Last Updated on September 22, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 526
The Councils take in the Haskins family when they ask them for shelter on a cold evening. Stephen Council is good-natured, hearty, and pleasant. He is kind and seems to have a deep-set understanding of goodness. It is Council who suggests that the Haskinses stay with them and look into the property owned by Jim Butler. His kindness prompts others to trust the family and sell tools to them. Tim is thrown off by his generosity, but Council is the kind of man who is merely courteous on principle.
Mrs. Council is a plump, middle-aged woman who immediately invites the Haskinses into her warmth. She provides them with food, drink, and a warm bed. She is able to laugh along with self-deprecating jokes, emphasizing her and her husband’s generous spirits. Their daughter, Jane, has been recently married and their son, Ike, has been out of the house regularly as he gets older. They are especially happy to have company now that they are nearly empty-nesters.
Tim Haskins has moved his family from their original farm because grasshoppers have destroyed their crops. He even says that he sometimes felt the grasshoppers were waiting for them to die so they might eat them, too. He endures intense physical labor but is “not a strong man mentally.” He feels indebted to the Councils’ hospitality and wishes to pay them back in some way. The Haskinses are incredibly hard-working, not taking for granted the help they receive, and they are driven to keep the "wolf of want" far from their door, making the most of each minute of every day. When Butler doubles the price of the farm the Haskinses have fixed up over the years, he is furious. He threatens Butler with a fork, but decides against it and kicks him off the property. He begrudgingly agrees to pay the money.
Nettie is married to Tim. She is described as small and pretty in a “thin and sorrowful” way. She and Tim work extremely hard together to rebuild the Higley place without complaining. Nettie, too, has been touched deeply by the Councils’ kindness. She even calls them “the best people in the world.”
Jim Butler is the man who owns the farm that the Haskins family rents. Unlike Mr. Council, he is unscrupulous and doesn't care a whit about other people; he only cares about the bottom line. He takes advantage of Mr. Haskins' hard work, exploiting the poor man in order to make a buck. He is notorious for land speculation and hiking up prices when the value goes up, which is exactly what he does to the Haskins family.
Ike is the Councils’ son. He helps with the farm yet is not around as much as he used to be.
The Eldest Haskins Boy
Though unnamed in the story, the Haskinses have an older son who works on the farm. Tim regrets that he has to perform such difficult manual labor at a young age, and notes that if it were possible for things to be different, they would prefer to save him from it.