“I never know you was so brave, Jim,” she went on comfortingly. “You is just like big mans; you wait for him lift his head and then you go for him. Ain’t you feel scared a bit? Now we take that snake home and show everybody. Nobody ain’t seen in this kawn-tree so big snake like you kill.”
Ántonia speaks these lines in Book I, Chapter VII, praising Jim for having killed the rattlesnake. Jim is angry with Ántonia for failing to warn him about the snake (in a moment of panic, she screams out in her native language), and she quickly appeases him by gushing about his bravery and manliness. The quote captures Ántonia’s way of speaking in the early part of the novel, as she is learning English; it also represents a moment of transition in Jim’s relationship with her. Because she is older than Jim, Ántonia has had a tendency to treat him somewhat condescendingly, to Jim’s increasing frustration. After he proves his strength by killing the rattlesnake, she regards him with a new respect and never talks down to him again. She may never love Jim romantically, but at this moment, she clearly comes to regard him as an equal and as someone very special to her.