The Family at Gilje Characters

Jonas Lie

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Captain Jäger

Captain Jäger, a Norwegian army officer in command of the mountain post near Gilje. He wants his favorite daughter, Inger-Johanna, to be a society woman and sends her to live with his sister in the city. He is bitterly disappointed when the girl refuses a good marriage because she loves a radical student. The captain’s health fails rapidly after this disappointment, and he dies.

Inger-Johanna Jäger

Inger-Johanna Jäger, the captain’s charming and favorite daughter. She falls in love with a radical student, Arent Grip, who teaches her to look beneath the symbols of success to the inner human nature. Because she loves the young man, she refuses to marry Captain Rönnow and instead becomes a schoolteacher. When her beloved is fatally ill, she goes to nurse him.

Mrs. Jäger

Mrs. Jäger, the captain’s wife.

Thinka Jäger

Thinka Jäger, a pliant daughter who marries Sheriff Glucke as her father wishes. She really loves a young clerk her father will not consider as a husband for her. She makes a considerate wife, but she is a sad woman.

Jorgen Jäger

Jorgen Jäger, the captain’s son. He has aptitude as a mechanic and migrates to America, where he does well for himself.

Captain Rönnow

Captain Rönnow, a suitor for Inger-Johanna’s hand in marriage. She refuses to marry him, though the captain has her father’s approval, because she does not love him.

Arent Grip

Arent Grip, a radical student who loves Inger-Johanna and is loved by her. He is a failure in the world, becoming by turns a drunkard and an ascetic, always wandering about the country. After twenty years of aimless roving, he returns and is nursed during his final illness by Inger-Johanna.


Gülcke, the sheriff, a widower who marries Thinka, though she loves a younger man.

The Family at Gilje Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Gustafson, Alrik. “Impressionistic Realism: Jonas Lie.” In Six Scandinavian Novelists. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1966. Places Lie within contemporary developments in European fiction. Argues that the scrupulous realism of the novel does not preclude formal experiments with tone, character, and symbolism. Examines Lie’s stance toward his own characters, especially Captain Jäger.

Larsen, Hanna. “Jonas Lie, 1833-1909.” American-Scandinavian Review 21 (1993): 461-471. Demonstrates the centrality of The Family at Gilje to Lie’s career; argues that the rest of his achievement was a falling-off from the clarity achieved in the novel. Examines the role of the town of Gilje and the surrounding landscape in the thematic and symbolic architecture of the novel.

Lyngstad, Sverre. Jonas Lie. Boston: Twayne, 1977. The most comprehensive discussion of Lie’s work in English. Sees the novel as presenting Norwegian cultural history within the frame of the story of the Jäger family. Examines the differences between Inger-Jonhanna and her sisters and the issues at play between Inger-Johanna and Grip. Comments extensively on the symbolism and values of the book.

Lyngstad, Sverre. “The Vortex and Related Imagery in Jonas Lie’s Fiction.” Scandinavian Studies 51 (Summer, 1979): 211-248. Explores Lie’s achievement with a closely textured analysis of Lie’s work, focusing on the meaning and integration provided to the novel through its symbols.

MacFarlane, James W. “Jonas Lie.” In Ibsen and the Temper of Norwegian Literature. London: Harrap, 1960. Compares Lie to later innovators in Norwegian literature such as Ibsen; finds considerable importance in Lie’s depictions of bourgeois lifestyles.