My Antonia Book 5: Cuzak's Boys, Chapters 1 - 3
Jim does not see Antonia again until about twenty years later. By that time, Antonia is married to Anton Cuzak, a cousin of Anton Jelinek, and has many children. Jim admits that he did not want to see Antonia "aged and broken." Book 5, Chapter 1, pg. 211. Lena Lingard convinces Jim to see Antonia and her family on their farm in Nebraska, not far from Black Hawk.
Jim finds the Cuzak farm easily. The Cuzaks thrive on their farm, which includes several orchards, a barn, a windmill, and a fruit cellar. When Jim sees Antonia, he is proud of her. Antonia stands before him, older and more tired-looking, but "in the full vigour of her personality, battered but not diminished." Book 5, Chapter 1, pg. 214. She introduces her children to him. All of the children genuinely care for each other and are proud of each other and their mother. Antonia's children have fired up her spirit and her will. Jim realizes that Antonia "has not lost the fire of life. Her skin, so brown and hardened, had not that look of flabbiness, as if the sap beneath it had been secretly drawn away." Book 5, Chapter 1, pg. 216. Antonia tells Jim that she is content with her life with her family and farm. She loves her husband and their children dearly. She knows that she belongs on a farm, and that she can never be lonely as long as she is in the country.
Jim gets along well with Antonia's sons. One of the sons, Leo, plays Mr. Shimerda's fiddle, carrying the tradition of playing music. It is obvious that the children know everything about their mother and her childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Thinking about Antonia and her children make Jim realize what he had said before is true. Jim says,
"Antonia lent herself to immemorial human attitudes which we recognize by instinct as universal and true. I had not been mistaken. She was a battered woman now, not a lovely girl; but she still had that something which fires the imagination, could still stop one's breath for a moment by a look or gesture that somehow revealed the meaning in common things. She had only to stand in the orchard, to put her hand on a little crab tree and look up at the apples, to make you feel the goodness of planting and tending and harvesting at last. All the strong things of her heart came out in her body, that had been so tireless in serving generous emotions...It was no wonder that her sons stood tall and straight. She was a rich mine of life, like the founders of early races" Book 5, Chapter 1, pg. 226-227.
Jim meets Antonia's husband, Anton Cuzak. Cuzak is a frail and hunched-over little man, but lively and kind. He and Antonia have a good relationship, friendly and caring, but not intensely passionate. The Cuzaks tell Jim the story of Wick Cutter's murder; he had shot his wife and then himself. The children all cheer when they hear the part about Cutter shooting himself. Later, Jim and Cuzak talk. Jim asks him if he regrets giving up the city life for a life on the farm. Cuzak admits that he thought he would be terribly lonely on the farm, but Antonia's warm and generous heart makes him happy.
Jim leaves the Cuzak farm, promising to take Antonia's boys on a trip out West. He returns to Black Hawk and takes a walk in the familiar countryside, feeling as if he is home again. He feels that, with so many Cuzaks, the world as he knows it will be better. Jim sees the faint markings of the road he and Antonia had traveled upon so many times amidst the roads and highways of today. That road, he says, is the road of Destiny, for it brought Antonia and him together, and will always bring them together no matter what.