In "Up the Coulee," Hamlin Garland depicts what occurs when Howard McLane is away for an extended period of time and begins to neglect his family. Howard's family members are offended by the negligence. Although his neglect causes his brother, Grant McLane, to resent him, Garland shows that part of having a family is being able to put aside negative feelings in order to resolve problems with relatives. Garland demonstrates how years apart can affect family relationships, causing neglect, resentment, and eventually, reconciliation.
After a decade of not seeing his mother and brother, Howard returns to his hometown in Mississippi. It is evident how thrilled he is. As the train approaches town, he begins "to feel curious little movements of the heart, like a lover as he nears his sweetheart" (par. 3). He expects this visit to be a marvelous and welcoming homecoming. His career and travel have kept his schedule extremely full, causing him to previously postpone this trip to visit his family. Although he does not immediately recognize his behavior in the past ten years as neglectful, there are many factors that make him aware of it. For instance, Mrs. McLane, Howard's mother, has aged tremendously since he last saw her. She has "grown unable to write" (par. 72). Her declining health condition is an indicator of Howard's inattentiveness to his family; he has not been present to see her become ill. His neglect strikes him harder when he sees "a gray haired woman" that showed "sorrow, resignation, and a sort of dumb despair in her attitude" (par. 91). Clearly, she is growing old, and Howard feels guilty for not attending her needs for such a long time period: "his throat [aches] with remorse and pity" (par. 439). He has been too occupied with his "excited and pleasurable life" that he has "neglected her" (par. 92). Another indication of Howard's neglect is the fact that his family no longer owns the farm and house where he grew up. They now reside in...
Cited: Garland, Hamlin. "Up the Coulee." Main-Travelled Road. 1891. 485 pars. 12 January 2005. .
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