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His face was ashen and drawn. His eyes were set toward the west.

These words conclude Giants in the Earth, providing a haunting image of Per's dead body lying against a haystack. As one of the novel's primary concerns is the struggle between the settlers of the Great Plains and the inhospitable environment—summer heat, fierce winter blizzards, and plagues of locusts—we may conclude that this ending pronounces the land as the final victor. However, the last word of the novel symbolizes man's continual hope and optimism. Nature may win this round, but man may win the next. After all, Per recognizes the fact that, one day, the prairie will be settled and will yield rich farmland; he remains optimistic even as he faces death. Throughout the novel, he looks toward the western horizon because, to him, the West represents the future and the hope of building a new life in America. The American spirit of manifest destiny in the nineteenth century seems to validate Per's optimism—many people from the East migrate West and many people from Europe immigrate to America because they see opportunities for themselves. However, another allegorical representation of the West references death, as the sun rises in the east and sets—symbolically dies—in the west each day. The immigrants of the novel follow the sun's path, the path of all humanity, as they are born in the east (Europe) and move west (America). By continuing to set his eyes to the West, Per finds success in America but finds death as well. The double meaning of the West effectively summarizes the double nature—optimistic and pessimistic—of the novel's tone. By setting his eyes to the West, Per continues to look outward, rather than inward as his wife, Beret, does. In this sense, the novel's final line provides a last moment to contrast the conflicting personalities of the two protagonists.