Summary and Analysis
Book I: The Shimerdas:
July comes on hot and breathless. Jim is kept busy carrying water to the men harvesting wheat. The Burdens enjoy having Ántonia around, even though she clatters pans in the kitchen and runs through the house. Early every morning she goes with Jim to the garden to get vegetables for dinner, and she tells him that she prefers working outdoors to working indoors. As Jim and Ántonia watch a thunderstorm from the chicken-house roof, he asks her why she isn't always nice like this. Her answer: "If I live here, like you, that is different. Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us."
The novel has come full circle of the year. When Jim and Ántonia came to Nebraska, the potatoes were being dug and the pumpkins lying about the patch; now it is harvest time again. We have seen four seasons: the glorious, peaceful autumn; the bitter winter, with Mr. Shimerda's suicide; the restless spring, with the trouble between neighbors; and, finally, the harvest, with harmony restored. This is symbolic of the circular nature of life with all of its moments of happiness, hopes, promises, and disappointments.
Although Book I ends with a time of tranquility, Ántonia realizes that her life will not always be like this. She wishes she could be more like a man; she feels she needs to be hard to survive and master life on the hard Nebraska prairie. Her final words — "Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us." — are like a sinister prediction for more difficult times ahead.
hayloft a loft, or upper story, in a barn or stable, for storing hay.
heat lightning lightning seen near the horizon, especially on hot evenings, and thought to be reflections of lightning on clouds below the horizon; its thunder is too distant to hear.