [the tree's] branches."

Themes

Family. For Jim, Christmas means family and holiday traditions. He takes comfort in having a Christmas tree and giving presents, and he enjoys talking to and observing Jake and Otto, his family's hired hands, who live with the Burdens and become not unlike his family. This is especially important when one considers that Jim was orphaned at the beginning of the novel.

Book I, Chapter XII Summary

On Christmas Day, Jim joins his grandparents and their hired hands, Jake and Otto, for morning prayers. Jim's grandfather isn't a verbose man, but leads the prayers beautifully. After breakfast, Otto sits down to write a letter to his mother while Jim and Jake play dominoes. Mr. Shimerda comes over, and the Burdens invite him to stay for dinner.

Book I, Chapter XII Analysis

Alliteration

Cather uses alliteration when she describes Mr. Shimerda wearing a "rabbit-skin cap and collar."

Allusions

St. Matthew. One of the twelve apostles of Jesus. St. Matthew was a tax collector who was called by Jesus to become an apostle. Cather refers to the Gospel According to Matthew, the first book of the New Testament.

Assonance

Cather uses internal rhyme in the line, "new mittens his wife had knitted."

Themes

Language. Cather continues to develop the theme of language by using it to characterize Jim's grandfather, a reserved man who doesn't often express his emotions. It's only through Grandfather's prayers that his family comes to know him. Language becomes a kind of window into the character's psyche. That window can close, however, and Otto's struggle to communicate in his native language has the effect of closing his past to the reader.

Religion. In this chapter, Cather emphasizes the differences between Mr. Shimerda's religious experience and the Burdens' religious experience. Mr. Shimerda is depicted as rigid and serious, whereas the Burdens enjoy a warm and genial Christmas replete with candles and presents.

Book I, Chapter XIII Summary

After Christmas, the ground thaws. Mrs. Shimerda and Antonia visit the Burdens. Mrs. Shimerda guilts Jim's grandmother into giving the Shimerdas a pot. Mr. Shimerda, Antonia says, has fallen into a depression and refuses to play his violin, but Jim is so put off by Mrs. Shimerda that he has no sympathy for her husband. Then, on Jim's eleventh birthday, a big storm hits. The Burdens are forced inside, and Jake and Otto spend all day digging just to make a path to the chicken coop.

Book I, Chapter XIII Analysis

Allusions

The Prince of the House of David by Joseph Holt Ingraham. An historical novel relating the story of Christ's years on Earth, as told through the eyes of a girl. The novel was published in 1859 and remained popular in Christian communities for years after.

Onomatopoeia

Cather uses onomatopoeia when she writes, "Thud, thud, we could hear the impact…"

Simile

When Jake and Otto come in out of the storm, Jim describes them as being "white as snow-men."

Themes

Nature.  At the end of this chapter, a huge storm buries the Burdens and their...

(The entire section is 2,587 words.)