My Antonia Chapters 9-15 Summary and Analysis
by Willa Cather

My Antonia book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download My Antonia Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapters 9-15 Summary and Analysis

Book II, Chapter IX Summary

Jim notes that country girls aren't always treated with the respect they deserve in Black Hawk. In most cases, these country girls have come into town to help their families pay off the initial debts they incurred upon moving to America. Jim finds this very admirable, and knows that these girls will go on to marry other debt-free immigrants and manage big farms of their own. And yet, the girls work as servants in town and are treated as such.

Mothers in Black Hawk worry that their sons will be tempted by "hired girls" like Lena and Tiny and that they'll embarrass the family by having an affair or wishing to marry one of these country girls. Of course, this will never happen, because Black Hawk boys have been raised to prize their honor and social station over their carnal desires.

The three Marys become notorious for engaging in scandalous affairs. They have a reputation for tempting married men and having illegitimate children, and yet they're such good cooks that they always manage to find jobs. Meanwhile, a young banker named Sylvester Lovett falls head over heels in love with Lena and starts making mistakes at work. Desperate to take his mind off Lena, he married a widow and settles into a respectable life.

Book II, Chapter IX Analysis

Themes

Society. Never has the social stratification in Black Hawk been more apparent than in this chapter, where Jim discusses the unfair treatment Antonia and the other "hired girls" get from the townsfolk. To Jim, these girls are hardworking, strong, beautiful people who will go on to own successful farms and businesses, but to his more condescending counterparts, these hired girls are objects of desire unworthy of their respect. This divide prevents the two groups from understanding each other.

Book II, Chapter X Summary

Soon after Antonia starts attending the dances, she gains a reputation like Lena's. She's known to dance with many men a night and to allow one or another of them to walk her home every night. She becomes so obsessed with the dances that her work suffers, and Lena must come to help her with her work. One night, a man named Harry Paine kisses Antonia, and she slaps him, because he's engaged to be married the next Monday.

Mr. Harling happens to hear the slap. He tells Antonia that her behavior is unacceptable and that she's to stop attending the dances immediately. Antonia rebels, declaring that he has no authority over her private life, and that if she won't let her go out with her friends, then she'll find another job. She goes to work for the Cutters, in spite of Wick Cutter's reputation as a moneylender.

Book II, Chapter X Analysis

Symbols

Broken Dishes. When Antonia allows her social life to interfere with her work, she starts accidentally breaking a lot of dishes. These dishes are symbols of her dissatisfaction with her position as a servant.

Themes

Gender. It should be abundantly clear to readers by now that women in Black Hawk are held to different standards than men. Whereas the girls at the dances are considered "loose" and "wild," the boys these girls date aren't, and their reputations aren't destroyed by their actions. In fact, many of the men are described merely as being crazy in love, as if they've fallen victim to Antonia or Lena's beauty. This is a double-standard that does more harm than good.

Popularity. What Mr. Harling calls being "free" and "easy" is more appropriately called being "popular," and it's this popularity that gets Antonia and the other "hired girls" into trouble. This is a symptom of the double-standard that chastises women for behavior for which men are never penalized.

Book II, Chapter XI Summary

Jim introduces readers to Wick Cutter, the town moneylender. Cutter grew up in Iowa, where he learned a little Swedish from the settlers there. He was thus able to take advantage of the earlier Scandinavian settlers in Black Hawk and make himself a fortune. He married a gray, terrifying, mean-spirited woman, and they settled into...

(The entire section is 2,623 words.)