Now you might think that from the very start Abel got himself more of a family than he could handle, what with a wife, parents, two sisters and grandmother, and in the first few weeks after the marriage things probably were a little tight, but Abel and the steam hammer worked hard, and his father began helping out in the smithy, he had a powerful pair of shoulders on him and was a demon for work. Things went really well. (The Women at the Pump, 1920)
Family is a positive value in Hamsun’s writing, and the symbol of a good family life is children. But family is described in several variants, from the successful (Ezra and Hosea in Wayfarers), to the unhappy (the Falkenbergs in Under the Autumn Star), the separated (Lovise Magrete and Håkon Doppen in Wayfarers) and the disintegrated (the Suicide and his wife in Chapter the Last), to mention only a few.
In The Women at the Pump, Hamsun describes the extraordinary family situation arising from the marriage between the impotent Oliver and the wild Petra, raising the question of genetic heritage and propagation.
Yet it is a remarkable fact that a number of Hamsun’s main characters either have no background histories, or are orphans (these include Bjørger, the Hunger hero, Nagel, Knud Pedersen, Isak and August).