Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
BOOK 4 - THE PIONEER WOMAN'S STORY
After two years at Harvard in which he completes his academic courses, Jim returns to Black Hawk for a visit. He finds Antonia has been disgraced with an out of wedlock baby and a desertion by her lover, Larry Donovan. He is disgusted with her and refuses to go visit her on her brotherís farm. He also hears about Tiny Soderball, who has gone west, to Seattle, to open a boarding house for sailors. Everyone thinks she will become an immoral person, but Jim tells the story of her life.
She went to Seattle and opened a boarding house for sailors. Then heard about the first gold rush in Alaska and went north with a carpenter and his wife. They arrived in Circle City and immediately heard of a gold strike further north. After an arduous journey, they arrived and helped found Dawson City. Tiny built a hotel and was very successful. A Swedish man, Johnson, hurt himself prospecting and lived in her hotel as he was dying. He was so taken with her that he left her his claim when he died. She sold her hotel, bought property in Dawson City, then went out to his claim and began buying and selling other claims until she became quite rich. Then she moved to San Francisco after she had been in the Klondike for ten years. Jim saw her as a "thin, hard- faced woman" who reminds him of Mrs. Gardener, her former boss in Black Hawk. She told him about her life, but with little feeling for the excitement of it. She only had feeling for Lena Lingard and Johnson, the man who gave her his claim. She convinced Lena to move to San Francisco and enjoyed her company.
Cather skips the two years of Jimís time at Harvard when he completes his academic course and resumes the narrative when he visits home before beginning his law degree. In this way, she is able to maintain the thematic integrity of the novel. This choice indicates that the novel is more about the Midwest than about Jimís life. Here we only learn a bit about Antoniaís disgrace at the hands of Larry Donovan. Jim is more interested in telling Tiny Soderballís story. He foregoes the constraints of a linear chronology and tells the reader Tinyís whole life story. In Tinyís life as a prospector for gold, Cather adds another strong and self- determining female character to her novel. However, it is clear that Jim doesnít approve of Tiny, the most successful of the women in the novel. He ends the chapter with this description of her: "She was satisfied with her success but not elated. She was like someone in whom the faculty of becoming interested is worn out."
Jim is at the photographerís shop one day when he sees a crayon enlargement of Antoniaís baby. The photographer tells him she is quite proud of her baby. He leaves the shop with the decision that he must see Antonia again. He finds Mrs. Harling in her yard and asks her for advice. She tells him to go see the Widow Steavens who helped Antonia prepare for her wedding and received her back when she was abandoned. She also helped Antonia with her childbirth.
This is only a transitional chapter which prepares the reader to hear the news of Antoniaís abandonment by her lover and her pride in her baby. It seems odd that Mrs. Harling would advise Jim to go and speak to the Widow Steavens to find out what happened to Antonia instead of going directly to Antonia.