Book IV: The Pioneer Woman’s Story
Parts I – IV
Jim returns from Harvard, before entering law school, to find that some things have not changed in Black Hawk. Frances has married, and she and her husband now run the Harling family business in Black Hawk. Ántonia, however, has suffered a disgrace. She left to marry Donovan at one of his stops, had a child, was abandoned by Donovan, and returned, unmarried and with a child, to Black Hawk to live with her family. People have begun saying “Poor Ántonia” quite a bit.
After mentioning Ántonia, the narrator mentions that Lena Lingard became a prominent dressmaker in Lincoln, and eventually moved to San Francisco to join Tiny Soderball. Tiny made a deal with one of the guests at the hotel to open a business on a lot he wasn’t using in Seattle. She ran a hotel there, until she became involved in the early parts of the Klondike Gold Rush. Through some luck and some risk-taking, she acquired a significant fortune, returned to San Francisco, and convinced Lena to join her.
Jim goes to the photographer to take a picture with his grandparents, and he sees a picture of Ántonia’s baby. He decides that he needs to see her. He goes to Mrs. Harling for information, and she sends him to see the Widow Steavens, who rented the Burden’s farm after they left, and who apparently took care of Ántonia before the wedding and during the birth.
Jim’s trip out into the old farmland is pleasant because he can start to see the rewards of all the years of hard labor. The land has become quite fertile, and the old sod houses are mostly replaced by wood cabins. The Widow tells Jim about Ántonia’s frequent visits before her departure to marry, and how Ántonia would use the sewing machine to prepare her bedding and her undergarments. Ántonia amassed a considerable collection of necessities for her wedding and marriage, and packed them all in a trunk, waiting for Donovan to write and tell her when and where to go to marry. Ambrosch wrote her a check for her wages while she was working and gave it to her, along with some fine silver. She eventually gets the letter to meet Donovan in Denver, and she is a little nervous about the city, but reconciles herself. She takes the train to Denver, then writes to tell her family about her arrival, and that they will marry in a few days. Donovan is trying to get a promotion, she said. A week later, Yulka gets a postcard saying that Ántonia is happy and well. After that, nothing. A month later, the Widow hears about someone coming toward the Shimerdas from town, and goes over to investigate. She finds that Ántonia has returned, never married, and that Donovan left her. He had lied about the promotion, and had instead been fired for cutting fares. She is fairly sure that he went to Mexico where he can get rich as a conductor.
The Widow laments to Jim how unfair things are, that someone like Lena Lingard can turn out so well, and someone like Ántonia can end up disgraced. Ántonia quickly and quietly went to work on the Shimerda farm, plowing and herding cattle, though she didn’t hire herself out on other farms. Eventually, she had her baby, alone in her room with no help. The Widow came after the birth and prevented any false stories of a still birth from Ambrosch, who suggested that they drown it in a barrel.
The next day, Jim walks over to the Shimerdas. Yulka shows him the baby, and then tells him where to find Ántonia. He finds her in the field, and they sit down by Mr. Shimerda’s grave to talk about what has been happening. Jim tells her about his mentor’s recent death, and about his plans. Jim says, again, that he cares more about her than about anyone else, and that he wishes she could have been connected to him in some stronger way. She says that she’s happy to hear that, and that she can’t wait to tell her little girl about him.
When it starts to become dark, they walk together for a little while, and have an emotional parting where they are holding hands. Jim promises to come back, and Ántonia says that he will still be there, even if he doesn’t come back.
Analysis, Parts I-IV
The reference to Camille and most of the foreshadowing of the previous section with Lena seem to have come to fruition in this section, and it seems like there aren’t any more loose ends left to tie up. Ántonia has been disgraced, but she has achieved a kind of peace through that disgrace. Jim is on his way to achieving the important things that people have been expecting of him for years, and the land has begun to move toward the fertility that it has since become famous for.