Jim catches his grandmother crying one afternoon, and she tells him that she has been hearing rumors about his trips to the dances. She is upset that he has been lying, and he promises to stop going. He keeps the promise, and he dedicates himself to his studies. He soon graduates, and he earns quite a bit of praise for the speech he gives at his commencement. Several people seem surprised that he manages the speech so well, including Mrs. Harling. The speech helps bring him back into her good graces. On his way back, he encounters Lena and Ántonia. He tells Ántonia that her father was an inspiration for his speech, and she seems moved by this. Lena says that she was also surprised that he did so well. Anna Hansen is with them, and also gives him praise, though saying that she had always wanted to go to school.
When the summer arrives, Jim retires to an upper room of his grandparents house and dedicates himself to eliminating some of the courses he needs to enter college. In July, he hears from Ántonia that she, Tiny, and Lena are planning a trip out into the country to gather flowers and have a picnic, and she wants him to come along. He travels out ahead of them, and decides to swim in the river. He is swimming when they come over the bridge, and he greets them. He dresses quickly and goes over to meet them. After a little while, they break up to search and gather flowers separately, and Jim comes upon Ántonia, seated under some flowers and crying. She is homesick, and the flowers remind her of her home country and of her father. She asks about her father’s spirit being able to travel, and he mentions his impression that her father’s spirit had come to his grandparents’ house before returning to his native home. She is pleased by the memory, and she tells him about the differences in social position between her mother, a poor farmer’s daughter, and her father, the son of a prosperous family, and how he could have avoided marrying Mrs. Shimerda.
Lena finds Ántonia and Jim talking, and she scolds them for not working hard at finding flowers. They join the larger group, and there is some social chatter about family and how they are getting on. They talk about the adjustments that their mothers had to make to learn how to live on their new farms. They also mention how they help provide for those families – Ántonia for Yulka, and Lena for her younger sister. They mention the vast number of children that their parents had, and Tiny vows to help her mother move out of her sod house and into a proper house. Anna mentions Selma Kronn, a Scandinavian girl who just became a teacher at the high school – the first Scandinavian to accomplish this. Lena talks about a grandmother that was a Lapp.
Ántonia asks Jim to talk about the Spanish exploration of the area, and he mentions Coronado’s expedition into North America on his quest for the Seven Golden Cities. He says that a farmer found a metal stirrup and a sword with a Spanish inscription, that Mr. Harling had acquired. A priest had found the name of the swordmaker on the blade, and an abbreviation for the Spanish city of Cordova. This leads to a short discussion of Coronado, and speculation about why he hadn’t returned to Spain. Jim says that, according to the schoolbooks, Coronado died in the wilderness, of a broken heart. Ántonia adds that he wasn’t the only one that did that.
They stay long enough to watch the sun set. As it does, it somehow catches the silhouette of a plow on a distant farm, so that the group sees the plow highlighted against the red, setting sun.
In August, some time later, the Cutters leave town for a few days. Ántonia is left in charge of the house. Wick Cutter makes such a fuss about protecting the house and not having anyone else stay with her that Ántonia starts to get suspicious, so she goes to the Burdens for help. Mrs. Burden suggests that Ántonia stay with the Burdens, and that Jim stay in the Cutters’ house. This arrangement lasts for three days without incident, until, on the third night, Jim wakes up in the night after hearing a door open and shut. He tries to go back to sleep, thinking that he was hearing things, when he realizes that someone has just sat down on his bed. Jim tries staying absolutely still, thinking it is a thief, but then the person puts his hand on Jim’s shoulder and tries to kiss him. Jim grabs the person’s beard and pulls, and the hand is suddenly on his throat and choking him. Jim is yelling, and Wick Cutter is yelling about Ántonia having a man over and betraying his trust. Jim manages to get away from Wick Cutter, and runs to his grandparents, where he falls asleep on the couch, too embarrassed and sick to wake anyone to tell them what happened.
When his grandmother finds him in the morning, Jim refuses to let her send for the doctor or the police. He doesn’t want people to know what happened, because he fears the kind of reputation he will get for it. Ántonia tries to see him to apologize, but he refuses her too. Mr. Burden visits the train station and finds out that Wick Cutter had come in in the middle of the night, and left in the morning with his face bandaged and his arm in some kind of sling. Mrs. Burden takes Ántonia back to the Cutter house to get their stuff, and they have to break in to get her trunk and clothes. Wick has thrown them about the room and torn them, and destroyed all of Jim’s things that were left. While they are there, Mrs. Cutter comes in, unable to get into her own house because Wick has changed the locks. Mrs. Burden refuses to let Mrs. Cutter see Ántonia, and tells her the story of Jim’s surprise. Mrs. Cutter tells her own story, about how Wick tricked her into getting onto the wrong train while he stayed behind and took the train back. He seems to have chosen a way of tricking her that would become obvious – it doesn’t look like he wanted to get away with it without his wife ever knowing. Perhaps the real reason that he tried these things was to anger his wife.
Analysis, Parts XIII – XV
These last few sections are clearly the ending of Jim’s happy life with Ántonia in Nebraska. She appears to have never seriously thought about marrying him, though it seems clear to everyone that she could if she wanted. The reader is left wondering if Ántonia is merely looking for a better or more appropriate man, or if she wants to continue enjoying her unmarried life as long as possible. Perhaps she shares Lena Lingard’s views on marriage, but doesn’t think that she can survive without it for long.
The picnic scene is full of meaning. The reference to Coronado, the defeated conquistador who spent his life searching for a myth, is a clear reference to people who come to the land looking for false dreams of quick wealth. Instead of buried swords, the chapter seems to suggest, the real monuments to wealth and success are the simple plow, spotlighted by the sun. This group of people represent the people who can understand that, and the context of this image suggests that Lena, Ántonia, Tiny, Anna, and Jim know that they are beginning to taste success.