Book 2: The Hired Girls, Chapters 1 and 2 Notes from My Antonia

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My Antonia Book 2: The Hired Girls, Chapters 1 and 2

Three years have passed since Jim came to live with his grandparents. Now that Jim is thirteen, and ought to be attending school regularly, Jim's grandparents decide to move into town, Black Hawk. They rent their farm to Widow Steavens and her brother. Otto decides to return to the West to try his hand elsewhere; Jake follows him, despite the Burdens' pleas and worries. Jim is sad to see the two of them leave.

The Burdens adjust to Black Hawk easily. Mr. Burden is made a deacon of the church, Mrs. Burden is kept busy with church activities, and Jim finds himself getting caught up with the activities and attitude of the schoolboys. They continue to see their country neighbors. The Burdens' new home is a convenient place to stop, as it is situated on the way to or from town. They see their old neighbors, except for the Shimerdas. Through Mrs. Steavens, the widow who rents the Burdens' farm, Jim and his grandmother learn of the Shimerdas' news. Mrs. Steavens tells them that Ambrosch has hired Antonia out "like a man;" she goes from farm to farm, cutting, threshing, and binding wheat. In response to the news, Mrs. Burden decides she must save Antonia from another season of heavy ploughing (in the autumn) by getting her a place to work in town for their neighbors, the Harlings.

Topic Tracking: Gender and Sexuality 4

The Harlings are Norwegian, and a farming family, like the Burdens. Mr. Harling works as a grain merchant and cattle-buyer; as a result of his job, he is often away from home, leaving Mrs. Harling in charge of the household. Mrs. Harling, as Jim describes, is full of energy and good spirits. She makes every chore seem interesting, instead of tedious.

Mrs. Burden asks the Harlings to try Antonia as their hired help when their Danish cook has to leave. Mrs. Harling and Frances, the eldest Harling child and an adult, go to the Shimerdas to see if Antonia is right for them. They are absolutely enchanted with Antonia, and they find Mrs. Shimerda's shenanigans to be amusing. Antonia is to start working for the Harlings next week. Jim's grandmother worries that with the hard life Antonia has had in the country, she may have forgotten her nice ways, but Mrs. Harling and Frances assure her that Antonia is not too old to learn new ways and that she is perfectly capable. Mrs. Burden agrees wholeheartedly with them, and laments how different Antonia would have been if her father had lived.

Topic Tracking: Antonia 7

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