Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Per Hansa, as his friends call him, born Peder Hansen and later renamed Peder Holm to fit his new life in the Dakota Territory. A strong, self-reliant man who came to America to be near his best friend, Per Hansa saves his small Norwegian pioneer community by his ingenuity and perseverance in the face of great odds. Though beset by family problems, the powerful man turns his wilderness tract into the finest farmland, superior to all the other farms in the region. He is loving, cheerful, and even-tempered, except for a few black and angry moods caused mostly by his wife’s piety on the one hand and her lack of wifely respect on the other. He goes to his certain death in a blizzard for the spiritual comfort of his best friend.
Beret, his beautiful, pious, superstitious wife, who sees the giants or trolls of destruction come out of the untamed prairie. She often confounds her enterprising husband with sharp criticism of his seemingly dishonest acts, such as removing claim jumpers’ stakes from their land. She suffers from a mental disorder brought on by childbirth and depression over their hard life; after a traveling preacher sets her mind at ease, however, she becomes the loving wife of former years, with only her dark piety causing discord. It is she who persuades the dying friend that he needs the ministrations of the preacher; thus she sends her husband out into the blizzard that claims his life.
(The entire section is 657 words.)
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