aren’t you always nice like this, Tony?”
“Why, just like this; like yourself. Why do you all
the time try to be like Ambrosch?”
She put her arms under her head and lay back, looking
up at the sky. “If I live here, like you, that is different. Things will
be easy for you. But they will be hard for us.”
This dialogue from Book I,
Chapter XIX, occurs as Jim and Ántonia sit
on the roof of the chicken house, watching the electrical storm. The
two have grown apart somewhat following Mr. Shimerda’s suicide,
as Jim has begun to attend school and Ántonia has been forced to
spend her time working on the farm. Jim has found himself dismayed
by Ántonia’s increasing coarseness and her pride in her own strength.
As they sit watching the lightning storm, Jim feels his old intimacy
returning, and he brings himself to ask Ántonia why she has changed.
Ántonia understands Jim’s question and, because she is four years
older, understands better than he does why their lives have begun
to move in separate directions. Jim has opportunities and a bright
future ahead of him, but for Ántonia, life now means simply helping
her family get by. Ántonia acknowledges this unalterable circumstance
with her customarily wise simplicity: “Things will be easy for you.
But they will be hard for us.”