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Free Study Guide-My Antonia by Willa Cather-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

BOOK 2 - THE HIRED GIRLS

CHAPTER 1

Summary

After three years on the prairie, Jim moves to Black Hawk with his grandparents, who feel they are getting too old for the heavy work of farm life. They rent their farm to the Widow Steavens and her brother and buy a house from Preacher White. They have moved by March. Otto and Jake stay will them until they are fully moved in and then they leave to go out west to prospect for gold. They receive a letter from Otto, but when Jim writes him back, his letter is returned unclaimed. They never hear from either man again.

In Black Hawk, Jim learns the ways of the town children and enjoys the freedom of the river. Since their house is on the edge of town, the first house country people see after traveling so far, their house serves as a kind of way station. People put their wagon and horses up in the Burdenís barn and the women come in and clean up before going to town. They often spend the night. Jim always wants to hear about Antonia, but when Ambrosch comes, he is always closed-mouthed. They learn from the Widow Steavens that Antonia is doing well and is being hired out to work on neighboring farms all through the wheat season. Finally, Mrs. Burden finds a way to help Antonia out of the hard labor of farm work by getting her a job in town.


Notes

Book 2 marks a major shift in Jimís experience of the Midwest as he moves with his grandparents. Now he only hears about Antonia second hand. She seems to be working as hard as ever. It is clear that the practice of hiring out a girl for farm labor is not common in the Midwest. Jim and the others seem to disapprove.

CHAPTER 2

Summary

Mrs. Burden feels very fortunate to be living next door to the Harlings. They are Norwegian immigrants and had been farmers before moving to town. Mr. Harling is a grain merchant and a cattle buyer and has a very extensive business that takes him away from home much of the time. Mrs. Harling is a woman full of vigorous energy. She has three children close to Jimís age, Charley, Julia, and Sally. Her eldest daughter, Frances, runs Mr. Harlingís business while he is away from home. She works very long hours and is dedicated to her work. She knows all the surrounding farmers and all of the statistics of the land and property in the area. She feels a great affection for the settlers.

In August, the Harlingsí cook has to leave them and Grandmother recommends Antonia. Mrs. Harling goes out to meet Antonia and gets back full of good news about her. She liked her from the moment she saw her and exclaimed over how pretty she is. Mrs. Harling finds Ambrosch and Mrs. Shimerda humorous. She enjoys telling the story of her bargaining with Ambrosch for the price of Antoniaís labor. Ambrosch didnít want to Mrs. Harling to give any of her wages to Antonia directly and said he would provide what clothing she needed, but Mrs. Harling insisted on providing Antonia with good clothes. They all decide that Antonia will be happy living in Black Hawk and will forget all the intense labor of farm life soon.

Notes

Chapter 2 is largely an exposition chapter. Exposition is writing that sets up the background of the story to come, introduces characters, gives facts, and general information. Here, we learn about the Harlings, the closest neighbors of the Burdens in Black Rock and the people who will employ Antonia as a housekeeper. Itís somewhat unusual for a novelist to introduce an entirely new cast of characters mid-way through a novel. Here, we must learn the names and personalities of all the people who will play a role in Jim Burden and Antoniaís lives in Black Hawk. Two interesting characters among these are Mrs. Harling and her daughter Frances. Mrs. Harling is a woman who must run the household alone since her husband is usually away from home on business. Her portrait is clearly drawn with a great deal of admiration for her strength and her vigor. Frances Harling is also drawn with great admiration. She runs her fatherís business while he is away and is treated as a traditional son would be treated.

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