Student Question

Describe the Harling family in My Antonia.

Expert Answers

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Mr. Harling is  a man with a keen eye for business who openly disapproves of Antonia's carousals at the town dances. Jim describes him as "autocratic and imperial"  and finds his shadow which is visible through the blinds "arrogant".His wife is completely focused on him when he is at home; she makes him salmon sandwiches and coffee in the bedroom where he sits at this desk or in his easy chair.  Mrs. Harling is short, fun-loving and seems to enjoy the time when her husband is away, because "Mrs. Harling and Antonia make as much noise as a houseful of children".She plays the piano well.

The children are quite different from each other. Frances, the oldest, follows into her father's footsteps and manages his business accounts well.  Charley, the only son, likes to hunt and Antonia is quite infatuated with him  as a sort of "prince". He eventually enters the Naval Academy later on. Julia, the 14 year-old middle daughter, plays the piano and is "fond of repose". She is closest in age to Jim. Sally is thirteen and the tomboy with "sunburned yellow hair, bobbed about her ears, and a brown skin, for she never wore a hat. She raced all over town on one roller skate, often cheated at 'keeps', but was such a quick shot one couldn't catch her at it" . Nina, who is six, is Antonia's favorite next to Charley. She is complex and and cries easily and walks off pouting.

The more detailed description of the Harlings is in the book The Hired Girls.  

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