Jim Burden, a successful New York City lawyer, gives an acquaintance a memoir of his Nebraska childhood in the form of a recollection of their mutual friend, Ántonia Shimerda. This memoir makes up the bulk of the novel.Jim first arrives in Nebraska at the age of ten, when he makes the trip west to live with his grandparents after finding himself an orphan in Virginia. On the train out west, Jim gets his first glimpse of the Shimerdas, a Bohemian immigrant family traveling in the same direction.As fate would have it, the Shimerdas have taken up residence in farm neighboring the Burdens’. Jim makes fast friends with the Shimerda children, especially Ántonia, who is nearest to him in age and eager to learn English. Jim tutors Ántonia, and the two of them spend much of the autumn exploring their new landscape together.