My Antonia

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My Antonia Book 1, Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

The next day Otto returns from town, bringing with him a handsome young Bohemian man named Anton Jelinek. Jim immediately likes Anton's "bright" eyes and cheeks and warm personality. Anton says he had wanted to visit the Shimerdas months ago, but he had been hired to husk corn and then had been going to school to learn English.
Jim's description of Anton's bright features is similar to his earlier description of Ántonia. Not only are their names similar, but like Ántonia, Anton is an eager student. They, not Mr. Shimerda, are the future of the immigrants in Black Hawk.
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Anton, a Catholic like the Shimerdas, says it is very important to have a priest bless the body, but Jim's grandfather argues that Christ is the only savior a soul needs. Anton responds that he understands the Protestant beliefs, but tells a story about when he fought against the Prussians in Europe. He used to carry the holy water for a priest blessing the dead soldiers. When everyone in his camp died of cholera, only the priest and Anton survived, and this is why he believes in a priest's powers. While Jim's grandfather is still not convinced, Jim admires Anton for his "frank, manly faith."
Jim's grandfather is set in his ways and refuses to accept the ideas of other religions. In contrast, Jim's open-mindedness and Anton's thoughtful consideration of Protestantism shows the sense of acceptance among the younger generation. Rather than fearing change and difference, they welcome it.
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Otto, once a cabinet-maker in Austria, makes a coffin for Mr. Shimerda while the men debate Mr. Shimerda's burial. They're not sure they can get the body through the snow to the Catholic cemetery in town, while the Norwegian church, which has the closest cemetery, won't allow Mr. Shimerda to be buried in its graveyard because he committed suicide.
Otto must recall a skill he abandoned when he left Austria. This scene echoes his difficulty recalling the Austrian language in writing his Christmas letter (Chap. 12) and again shows the challenge of remembering old skills while learning new ones.
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