Lena's success in dressmaking grows, and Jim begins to visit her for dinner. He notices that there is some tension between Lena's landlord and Mr. Ordinsky, a Polish violin teacher who lives across the hall. He realizes that both of these older men have crushes on Lena. One day, Mr. Ordinsky corners Jim and questions him about his intentions regarding Lena. Jim responds that a woman like Lena who supports herself should be able to have guests without being talked about.
Jim's prediction that the young immigrant women will become successful is coming true in Lena. Whereas Jim used to believe in traditional gender roles, now Jim's views are more progressive, as he defends Lena's right to her independence.
As the semester comes to an end, Cleric tells Jim that he was offered a position at Harvard, and suggests that Jim accompany him. Jim receives permission to go from his grandfather and decides to go. He is sad to leave Nebraska. When he tells Lena of his decision, she is also sad, but encourages him to go. She adds that she loves being single and will never marry.
Jim's goodbye to Lena is also a goodbye to the Midwest and the prairie. Lena's forward-thinking views on women make her crave independence. Though Jim and Lena seem to love each other, neither seems capable of feeling a truly deep connection.