My Antonia Book 2, Chapters 12 and 13
Antonia moves to the Cutters' to work. She thinks about nothing but socializing and having a good time. She cares very much about her appearance now; Antonia wears gloves, high heels, hats, and pretty dresses she has sewn herself. Jim thinks Antonia is the most beautiful out of all the hired girls.
Jim begins to develop somewhat of a reputation himself. The townspeople question why Jim takes such an interest in the hired girls, but not the Black Hawk girls. Once the Vannis' dance tent leaves, Jim has nothing to do during the evenings. He becomes restless, and walks around town at night by himself. The drugstore, the cigar factory, and the depot are the only places where Jim can hang out; he admits that these places do not satisfy his thirst for action, or cure his depression. He believes that the well-lit houses conceal the hidden jealousy and anger of the townspeople.
Jim is tired of seeing the same faces everywhere he goes. He decides to attend the Saturday night Firemen's Hall dances, where he sees most of the same faces from the Vannis' dance tent. In order for him to attend the Firemen's Hall dances, Jim must sneak out of the house. The hired girls are always at the dances; all the young men want to dance with Antonia and Lena.
Antonia often attends the dances with Larry Donovan, a train conductor. One night when Donovan is on a run, Jim walks Antonia home and asks to kiss her. Antonia is surprised when he kisses her more aggressively than she expects, and admonishes him. She tells Jim not turn out like the other town boys, free and aggressive, for she has high hopes of him doing something great with his life. Antonia is proud of his success at school and will not allow him to throw his academic success away. She also seems a little jealous at the fact that Lena allows Jim to kiss her aggressively. She says:
"Now, don't you go and be a fool like some of these town boys. You're not going to sit around here and whittle store-boxes and tell stories all your life. You are going away to school and make something of yourself. I'm just awful proud of you" Book 2, Chapter 12, pg. 143.
Antonia and Lena are not only present in his daily activities, but also in his dreams. He has dreams of when he and Antonia were children, playing in the country. He has the same dream that is constantly repeated: the dream is of him sitting in a harvest field and Lena running to sit by him, saying, "Now they are all gone, and I can kiss you as much as I like." Book 2, Chapter 12, pg. 144. As much as he tries, Jim does not have that dream of Antonia.
Jim's grandparents learn of his sneaking out of the house to attend the Firemen's Hall dances. Jim promises not to attend any more dances so that his grandparents will not be disappointed in him. As a result, his spring nights are dull and monotonous. Jim studies at night so that he can enter his first year of college in the fall having already completed much of his college prerequisite work. He swears to himself that he is going to attend college, so that he can get away from Black Hawk.
Jim also makes up with Mrs. Harling, who, as one of the Black Hawk older generation, questions his interest in the country girls and his dislike of the town girls, and who still hurts from Antonia's decision to quit working for her. On his commencement day, Mrs. Harling congratulates him on such a fine commencement speech and gives him a graduation present. She is very surprised at the eloquence of Jim's speech and pleased with how he has turned out, despite her earlier misgivings. Later that day, Jim encounters Antonia, Lena, and their friend Anna, who had also seen the commencement. Antonia is glowing with pride at Jim's successful speech. Antonia swears that his speech made her think of her father, for some reason. When Jim tells her that he had thought of her father when he wrote it, and dedicated his speech to him, Antonia cries.