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Giants in the Earth

O.E. Rölvaag

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