Book I, Introduction and Chapters 1-10 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why does Cather have Jim Burden and the Bohemian immigrants arriving on the same train?

2. What is the significance of the train arriving at night?

3. Why does Jim want to be left alone in the garden?

4. To what does Jim compare the many-colored grasses on the prairie?

5. Why isn’t Mr. Shimerda’s fiddle of any use to him here?

6. What is the significance of the sunflower-lined roads?

7. Why does Jim visit trees “as if they were persons?”

8. Why does Cather choose to have the characters Pavel and Peter come from Russia?

9. Why does Cather have Antonia relay the tragic tale of the Russians to Jim?

10. Ms. Cather uses contrast to great effect in this section. Between what chapters do we see contrasts?

Answers
1. They are on a journey together, one that will ultimately forge a lasting friendship between Jim and Antonia.

2. Jim and the immigrants are strangers arriving in a new and savage land. The darkness emphasizes that they will have to struggle to make their way.

3. He feels a need for independence through his solitude with nature.

4. Jim compares the prairie to the ocean and its many-colored seaweeds.

5. Mr. Shimerda can’t make money playing it the way he did at home, and he has become too depressed to make music.

6. Legend tells of Mormons throwing sunflower seeds on their journey west, leaving a trail for others to follow in their quest to worship God.

7. Trees are rare on the prairie, and his love of nature makes him consider all life sacred.

8. The Russian language serves as a means for the Shimerdas to communicate with their neighbors and because Russia is a distant, cold, and isolated country. This works to foreshadow the tragedy that will befall not only Pavel and Peter, but Mr. Shimerda as well.

9. To show that they are still both separated by language, and to begin to show Antonia’s talent for storytelling.

10. We see contrasts between Chapters 3 and 4. The Shimerdas struggle to live on the land contrasting with Jim’s pleasant pony rides through the country. In Chapters 8 and 9, the tragic Russian tale contrasts with Otto Fuch’s humorous story. In Chapters 9 and 10, the Burden’s warm and cozy house contrasts with the Shimerda’s depressing cave.