1. Describe Jim's first impressions of the Nebraska landscape. Why do you think he responds in this way?
Jim sees Nebraska as desolate and empty. He sees miles upon miles of flat land with little civilization. Jim has come from rich, lush, heavily populated Virginia so the Nebraska landscape differs greatly from what he was used to.
2. How is Jim like the Shimerdas as they both travel to Nebraska?
Both are on a journey to a new life and are strangers in a strange land. The Shimerdas are immigrants from Bohemia while Jim is coming from living with his parents in Virginia to live with his grandparents in Nebraska. Also, both are orphans. Jim is literally orphaned when his parents die. The Shimerdas are metaphorically orphaned when they leave their "motherland" of Germany.
3. What is a rattlesnake cane? What is its importance for the Burdens?
A rattlesnake cane is a pole that Grandmother Burden keeps in her garden to kill the rattlesnakes that periodically appear there. Because their bites are deadly, Jim's grandmother teaches him how to use the cane and cautions him to do so if he ever sees a rattlesnake.
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