Book 2, Chapters 3 - 5 Notes from My Antonia

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My Antonia Book 2, Chapters 3 - 5

Antonia arrives in Black Hawk to work for the Harlings. Mrs. Burden and Jim are thrilled to have Antonia near them again. Antonia's greatest fault is that she would often stop work to play with the children. Jim is jealous of Antonia's admiration for Charley Harling, the eldest son, and annoyed by her deep affection for Nina Harling, the youngest child. Antonia would do anything to please Charley and Nina. The Harling house is never quiet unless Mr. Harling is home. During the few times he is actually home, the children always have to go to bed early, and he commands all of Mrs. Harling's attention. Jim finds Mr. Harling to be domineering and controlling.

Jim is at the Harlings' when a visitor drops by. The visitor is Lena Lingard, whom Antonia and Jim had known from their life in the country. Lena, like Antonia, has come to Black Hawk to work. Lena has changed her appearance; she looks "demure and pretty," and Jim is surprised to see her "brushed and smoothed and dressed like a town girl, smiling at us with perfect composure." Book 2, Chapter 4, pg. 103. Mrs. Harling, Frances, and Jim talk with Lena, while Antonia chooses to stay in the kitchen. Lena tells them that she is going to work for Mrs. Thomas, the dressmaker, and that Tiny Soderball, another country girl that they had known, is also coming to town to work for the Gardeners, who own the hotel, The Boys' Home. Privately, Lena tells Antonia and Jim that she is happy to have left the country. "I'm done with the farm," Lena tells them. Book 2, Chapter 4, pg. 106. After she leaves, Frances asks Antonia why she had not been nicer to Lena. Antonia answers that Mrs. Harling might not have wanted Lena to visit, because Lena has somewhat of a bad reputation.

Lena Lingard had lived in the Norwegian settlement. She used to herd her father's cattle in the country between her father's settlement and the Shimerdas'. Jim recalls that before he had gotten to know her, he thought of her as "something wild" because her clothes were in tatters and she didn't seem to care about her appearance. He also remembered that Lena had been accused of making Ole Benson lose his mind. Ole Benson would watch Lena while she was herding her cattle, even though he was a married man. One day at church, Lena showed up wearing a dress the minister's wife had given her, looking as pretty and grown-up as a young woman. Ole then lifted Lena onto her horse after church. That scene itself was shocking, but what happened afterward was even more impossible to comprehend. Crazy Mary, Ole's wife who had escaped the Lincoln asylum, chased after Lena with her corn-knife for making eyes at her husband.

Topic Tracking: Gender and Sexuality 5

Whenever Jim sees Lena in town, she would tell him what she had heard from Tiny Soderball, who works at The Boys' Home, the best hotel on the Burlington railroad line in the area. One afternoon the week before Christmas, Jim sees Lena with her younger brother, Chris, in town. Chris had come to town with the Lingards' neighbor to buy Christmas presents for the family. Lena advises him with his gift to their mother - handkerchiefs with "B" on them for the first initial of her name, Berthe. Lena and Jim watch Chris leave for home in the wagon; Lena's eyes fill with tears as she watches him go. "I get awful homesick for them, all the same," Lena says. Book 2, Chapter 5, pg. 111.

Topic Tracking: Isolationism 12

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