Jim doesn't remember arriving at his grandfather's farm, and when he wakes up he's in bed in a little room in his grandparent's house.
His grandmother is looking at him and crying because Jim looks so much like his father (her son). She gives him clean clothes and brings him to the kitchen to have a bath behind the stove.
Jim goes with her into the basement. The floor is made of cement and the walls are plaster. He smells gingerbread baking. He takes a bath. A large cat comes along and watches. He tells his grandmother the cakes are burning and she comes in to take them out of the oven.
Jim's grandmother is a tall stooped woman who looks alert. She is energetic and quick, and she likes things to proceed in an orderly fashion. She is fifty-five and strong.
Jim dresses and looks at the cellar next to the kitchen where the men come and go from the fields.
While his grandmother makes supper, Jim hangs out with the cat. His grandmother tells him that the new immigrant family he saw on the train is from Bohemia (in Czechoslovakia in Central Europe) and is now their closest neighbor.
At dinner that night, they all talk about Virginia where Jake and Jim used to live with Jim's parents.
Jim's grandfather doesn't say much, and Jim senses a great amount of personal dignity in the man. He has a long white beard, a bald head, and blue eyes.
We learn that Otto Fuchs is an Austrian immigrant who came to America as a young boy. He was a cowboy in the West until he got pneumonia and had to tone it down. Now he works for Jim's grandfather.
After supper, Otto gives Jim a pony named Dude. Then he explains that he lost his ear in a blizzard, and he teaches Jim how to throw a lasso. He shows Jim and Jake his cowboy boots, too.
Later the family says prayers. Jim's grandfather reads Psalms and has a great voice.
The next morning Jim takes a good look at his new house from the outside. It's one of the only real wooden houses around. He notes the windmill, a small pond, and a large cornfield. Everywhere is the red grass of the prairie, constantly moving in the wind.
Grandmother comes out and asks Jim to come into the garden with her to dig potatoes. She brings a cane with her so that she can kill rattlesnakes with it. They walk a quarter of the mile to get to the garden, and Jim checks out the landscape on the way.
In the garden, Jim's grandmother points out a badger hole. She says she won't kill the badger because she feels friendly towards the local animals. She leaves Jim alone in the garden after she gets her potatoes.
Jim leans against a pumpkin and feels at one with nature. He sees grasshoppers, gophers, and lots more tall grass. He feels happy and defines happiness as being dissolved into something great.
On Sunday morning Otto drives Jim and his grandparents over to the new Bohemian neighbors. They bring food with them. On the way, Jim looks at the red grass of the prairie and the sunflowers.
We learn that the Bohemian family, the Shimerdas, bought the farm from a fellow countryman named Peter Krajiek and that they got ripped off. They don't speak a lot of English and so they rely on Peter as an interpreter. The father doesn't know much about farming but the oldest son is strong and competent.
Grandmother and Otto talk about how it's a shame that Peter ripped off this family. Otto says he would have tried to help, except Bohemians have a natural distrust of Austrians.
Their wagon approaches Squaw Creek and Jim sees a thatched shed made out of red grass next to a broken-down windmill. When they arrive, a woman and a young girl come out of the house to greet them. Grandmother and Mrs. Shimerda say hello to each other; Mrs. Shimerda laments the condition of her house, but Grandmother is encouraging. Mrs. Shimerda is grateful for the food.
The oldest son is named Ambrosch and is nineteen. The girl who is close to Jim's age is pretty; she has big brown eyes, tan skin, and curly hair. The little sister is called Yulka. The other son is mentally retarded and physically disabled. The father has long hair and is tall and slender; he kisses Grandmother's hand. Jim thinks he is very dignified.
Ántonia and Yulka take Jim by the hand and lead him away into the prairie. It's windy, and the three of them are enjoying themselves together. Ántonia keeps pointing at things and asking Jim to tell her the word in English.
Ántonia tries to give Jim her ring. Jim refuses to take it and is bothered that someone so poor would try to give away what little she had.
After some time Mr. Shimerda comes to meet them and bring them back to the house where Jim's grandmother is waiting. Before the Burdens depart, Mr. Shimerda gives Jim's grandmother a book with two alphabets in it (English and Bohemian) and asks her to teach Ántonia.
Jim likes Ántonia, but he doesn't like her superior attitude. She is older than he and so she treats him like a child sometimes. But then one adventure changes that.
One day Jim rides over to the Shimerdas and finds Ántonia getting ready to go to Russian Peter's house to borrow a spade for Ambrosch. He ends up taking her there on his pony. On the way home with the spade, Ántonia gets him to stop at the prairie-dog town and dig into one of the holes to see what it looks like.
The prairie-dog town is large and spread out. Jim notes how orderly it seems. The dogs scurry underground as Jim approaches. He and Ántonia check out a big hole with two entrances. Then Ántonia screams, and Jim spots the biggest rattlesnake he's ever seen. She starts yelling in Bohemian. The snake rattles, and Jim sees that he is about to strike. He starts jabbing at the snake with his spade until it's dead.
After, Ántonia tells Jim he should have run. But she's impressed that he's so brave. She insists that they bring the dead snake back home for everyone to see. Jim points out the green liquid coming out of the snake's head and says it's the poison. They measure the snake to be five and a half feet long with 24 rattles. Ántonia says this means the snake is 24 years old.
Jim starts to feel proud of what he did. He respects the snake as the ancient and oldest Evil. Dude is too scared to let them come near him with the dead snake, so Ántonia rides him home while Jim walks beside, dragging the snake behind him and feeling proud of himself.
When they get home Otto greets them first. He asks how Jim killed the snake, and he thinks it's lucky they had a spade with them. Ántonia gushes about Jim's bravery. He and Otto go to hang the snake up in the windmill, while Ántonia goes into the kitchen to tell the story once again.
Later, Jim learns that this particular snake was old and that's why he didn't fight too much. He knows that a younger snake that size would have outmatched him.
The snake hangs there and several neighbors come to admire it over the next few days. Ántonia likes Jim much better from then on and she stops acting so superior.
As fall comes to an end the Russians start having some trouble. Peter tells Mr. Shimerda that he had to mortgage all his stuff to pay a bill to Wick Cutter, a terrible moneylender who lives in town who took advantage of Peter on interest rates.
Then Pavel hurt himself working and is now laid up in bed. Everyone says the Russians have bad luck.
One day Ántonia and her father come to the Burdens' to get some buttermilk. Before they leave, Russian Peter drives up. He says Pavel is very sick and wants to see Mr. Shimerda and Ántonia. Grandmother lets Jim go along as well, and gives him sandwiches and doughnuts to take.
Ántonia and Jim ride together in the back of the wagon and huddle for warmth.
Peter groans that Pavel might die. Jim looks up at the stars and wonders what influence they have on earthly events.
When they arrive, Pavel seems to be asleep. His breathing is labored. It's very windy outside and Jim can hear coyotes. Pavel cries out as though he's having a bad dream.
Ántonia tells Jim that Pavel is scared of wolves, because in his country the wolves eat people. Jim can't stop looking at the ghastly sight of Pavel. Peter mixes the sick man some water and whiskey. Pavel drinks it.
Finally Pavel tells Mr. Shimerda a long story in Russian which Jim cannot understand. Ántonia listens and holds Jim's hand the whole time. She tells Jim that the story is about wolves. Pavel gets all worked up as he tells it. He coughs up blood and then falls asleep.
Peter drives the guests home. On the way back, Ántonia repeats the story to Jim.
When Peter and Pavel were young men in Russia they were groomsmen for a friend getting married. After the wedding everyone had to travel by sledge over to the after-party. After the party everyone had to go home by sledge; by then it was late at night.
It was winter and there were lots of wolves everywhere. On the way home all the sledges were attacked by a huge pack of wolves.
Peter and Pavel were driving the sledge with the groom and bride in it, and they tried to get the groom to throw the bride over so as to lighten their load and let them outrun the wolves. When the groom refused, they threw both him and the bride overboard to save their own lives.
Peter and Pavel ended up being the only survivors, but they were then pariahs in their town and so they left and came to America. End of the story.
Pavel dies several days later. Peter buries him, sells all their stuff, and goes off to work as a cook. The Burdens buy some of the stuff he auctions off. Peter looks depressed the whole time. Supposedly he kissed his cow before it was sold, but Jim doesn't know if this is true or not. Before Peter leaves he eats the melons he had been saving for winter.
Afterwards, Mr. Shimerda gets very depressed now that his two friends are gone. He often goes out to the empty log house and sits in it alone.
Jim and Ántonia never repeat the story of the wolves to anyone; they get a strange sense of pleasure out of this. Jim often dreams that he is in a sledge pulled by horses, just like in the story.
The Burdens don't hear anything from the Shimerdas for several weeks after the sleigh ride. One night, Otto tells them that he saw Mr. Shimerda out hunting, wearing his rabbit-skin hat and collar. He says that the family only has one overcoat between them and they take turns wearing it. The winter has been very tough on the Shimerdas.
Jake says that the oldest child never wears the coat, because he's so strong and the cold doesn't bother him.
Then he says that Ambrosch showed him three prairie dogs he'd shot the other day and wanted to know if they were edible. Jake told him no, but Ambrosch chose not to listen.
Grandmother doesn't like the idea of the Shimerdas eating prairie dogs, so grandfather tells her to make a trip over there the next day.
Fuchs explains that prairie dogs are fine to eat, it's just that they belong to the rat family so no one likes to.
The next morning Grandmother and Jake pack a basket of food to bring over to the Shimerdas. Grandmother wants him to bring an old dead rooster. She says that Mrs. Shimerda should have a hen house going by now.
Jake says he doesn't want Krajiek to get to eat any of the rooster.
Jim goes with Jake and his grandmother over to the Shimerdas'. When they arrive, they see Ántonia outside pumping water. She runs inside.
The visitors make their way to the doorway. Mrs. Shimerda greets them but she's talking very fast in Bohemian and doesn't seem very friendly. Mr. Shimerda is sitting behind the stove with Yulka, and Ántonia is washing dishes. Marek lies under the window by the door.
Mrs. Shimerda shows the visitors two barrels, one with rotting potatoes and one with a little bit of flour. She also shakes an empty coffee pot at them.
Jim's grandmother tries to be polite, and finally Jake brings in the hamper of food they brought. Mrs. Shimerda starts crying on the floor, so Grandmother asks Ántonia to help her unload the basket. She tells Grandmother not to pay attention to her mother, who is very sad.
Then Mr. Shimerda takes Grandmother by the arm and shows her a place where they've dug a hole in the earth and laid down straw and quilts. He explains that Yulka and Ántonia sleep in there because it's warm.
Grandmother tells Ántonia that she'll have a nicer house soon enough, and then she will forget these hard times.
Then Mr. Shimerda has Ántonia translate so he can talk to Grandmother. He says that in his old country, they were respected and lived well, and left for America with a thousand dollars in savings.
It was just that everything on the way cost more than they thought it would. If they make it to spring, he says, they should do very well for themselves. Ántonia explains that they're going to build themselves a real log house once the spring comes.
Grandmother encourages them while Jim plays on the floor with Yulka and Marek.
Mrs. Shimerda starts to calm down. When the visitors get ready to leave, she gives them a cup of weird-smelling stuff that she cooks with. Grandmother hesitates to accept it, but Ántonia assures her that it is very good and that you can put it on anything.
On the way home, Grandmother complains that the Shimerdas don't have great common sense. Jake says that Ambrosch is a good worker but he's mean.
When they get home, they can't figure out what the smelly stuff is. Narrator-Jim says that he later found out that they were dried mushrooms and probably came from Bohemia.
On the 22nd Jim wakes up. He hears voices and knows that something has just happened. Jake and Otto are in the kitchen looking tired, and Grandmother keeps praying to God.
Finally, Grandfather explains that Mr. Shimerda is dead, and that Otto and Jake have been at the Shimerdas half the night. He shows him that Ambrosch is there asleep.
Everyone has breakfast and Jim knows better than to ask too many questions.
Otto tells Jim's grandfather that no one heard the gun go off. Grandmother wonders how such a sweet man could inflict this much trouble on the people he loved.
Fuchs says it was no accident, that the man shaved and got dressed all nice before he shot himself in the head. Since all he had was a long rifle, he had to use his big toe to pull the trigger.
But Jake isn't sure that Mr. Shimerda committed suicide. He says he found Peter Krajiek's axe there and that it fit the gash in the old man's face. Krajiek is afraid that if anyone finds that out they'll hang him.
But Fuchs is sure that it was a suicide.
Grandmother wants to go along with the men to the Shimerdas. She is particularly worried about Ántonia, because she thinks Ambrosch will take advantage of her willingness to work and not take good care of her.
Otto rides into town to get the priest and the coroner.
This leaves Jim with Ambrosch. Jim is surprised to see that he is devout and praying all the time, which is very unlike him.
Finally Grandfather, Grandmother, Jake, and Ambrosch set off for the Shimerdas, and Jim is left by himself in the house for the first time ever. He does some of the chores and tries to read a book. He thinks Robinson Crusoe's life is boring compared to his own adventures. So instead he thinks about Mr. Shimerda's soul.
Jim decides that homesickness killed Mr. Shimerda. He wonders whether the man's spirit will go back to Bohemia, or just rest there in Nebraska. He decides that the spirit is right here in the Burden house, but this doesn't frighten him.
Jim goes into the kitchen and thinks some more about Mr. Shimerda. He pictures what the man's life was like.
Everyone returns after dark. Grandmother goes to bed while Jake and Jim get supper ready. Jake explains that no one can touch the body until the coroner arrives, and now it's frozen stiff in the barn. The Shimerdas keep taking turns going into the barn in the cold to pray by the body. Ambrosch thinks it will take several years of prayers for them to get his soul out of purgatory.
This confuses Jim, because he likes to think that Mr. Shimerda's spirit is on its way back to Bohemia.
He thinks about how religious literature says that suicides are selfish and will be tormented. But he doesn't think that Mr. Shimerda was selfish, just unhappy.
Otto gets back from town the next day, exhausted from his trip. He reports that the coroner is coming later that day. He brought with him a young Bohemian eager to help his countrymen, named Anton Jelinek. He immediately thanks Grandmother for helping the Shimerdas.
Jim admires Anton. The young man goes to school in town.
At dinner Grandfather talks more than usual. He also likes Anton. The men discuss whether or not a priest will be willing to come to a suicide. Grandfather thinks no priest is necessary for Mr. Shimerda's soul to reach heaven, but Anton thinks prayer is necessary. He tells a story to explain:
When he was young he was an altar boy. During war with the Prussians lots of men died, and he used to go with the priest to say the last rites. Everyone in the camp got sick from cholera except for he and the priest, because they were carrying the holy sacrament with them.
Grandfather admires the young man's faith.
After dinner Anton starts trying to cut a path through the snow to the Shimerda's house so that a wagon can get through. Otto sets to making a coffin.
Jim admires Anton's long wolf skin coat, which was made from coyotes he shot and skinned himself. He watches Anton start to cut the path through the snow.
Grandfather rides off to the Shimerdas to meet the coroner there. Otto starts work on the coffin while Jim watches. He tells a story about the last time he made a coffin, when he was working in Colorado. An Italian died in a mine and he was the only guy around who knew how to make a coffin.
Everyone agrees that it's a good thing Otto is around to make the coffin.
Jim likes listening to the sounds of the coffin being made. He wonders why Otto didn't choose to become a cabinetmaker, since he seems to like carpentry so much. He even sings while he works.
At 4pm Mr. Bushy the postmaster stops by. He is another neighbor who is on his way to the Shimerdas' house. Several other neighbors stop by and Grandmother feeds them all cake. Everyone wants to know details about the suicide and they all discuss where Mr. Shimerda will be buried. They worry that a suicide won't be allowed to get buried in the Catholic graveyard.
Jim thinks it's nice that everyone is talking to each other. He listens to several more of Otto's stories, but we don't get to hear any of them in detail.
The postmaster stops back at the Burdens' again on his way home from the Shimerdas'. He reports that the Norwegian burial yard has refused to take in Mr. Shimerda's body. This angers Grandmother.
Then Grandfather returns with Anton and the coroner. The coroner thinks that Krajiek killed Mr. Shimerda, but Grandfather has talked him into letting that possibility go. Also, Krajiek is acting very guilty.
At supper everyone continues to talk about where they should bury Mr. Shimerda. Ambrosch and Mrs. Shimerda want to bury him on the corner of their land. Grandfather tells Ambrosch that someday there will be a crossroads there, but Ambrosch doesn't care. Grandfather seems to think there is some superstition in Bohemia about burying a suicide at cross-roads.
Jim sees even less of the Shimerdas after he starts going to school in town. He rides into town every day and has made some friends among his classmates, which he considers revenge against Ántonia. He doesn't like that Ambrosch is influencing Ántonia more and more.
One event caused a rift between the Shimerdas and the Burdens. One day Jim and Jake rode over to the Shimerdas to get a horse-collar back that Ambrosch had borrowed. The whole family is working hard when they arrive.
At first, Ambrosch tries to say that he doesn't have the collar. But Jake insists. Jim can tell that Ambrosch is in a mean mood. Ambrosch comes back with a ratty old horse-collar, and Jake is angry since he loaned him a nice horse-collar.
Ambrosch drops the collar on the ground and turns to leave. Jake grabs him and pulls him back and the two start to fight. Ambrosch fights dirty, and Jake ends up smacking him in the head.
Ántonia and her mother come running. Mrs. Shimerda is yelling for the law, while Ántonia tells Jim that they aren't friends anymore. Jake calls them ungrateful and the two of them ride back home. On the way, Jake explains that you can't ever trust foreigners. Jim agrees he will never be friends with a foreigner again.
Grandfather listens to the story but seems amused by it. He tells Jake to ride into town tomorrow and pay the fine for knocking a man down. He also tells him to take a pig to market that he's been fattening up for selling.
The Shimerdas ride to town the next day to try and get Jake in trouble for slapping Ambrosch, but Jake gets to town first to pay the fine and so it's already taken care of. Ambrosch finds out that Jake sold a pig the same day and he thinks that the Burdens were forced to sell their pig to pay the fine (which they were not). The Shimerdas take great pleasure in taunting the Burdens about this.
Otto is unfazed by the Shimerdas' behavior, because he says Austrians know what Czechs are like.
Grandfather never took part in the feud between the two families. He always treated the Shimerdas well.
In June Ambrosch and Marek work for hire at Mr. Bushy's. That leaves Ántonia and Mrs. Shimerda to do the work at their own farm. One of their horses gets sick and so Ántonia rides over to the Burdens one night to get help. Grandfather goes with her to the farm and cures the horse.
Later they learn that Ambrosch gave the wages he earned working at Mr. Bushy's to a priest to pray for his father's soul. Grandmother thinks this is foolish, but Grandfather admires it.
Finally Grandfather gets the two families to reconcile. He decides to hire Ambrosch to help him in the fields and Ántonia to help in the kitchen. He brings Jim over there to make arrangements in person.
They head over after breakfast. Mrs. Shimerda sees them coming and hides behind the stable, but Grandfather just ties up his horse and follows her. They find her trying to hide the cow she bought from Grandfather. Grandfather ignores this and greets her. He asks where they can find Ambrosch.
Mrs. Shimerda points them in the direction of the North field and says Ántonia is there, too. Grandfather explains that he wants to hire both of them. Then he tells her they can call it even on the cow, that she doesn't owe him any more money.
Mrs. Shimerda kisses Grandfather's hand as a thank-you. As they drive away, Grandfather says she probably thought they were coming to take the cow back.
The next day Mrs. Shimerda comes over to the Burdens' to bring Jake a pair of socks she knitted. She clearly wants to make peace, though she still taunts Jake about having to sell the pig to pay for slapping Ambrosch.
Jake is unruffled, and says that it's fine with him and she can have the last word.
Three years after Jim came to Nebraska, Grandfather decides to move them into the town of Black Hawk. Jim is thirteen and his grandparents are getting too old for farm work. They rent the farm out to the Widow Steavens and her brother, and they buy a house in town. They plan to move in March.
Otto decides to go back out West and Jake wants to go with him, though the Burdens try to change his mind as he's not as well suited to rough terrain and people. But he decides to go off and be a prospector in Colorado anyway.
Both Jake and Otto help with the move into town before they leave. Jim reflects on how loyal these men have been throughout the years. He thinks of them as brothers.
Months later they get a postcard from Otto that says they are working in a mine, but that Jake has mountain fever. Jim tries to write back to them, but his letter comes back as unclaimed and he never hears from either of the young men again.
Black Hawn is a small prairie town with brick buildings and several churches. The Burdens' new house overlooks the town and a nearby river, where Jim gets to play.
It only takes about a month in town for them to start feeling like they belong there. Grandfather is a deacon at church and Grandmother helps organize events there. Jim starts adapting to the town children's games and habits. Their neighbor, Mrs. Harling, tries to keep him civil, however.
Jim finds that he sees even more of his country neighbors than he used to because their house is on the edge of town and it's a convenient stopping place for anyone coming in to Black Hawk. They let the visitors stop and rest and eat. He hopes that Ambrosch will bring Ántonia and Yulka to town some time so that he can show them his house.
But Ambrosch always comes alone and never wants to stay for dinner or talk. So they get much of their news from Mrs. Steavens, who also likes Ántonia. She reports that Ambrosch hires Ántonia out like a man to do farm work, and that she's good at it.
When fall arrives, Grandmother gets Mrs. Harling to hire Ántonia to work for her in town so that the girl doesn't have to go out in the fields.
The kids all tease Ántonia about how much she likes Charley. They are in the process of making popcorn balls at the Harlings' when the door rings. It is a pretty, dressed-up girl named Lena Lingard. Jim almost doesn't recognize her, because she was a farm girl too at one point.
Lena explains that now she's come to town to work, just like Tony.
Mrs. Harling comes in and looks Lena up and down disapprovingly. She wants to know where the girl is working, and Lena says she's working for the dressmaker, Mrs. Thomas. She says she's going to use the money to help out her mother, who is still back on the farm.
Mrs. Harling is very rude to the girl, but Lena ignores it. Frances invites her to sit down with them.
We learn that Lena was supposed to marry a boy named Nick, except his father wouldn't allow it. Now Nick is marrying some other girl. Lena doesn't mind though, because she says she's seen a lot of married life and has decided she doesn't want it.
Another girl, Tiny Soderball, is in the same situation as Tony and Lena and has come to town to work to make money for her family back on the farm. She's working at a hotel in town run by Mrs. Gardener. Mrs. Harling doesn't like the idea of that.
Before Lena goes, she takes Ántonia aside and asks her to come visit sometime. Ántonia is hesitant, because Mrs. Harling doesn't like her out and about. Lena insists.
After Lena leaves, Frances asks Ántonia why she wasn't more friendly to Lena. Ántonia explains that she was afraid that Mrs. Harling wouldn't like a girl like that coming around, because Lena had a bad reputation out on the farm.
Jim runs home to tell his grandmother that Lena came to town, and they're glad that she gets to leave her hard life on the farm.
Lena lived on a farm in a Norwegian settlement and used to herd her father's cattle. Jim was always amazed that she managed to stay so feminine even though she was doing rough man's work. She has a gentle voice and violet eyes.
Her father is a bad farmer and they have a big family. Lena always tries to take care of her brothers and sisters. She was talked about because a man named Ole Benson fell in love with her.
Ole was lazy and had a crazy wife named Crazy Mary. She was put in an insane asylum after setting a barn on fire, but escaped and walked home two hundred miles and no one sent her back even though she made the landscape considerably less attractive.
When Ole was out in the field he used to go sit with Lena and watch the cattle with her. The whole settlement got upset and the preacher's wife tried to get Lena to start coming to church, which would probably make her less desirable. The preacher's wife also gave Lena a dress to wear, because Lena's was ragged and had lots of holes in it.
So Lena comes to church in one of the preacher's wife's dresses, and she looks so pretty dressed-up that everyone realizes how attractive she is, which means the preacher's wife really shot everyone in the foot. Ole is there too, and he makes a point of helping Lena onto her horse after the mass.
This makes Crazy Mary angry, and so she runs after Lena with a knife.
Lena finds the whole thing funny.
Except Crazy Mary continues to chase Lena with a knife, which is not so funny. One day she chases Lena all the way to the Shimderdas' farm and demonstrates to everyone how sharp her knife is. Lena hides in Ántonia's room and later Mrs. Shimerda tells her not to make eyes at Ole.
Lena says she didn't provoke Ole, and she can't help it if he comes around staring at her.
Jim thinks that winter lasts too long in town, and that it's worse to go through winter there than it was back on the farm.
He often goes with the Harlings to the river to ice skate and make bonfires on the shore. By March, though, he is tired of the weather.
So he is grateful when a famous Negro piano player named Blind d'Arnault comes to town to give a concert at the opera house. Before the concert, the piano player is spending the weekend at the town hotel where Tiny Soderball works. It turns out that Mrs. Harling has known this man for years, so she advises Ántonia to go visit Tiny at the hotel while he's staying there.
Saturday evening Jim goes down the hotel and sits in the parlor to wait for Blind d'Arnault to play. There is a stove at either end of the room and a piano in the middle.
Everyone is happy that night because the owner, Mrs. Gardener, was out of town for the week.
(Mrs. Gardener is the best-dressed woman in Black Hawk, owns the best horse and sleigh, but doesn't flaunt her possessions. She is rather cold and distant.)
Her husband isn't a great manager, and mostly just chats with the travelers.
There is a man named Anson Kirkpatrick at the piano when Jim comes in. Several of the men staying at the hotel are sitting around in the parlor chatting.
Johnnie Gardener enters, directing Blind d'Arnault where to go. The piano player is a heavyset man and his eyes are closed. He greets the men in a soft voice.
Jim thinks that Blind d'Arnault looks and sounds like a stereotypical black man should. He also thinks he looks happy.
Blind d'Arnault finds his way to the piano. Jim notices that he constantly sways a bit. He tries some scales on the piano and tells the crowd that it seems just fine to him. He says he wants to sing some plantation songs.
Then he plays, swaying in time to the music with his eyes closed.
Jim explains that the man was born in the far south on a plantation, where the spirit though not the fact, of slavery persisted. When he was an infant an illness left him blind, and soon after he had another illness that left him nervously swaying all the time.
His mother was ashamed of him and hid him from people. She called him Samson. When he was six he used to run away up to the plantation and listen to one of the plantation owners, Miss d'Arnault, playing the piano. His mother used to beat him if she caught him.
When Miss d'Arnault saw him listening, she saw how happy the music made him. One day, when the piano room was empty, he crept over to the piano and started playing. Miss d'Arnault returned with her teacher, which scared him so much he had a fit.
When Samson recovered, Miss d'Arnault got teachers for him at the piano. It turned out he had perfect pitch and memory. He didn't play in a technically correct manner, but the music sounded good anyway.
Back to the present time. As Blind d'Arnault begins to play, one of the men in the parlor hears dancing from the room next door. Anson looks into the next room to find Ántonia, Tiny, Lena, and another girl named Mary Dusak. He gets them to come into the parlor and dance with the men.
Tiny protests, because she knows Mrs. Gardener wouldn't like it. But the men convince them. Johnnie doesn't want to participate, however, because he's afraid of his wife finding out.
Blind d'Arnault starts playing dance music. Jim is fascinated by watching his face and body while he plays; he thinks the man looks very exotic and savage.
Jim describes some of the girls. Tiny is small and wears short dressed. Mary is broad and has marks from smallpox but is still pretty. In short, they all look good.
Blind d'Arnault finishes playing and shows the guests his fancy jewelry. Then he goes upstairs with his manager. Jim walks Ántonia home and they stand outside by the gate at the Harlings' whispering late into the night.
When spring comes, everyone is happy. Jim and Tony help Mrs. Harling take care of her garden, and the kids play outside.
Summer is coming, which narrator-Jim says will change everything.
When boys and girls are supposed to grow up, he writes, nothing can stop them. Their parents often don't remember this.
In June Jim stops at the Harlings' to tell them that a dancing pavilion has come to town. Three Italian immigrants came to town and found a vacant lot to set up a tent for dancing. In the winter they work in Kansas City and in the summer they settle down in some farming town to teach dancing. Whenever business starts to slow down they just move on to another town.
Soon after the tent is put up everyone starts sending their kids there to learn how to dance. Mrs. Vanni, one of the three Italians, dresses very nicely and teaches the children. Her husband, Mr. Vanni, plays the harp for them.
Many of the mothers come and watch their children learn how to dance. Others come as spectators, and vendors start selling snacks there.
The Vannis are very organized and always close up on time.
Jim is glad that there's finally something to do other than sit on your porch all night. The girls finally have an excuse to wear new clothes. He wonders why they haven't had one of these before.
Dancing becomes the new fad in town. Everyone who pays to get in is welcome.
Jim goes to every Saturday night dance, when the pavilion is open until midnight. Everyone comes in, the country boys from the farms and the people from the town. Many of the hired girls are there - girls like Ántonia and Tiny and Lena who used to live on farms but have come to town to work. The town boys like to dance with them, even though their girlfriends don't like the idea.
Jim explains the social situation in Black Hawk. The men who live in town are attracted to the country girls.
The country girls grew up with hard lives, like Ántonia, and they aren't formally educated. But Jim thinks they are smarter and more interesting than those who are more privileged.
Physically they are strong and fit, especially compared to the town girls who rarely go outside. This means they're better dancers.
And yet, the town girls still think that they're better than the country girls.
Jim notes that these girls' own families had just as hard a time when they were farmers, but that Americans weren't willing to send their daughters out to work the way the immigrants were.
All the Americans' daughters can do is teach, but the immigrant daughters don't know English well-enough for that, so they have to do service work.
This is why, says Jim, the foreign farmers are the ones who become successful first, and the younger generation ends up more wealthy than the American families they used to work for.
Jim thinks it's dumb that the town people don't respect the hired girls. He knows that many of the immigrants used to be respectable in their old countries - Lena's grandfather was a clergyman, for example.
Narrator-Jim is glad that he lived to see the day where the immigrants are more successful than the people they served once.
The town boys plan on marrying the town girls, but they are attracted to the immigrant girls.
Because of this, the immigrants threaten to upset the social order. But this is an empty threat, since the town boys wouldn't dare to marry any of them.
Yet the immigrant girls are still a temptation for any young man of position. He would run into them all over town and be tempted by their beauty.
Jim talks a bit about the three Marys, immigrant girls who also worked in town. Mary Dusak worked as a housekeeper for a bachelor, but he got her pregnant. Later she ended up working in the place of Mary Svoboda, who also got pregnant by her employer. Because of this, the three Marys are considered dangerous to have around. But they are very good at cooking and cleaning.
The dancing tent brings together everyone in town from different social positions. Sylvester Lovett is a town boy who always dances with Lena on Saturday nights and even walks her home. But he tries to hide if his friends walk by. He reminds Jim of Ole.
Jim finds out that Sylvester drove out to see Lena when she was visiting her family on the farm. He took her buggy riding. Jim hopes that Sylvester will marry Lena and erase the taboo about socializing with hired girls.
But instead, Sylvester marries a widow who is six years his senior. Then he was no longer tempted by Lena.
Jim dislikes Sylvester a lot on account of this.
Once Ántonia leaves the Harlings, she becomes even more interested in partying. She always makes clothes with Lena's help, copying the fancy dresses of older, wealthy women in town. This makes these rich women upset.
She also starts wearing gloves and high heels, which attract attention.
Jim is in high school now and at recess he always watches the girls walk by. He likes to think that Ántonia is prettier than all the others.
He hangs out with the hired girls a lot after school. One day they tease him because his grandmother said she wanted Jim to be a preacher. There's a lot of flirting all around.
Ántonia says that she wants Jim to be a doctor.
Jim says that he's going to be what he wants, not what other people want.
People in town start talking about how Jim is always hanging out with the hired girls. They think it's weird that he would rather hang out with them than town girls his own age.
After the Vannis' dance tent leaves town, dancing remains a fad. The Owl Club holds dances, but Jim doesn't go. He is moody because he's a teenager, and he's tired of his small town.
Mrs. Harling isn't nice to Jim because he's friends with Ántonia.
Jim gets bored in the evenings when there's nothing to do. Sometimes he walks around town looking for activity.
Black Hawk has two saloons, one of which is a nice place, owned by Anton Jelinek. Jim goes in there sometimes, until Anton asks him not to. Anton says that he's friends with Jim's grandfather, who wouldn't like his grandson going to a saloon.
Sometimes Jim hangs out at the drugstore listening to the old men who sit around there telling stories.
Other times he goes to the depot to watch the trains come in. He talks with the telegrapher who shows him pictures of famous people, or with the station agent who is generally unhappy.
Jim really doesn't like his town anymore. He's bored and he thinks people are too guarded.
Instead of going to dances at the Owl Club, Jim decides to go to dances at the Fireman's Hall, because it is a different crowd. But he can't tell his grandparents about it because they wouldn't approve.
So Jim has to sneak out of his house at night. He has fun at the dances, and the hired girls are always there.
Four Danish hired girls work for the laundryman. He pays them well and they live with him and his wife. He seems like a fairly happy man.
Jim notices that these girls aren't as ambitious as Tony or Lena and they don't know as much English, but he thinks they're nice anyway.
Tony and Lena are the most popular girls at these dances. Lena doesn't talk much and dances every dance as though it is a waltz. Tony adds more variety and is more lively.
Jim wonders what Ántonia's life would have been like if her father hadn't died but had stayed in New York and made a living playing his fiddle.
Ántonia starts dating Larry Donovan, a passenger conductor and a bit of a player.
One night when Larry is out of town, Jim walks Ántonia home from the dance. He tells her to kiss him good night. She says sure.
After they kiss, Ántonia chastises Jim for kissing her that way and threatens to tell his grandmother.
Jim replies that Lena lets him kiss her that way.
This upsets Ántonia. She doesn't want Lena to start something with Jim. Then she tells Jim that he has to go away to school and make something of his life. She tells him not to get mixed up with the Swedes.
Jim tells her not to treat him like a kid. Ántonia laughs.
After he leaves, Jim reflects that he is proud of Ántonia. She is still his Ántonia, he thinks. He might be just a boy, but he knows who the real women in town are.
Jim goes home to sleep. Sometimes he dreams that he and Ántonia are frolicking around in the country together. Sometimes he dreams sexy dreams about Lena. He wishes he could have sexy dreams about Ántonia, but he never does.
The next day Jim starts studying for college right away. That summer he learns trigonometry and Virgil. He memorizes long passages from the Aeneid.
Sometimes he goes over to listen to Mrs. Harling play the piano. She likes having a boy around since her son Charley isn't at home anymore.
One day in July Jim takes a break from studying and goes down to the river with Ántonia, Tiny, and Lena.
The girls are going to pick elder berries to make wine with. Jim looks at the flowers and trees and grass on his way to meet them. He sees some orange milkweed that is rare. The country looks very empty to him.
Jim crosses the bridge and goes upstream to a secluded spot of dogwood. He takes off his clothes so he can go swimming. He realizes how homesick he is for the country. He looks at the sandbars in the middle of the river. He remembers hunting there with Charley when they were younger.
Jim goes swimming and plays in the water. Then the girls come along in a horse-drawn carriage. They look very lovely to Jim. He tells them that they look pretty, and they reply that he does as well.
Jim gets out of the water and dries himself off. He gets dressed and goes over to the bridge. On the way he has to pull piece of water gullies off himself.
Jim explains that the elder bushes are down by the water, rather than in the ravines. The blossoms are especially nice this summer.
He goes down a cattle path to get down to the water's edge. He feels happy and drowsy. He looks over a bank and sees Ántonia sitting alone. He can tell that she's been crying. He goes down to her and asks what's wrong.
Ántonia explains that the smell of the flowers makes her homesick for Bohemia. It used to grow in their yard and her father used to sit by them and play the trombone. She always liked to go listen to him sitting out there with his friends and talking.
Jim asks what they used to talk about. She says they talked about the woods and God and what they used to do when they were young.
Ántonia asks Jim if he thinks her father's spirit made it back home. He tells her all about that feeling he had back when her father died.
Ántonia wishes Jim had told her that before. She explains that her father was very different from her mother. She implies that her father got her mother pregnant and that's why he had to marry her. Ántonia's mother was a poor hired girl who used to work for her father's family. Her father's family was angry that he married her instead of just paying her money. Her grandmother would never let her back in the house after that.
Jim lies on the grass and looks up the sky. He listens to the bees and looks at the flowers. He thinks that Ántonia is just like she was when she was a little girl.
He tells her that some day he's going to go to Bohemia and find the town she used to live in.
Ántonia explains that she would still know her way around her hometown. She's never forgotten it.
Lena comes over and joins them. She looks flushed as she was in Jim's dreams. He finds her to be very energetic.
They all have lunch together at the top of a hill. They look at the trees and the river and the town in the distance. Everyone points out where her own family farm is and says how big it is.
Tony says that her family has twenty acres of rye.
Lena talks about how difficult it must have been for their mothers to come to a new county.
Anna talks about her grandmother, who is senile and forgets what country she's in. She always brings her grandmother fish when she goes to visit.
Lena tries to get the sand off of Jim. Ántonia doesn't like her flirting so she pushes her away and tries to get the sand off herself.
Ántonia tells Lena that her feet are too big for her shoes so she asks for them to give to Yulka. Lena complies.
Lena notices how Ántonia gets things for her little sister and says that she (Lena) should try to do the same for her sister Mary.
Tiny says she has six younger siblings, but likes to buy them playthings instead of necessities. Anna thinks that's because they didn't have toys when they were little.
Lena vows to get her mother out of the farmhouse, since the men in her family probably won't be able to. She's thinking about moving to another town and starting up her own business soon. Maybe she'll marry a rich gambler...
Anna wishes she could teach school.
They all discuss Selma Kronn, a very studious girl who is going to be the first Scandinavian immigrant to get a position teaching at the high school.
Tiny points out that Selma's father is responsible for making her so studious.
Lena admits that her grandmother was a Lapp, or indigenous person of Northern Scandinavia.
That afternoon they play a game called "Pussy Wants a Corner." Lena is Pussy most of the time.
They all lay down on the grass. Ántonia tells Jim to tell the others about how the Spanish first came to America.
The girls lean against a tree while Jim tells them about Coronado, who came to America as an explorer. We learn that a farmer in the country gave swords to Mr. Harling that had Spanish inscriptions on them.
The girls wonder what the country was like back then. Jim says the schoolbooks say that Coronado died in the wilderness of a broken heart.
They al look around at the landscape. The grass and tress are colored red because the sun is setting. The river looks gold and the breeze dies. They listen to the birds and watch the setting sun.
As they watch the sun they see a black figure sitting against it. They jump up to see what it is.
It turns out to be a Giant Obvious Symbol, a plough that some farmer left in the field. It looks big and heroic and symbolic.
As the sun sets the plough stops looking majestic. It just looks small and symbolic.