- “I first heard of Ántonia on what seemed to me an interminable journey across the great midland plain of North America.”
The first line of Jim Burden’s narrative, establishing Nebraska in continental scale.
- “There seemed to be nothing to see; no fences, no creeks or trees, no hills or fields. If there was a road, I could not make it out in the faint starlight. There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made.”
Jim’s reactions to first getting out onto the Nebraska prairie.
- “I don’t think I was homesick. If we never arrived anywhere, it did not matter. Between that earth and that sky I felt erased, blotted out. I did not say my prayers that night: here, I felt, what would be would be.”
More of Jim’s early reactions to the landscape.
- “The prayers of all good people are good,” he said quietly.
Jim Burden’s grandfather reacting to Mr. Shimerda’s Catholic prayers in his house.
- I never came upon the place without emotion, and in all that country it was the spot most dear to me. I loved the dim superstition, the propitiatory intent, that had put the grave there; and still more I loved the spirit that could not carry out the sentence – the error from the surveyed lines, the clemency of the soft earth roads along which the home-coming wagons rattled after sunset. Never a tired driver passed the wooden cross, I am sure, without wishing well to the sleeper.”
Jim writing about Mr. Shimerda’s grave as one of his favorite places in his childhood.
- “July came on with that breathless, brilliant heat which makes the plains of Kansas and Nebraska the best corn country in the world. It seemed as if we could hear the corn growing in the night; under the stars one caught a faint crackling in the dewy, heavy-odoured cornfields where the feathered stalks stood so juicy and green.”
Jim describes the fertile Nebraska cornfields.
- “The country girls were considered a menace to the social order. Their beauty shone out too boldly against a conventional background. But anxious mothers need have felt no alarm. They mistook the mettle of their sons. The respect for respectability was stronger than any desire in Black Hawk youth.”
Jim discusses the social effects of the summer dances in Black Hawk.
- “Just as the lower edge of the red disk rested on the high fields against the horizon, a great black figure suddenly appeared on the face of the sun. We sprang to our feet, straining our eyes toward it. In a moment we realized what it was. On some upland farm, a plough had been left standing in the field. The sun was sinking just behind it. Magnified across the distance by the horizontal light, it stood out against the sun, was exactly contained within the circle of the disk; the handles, the tongue, the share – black against the molten red. There it was, heroic in size, a picture writing on the sun.”
After the picnic, Jim and the girls almost magically see a vision of a plow highlighted against the setting sun.
- “As I went back alone over that familiar road, I could almost believe that a boy and girl ran along beside me, as our shadows used to do, laughing and whispering to each other in the grass.”
The end of “The Pioneer Woman’s Story,” where Jim is walking back to the old Burden farm after his meeting with Ántonia.
- “I had a sense of coming home to myself, and of having found out what a little circle man’s experience is. For Ántonia and for me, this had been the road of Destiny; had taken us to those early accidents of fortune which predetermined for us all that we can ever be. Now I understood that the same road was to bring us together again. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.”
The very end of the book, when Jim returns to the old farms again, this time after visiting Ántonia with her husband and her many children.
My Antonia: Top Ten Quotes