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Giants in the Earth

O.E. Rölvaag

Book II, Chapter II—"The Power of Evil in High Places"

Book II, Chapter I—"On the Border of Utter Darkness"

Book II, Chapter II—"The Power of Evil in High Places", page 2

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Summary

Spring comes, and Per sorts his wheat seed, treating the seed like gold. In April, he impatiently plows and seeds his land before anyone else, and the work makes him happy. Tonseten, however, warns Per about the dangers of planting his crop too early. The weather turns cold again, and snow falls. Heartbroken, Per worries that his crop is ruined; he mopes around the house during the next few days.

When the weather finally improves, Tonseten seeds his own land, and Per feels foolish for planting too early. Still worried about his wheat, Per and his two sons plant his potatoes. Suddenly one day, Ole and Store-Hans tell Per that his wheat is sprouting. Elated, Per rushes out to his field and realizes that his seed will still germinate and grow.

During the summer, more and more homesteaders of many nationalities begin to arrive in the Dakota Territory. A newly-arrived Norwegian named Torkel Tallaksen is quite wealthy and vain. Torkel has grand plans because he wants to build a house from lumber, not sod. He even offers Per wages to help build his house, saying that sod huts are not fit for humans. Per tells Torkel that he should put his money into his land, not his house. However, Beret tells Torkel that he has a fine idea in building a wooden house, and she agrees with Torkel that sod huts are uncivilized. Beret's comments hurt Per. Torkel cannot find anyone to help him, however, so he has to build a sod hut like the others.

One day, a wagon stops at Per's home. The immigrants are a Norwegian family that became separated from their caravan. Per sees that the wife, Kari, is evidently insane; her husband has to tie her up with ropes for her own protection. Beret feels an immediate sympathy for the woman and takes her into the house. The man tells Per a sad story. Kari is insane with grief because their youngest son died a few days ago. They had to bury him in an unmarked location without a coffin, and she feels like they abandoned him.

Per offers the family food and shelter. Beret feels further convinced that life on the prairie is unendurable. During the night, Kari snatches And-Ongen in a crazy impulse and runs outside. Beret awakens, realizing what has happened. Beret and Per search frantically for the crazed woman and find her clutching And-Ongen. In order to help Kari, Per decides to make a coffin for the boy and find the grave out on the prairie. Per Hansa and Hans Olsa search for the grave, but find nothing. Kari and her husband then leave to continue their journey. Beret feels deeply disturbed whenever she thinks about Kari. Beret's fears increase, and she continues to cover her windows to shut out the prairie. At first, Per tries to cheer her up, but eventually he only worries about her.

July arrives, and the wheat ripens. In his merriment, Per seems almost to forget about his wife's condition. He feels proud because he possesses the finest field of wheat in the settlement. Tonseten insists that they begin harvesting, but Per asks him to wait until they have a finer crop. Finally, they begin harvesting Per's land. The men talk about the day when they will all be rich.

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