By. Willa Cather
1. “During that burning day when we were crossing Iowa, our talk kept returning to a central figure, a Bohemian girl whom we had both known long ago. More than any other person we remembered, this girl seemed to mean to us the country, the conditions, and the whole adventure of our childhood.”
This passage from the Introduction is the first the reader hears of Antonia. The narrator of the Introduction, who grew up with Jim and Antonia in Nebraska, describes a train ride taken with Jim many years later and details their conversation about Antonia. They agreed that Antonia, more than any other person, seemed to represent the world they had grown up in, to the point that speaking her name evokes “people and places” and “a quiet drama . . . in one’s brain.” This quotation is important because it establishes that Antonia will both evoke and symbolize the vanished past of Jim’s childhood in Nebraska. It situates Antonia as the central character in Jim’s story and explains Jim’s preoccupation with her by connecting her to his memories of the past. Finally, it establishes Jim’s character with its implication that Jim shares the unnamed narrator’s romantic inclination to dwell on the past and to allow people and places to take on an extraordinarily emotional, nostalgic significance.
2. “Why aren’t you always nice like this, Tony?”
“Why, just like this; like yourself. Why do you all the time try to be like Ambrosch?” She put her arms under her head and lay back, looking up at the sky. “If I live here, like you, that is different. Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us.”
This dialogue from Chapter XIX occurs as Jim and Antonia sit on the roof of the chicken house, watching the electrical storm. The two have grown apart somewhat following Mr. Shimerda’s suicide, as Jim has begun to attend school and Antonia has been forced to spend...