Summary (Masterplots, Definitive Revised Edition)
In an industrial city of coastal Norway the workingmen were on strike against the factory owners. They were forced, by their poverty and low social status, to live in a dank chasm below the city, called Hell.
The strike dragged on, and from day to day the people grew more desperate and restive. Maren Haug, a worker’s wife, was so distracted by the futility of the situation that she bolstered her courage with liquor and killed her two children and herself. The entire community of Hell attended the funeral, which was conducted by the good but ineffectual Pastor Falk. After the funeral service, the people gathered in what constituted the community square. There they listened while Falk tried to give them Christian advice; he told them that they should not despair, that they should avoid all violence, that the situation demanded understanding and patience.
As he talked, Bratt, a former pastor who was now leader of the workers’ union, appeared and the crowd joined him Bratt harangued the workers with hate-filled words about the injustices suffered by the inhabitants of Hell, and he revealed that the owners were to meet that night in the castle, which had been bought and rebuilt by the town’s most affluent manufacturer. Bratt’s attitude suggested that violence might be done the owners while they were assembled in the castle, a symbol of their wealth and power.
As the workingmen trooped away to get money at the union office in...
(The entire section is 1206 words.)
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