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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 5 - CUZAK'S BOYS

CHAPTER 2

Summary

The next morning, Jim wakes up in the barn and acts as if he is still asleep so he can watch Leo at play. He goes out and joins Antonia who tells him all about her daughter Martha who is married to a very industrious young farmer and has a fine baby. Antonia tells him that she wouldn’t have married Cusak if he hadn’t accepted Martha, but he did as if she were his own.

That afternoon Cusak and the eldest son Rudolph arrive home. They tell Antonia and the others all that they have seen in town. Jim notices that Antonia and her husband seem to be on terms of easy friendliness. At dinner, Cusak tells his son to tell the story of the Cutters. The had continued to argue, but the arguments got worse as they aged. He was always afraid she would give his money to her relatives when he died. One day he went and bought a gun and told the shop owner he planned to kill a dog and an old cat, too. That afternoon, passersby heard two shots, one of which was shot out of the window. They rushed inside to find him lying dying with a gunshot to the head. He told them to go in and see that his wife was dead so his will, not hers would be the valid one. They did so and when he was assured that his own wishes would be carried out, he died.


After dinner, Jim and Cusak walk in the orchard together. He tells Jim his life story. He had been a furrier in Vienna but had spent all his money every night on the sparkling night life. He went to New York and unwittingly worked as a replacement worker during a strike and was later blacklisted. Then he went to Florida to grow oranges as he had always wanted to. He came to Nebraska to visit his cousin Anton Jelinek and when he saw Antonia he knew he wanted to marry her. He tells Jim life on the farm has been hard for him especially at first, but that Antonia always makes life better. Jim notices that Cusak is really more suited to city life and is lonesome out on the farm. He realizes that many times a life is right for one person, but not for two. He asks Cusak about it and he says that although he used to get lonesome, now he is having fun with his boys and that Antonia makes his life good. He is amazed that he has been away from Vienna for twenty-six years.

Notes

Here we learn Antonia’s husband’s life story. Since we are at the end of the book, it serves little in the way of advancing plot to give such a full account of this man’s life. However, it seems to serve a thematic purpose for Jim. Jim mentions several times Mr. Cusak’s smallness. He likes the man, but his description of him leaves Antonia at least symbolically free from a cumbersome emotional attachment to another man. For Jim, Mr. Cusak is merely an instrument for helping Antonia reach her goals.

CHAPTER 3

Summary

He leaves the Cusaks’ after dinner the next day and goes to Black Hawk. As he is leaving, he is pleased with Ambrosch Cusak’s manliness and confirms his plans to go hunting with him next summer. In Black Hawk, he feels a sense of anti-climax since most of his friends are dead or moved away and strangers are playing in the Harlings’ yard now. He chats with Anton Jelinek and with the lawyer who is taking care of the Cutter case and then he takes a walk out to the north of town to where the pastures are so rough that no one ever plowed them. He is happy to find a portion of the road that used to take people out to the northern settlements. The other parts of it had long been plowed under. It is the same road that took him and Antonia out to the farms. He remembers vividly the feelings he had that night as he sat in the back of that wagon. He has a sense of "coming home to [him]self." He now sees that the same road that took them out to the land will bring him and Antonia back together. "Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past."

Notes

In the last chapter, Jim finds the road that was described in the first chapter, the wandering road that led north from Black Hawk to the settlements of his grandparents and the Norwegians. It allows Cather to return to a description of the land as a means to bring Jim’s life and the narrative to a harmonious sense of closure. As Jim looks at this land, he thinks of his plans with Antonia’s family. He will be a boy with her sons and a friend to her husband. Her family allows him to reconnect with the Midwest.

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