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Giants in the Earth

Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie

author O.E. Rölvaag

type of work Novel

genre Historical fiction; American epic; frontier novel; immigrant novel

language Norwegian; translated into English by the author

time and place written 1922–1923; Minnesota

date of first publication 1924–:1925

publisher H. Aschehoug and Co. (Norway); Harper and Brothers (U.S.)

narrator Omniscient narrator

point of view The omniscient third-person narrator reveals the thoughts and actions of the major characters of the novel, primarily focusing on the thoughts and actions of Per and Beret

tone The narrator's attitude to the immigrants is sympathetic. At times, the narrator implies optimism, recording the hopes of the immigrants; at other times, the narrator implies pessimism, recording the fears of the immigrants and the threats unforeseeable to everyone except the omniscient narrator

tense Immediate past

setting (time) 1873–1881

setting (place) Spring Creek, Dakota Territory (now South Dakota)

protagonists Per and Beret Hansa

major conflict Per thrives in his new environment in America, but Beret cannot adapt to the new country and feels homesick and depressed

rising action Beret's pregnancy and her growing depression; the plague of locusts

climax Possibly the moment when Per discovers the land stakes in Book I, or the locust attack in Book II, when Per discovers his wife's undeniable insanity

falling action The arrival of the minister; the minister's sermon; Beret overhearing Per talk to Hans Olsa about how much he loves her

themes The falseness of the American frontier myth; the cost of immigration; the struggle between humans and nature

motifs Beret's homesickness; Scandinavian folklore; the Israelites of the Old Testament

symbols Beret's emigrant chest; Peder Victorious; the West

foreshadowing The discovery of the Indian grave; Per's discovering of the stakes belonging to Irish settlers; the narrator's frequent reports of the power of the landscape and nature, such as in the very first chapter and the very last chapter; Beret's need to cover her windows to shut out the prairie