In "The Ice Palace," what is "northern" about Harry?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Sally Carrol meets Harry in the North, Harry tells her that northerners do not put the same amount of emphasis on family traditions as they do in the South. Perhaps tying in with her more casual days in the South, Sally Carrol notices children riding sleds and building snowmen. She is genuinely excited and wants to join in but Harry notes such things are just for kids. When she finally gets to do some of these things, she realizes that she is being humored. At a dinner party, Harry remarks that "This is man's country." Sally Carrol also begins to realize that men are the center of attention. Harry seems to be proud of the energy of the North, in spite of the cold, as opposed to the calm of the South. 

In Part IV, Harry reveals a (not necessarily "Northern") racist attitude and generalizes southerners as lazy degenerates: 

They're all right when they come North to college, but of all the handog, ill-dressed, slovenly lot I ever saw, a bunch of small-town Southerners are the worst! 

Harry focuses on the stereotypes that Southerners are laid back or, the more pejorative characterization of being lazy. This is why he continues to champion the North for being a more energetic place. Sally Carrol made similar comments about the South at the beginning of the story but she did so in a much more restrained and understanding way. When Harry calls her on this, she replies: 

"That's quite different. I told you I wouldnt' want to tie my life to any of the boys that are round Tarleton now, but I never made any sweepin' generalities. 

This good/bad stereotype of the South as being calm/lazy is juxtaposed to the good/bad stereotype of the North as being energetic/self-important. Critics have noted some autobiographical input on Fitzgerald's part in this story since he was a Northerner (Minnesota) who married a Southern belle (Zelda, born in Montgomery, Alabama). 

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The Ice Palace

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