That Sunday Otto Fuchs drives Jim and his grandmother to bring bread and provisions to the immigrant family they met on the train—their new neighbors, the Shimerdas. Jim's grandmother tells him that another of their neighbors, Peter Krajiek, a distant relative of Mrs. Shimerda, sold the Shimerda's his homestead, but badly overcharged them for a house that can barely withstand the harsh Nebraska winters. Jim also learns that in the "old country" Mr. Shimerda had been a tapestry weaver and a fiddler, but is now old and frail.
Here it becomes clear that Jim's new life on the prairie will differ greatly from the Shimerdas' life. Jim lives in a comfortable house and is taken care of. In contrast, the Shimerdas live in a house not fit for the prairie winter, and lack the skills, language, and knowledge needed to build a better life. The friendship and support of their neighbors will be key to their survival.
When they arrive at the Shimerdas' home, they find a sod "cave" dug out among rough red hills. They meet the Shimerdas and their children, Ambrosch, the eldest son, Ántonia, the pretty middle child, and Yulka, the youngest. Jim notices how Ántonia has cheeks that "glow" and eyes "like the sun," while Mr. Shimerda has soft white hands and a face "like ashes."
Mr. Shimerda's soft hands suggest he's not accustomed to hard outdoor farm labor. Jim associates Ántonia with light and compares Mr. Shimerda to ashes—Mr. Shimerda represents the past, while Ántonia represents the future.
As the adults talk and Mrs. Shimerda complains about the poorly built home they have purchased, Jim and Ántonia go outside. Ántonia takes Jim to the creek and asks him to teach her the words for "blue sky" and "eyes." When they arrive back at the dugout, Mr. Shimerda, in broken English, begs Jim to teach Ántonia the language.
Ántonia's desire to go outside shows that, like Jim, she has come to love the landscape. They build a pure friendship based on their love of the land. In her desire to learn English, Ántonia shows her eagerness to adapt to her new life.