Jim attends university at Lincoln (the capital of Nebraska) and begins to study Latin under a young instructor named Gaston Cleric. He rents a room on the edge of town near the prairie and stays in Lincoln his first summer to take a course in Greek.
Though Jim moves away from Black Hawk, he still tries to maintain a connection to the prairie.
Jim calls this first year at university a time of "mental awakening." For a while, his past seems less important to him But he knows he will never be a scholar, because he has too much of a connection to the "naked land and the figures scattered upon it."
Though Jim is a talented academic, he finds it impossible to escape from the pull that both the prairie and his own past have on him.