Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Great Plains

*Great Plains. Also known as prairie land, the largely flat grassland region of central North America spanning the region between Oklahoma and central Canada that is used for extensive cattle ranching and grain crops. To Per Hansa—a former fisherman—the prairie appears a sea of grass. At sunset its glowing rim resembles the horizon of a vast ocean. His wagon leaves a track like the wake of a boat, closing in rather than widening out astern.

As the novel opens Per Hansa has temporarily lost his way. Calming his anxiety he dreams of opportunities the prairie offers—on this land he could build a kingdom of his own. His wife, Beret, finds the immensity of the prairie frightening. To her, the landscape appears cold, bleak, and full of terror. She is uneasy in a world so different from the beloved Norway she has left behind and fearful that trolls might lie in wait within this strange new environment.

In the second half of the novel, after Beret gives birth to Peder Victorious (whose story continues in Peder Victorious, 1928), the Great Plains environment becomes increasingly hostile. The problems afflicting the settlement convince Beret that trolls are at work; the prairie is attacking the intruders. Rölvaag makes use of disasters that actually struck Dakota’s pioneers. The grasshopper plagues of the late 1870’s devastated many settlers. All who lived through the powerful winter snows of 1880-1881 remembered that year with horror. The incredible snow...

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Giants in the Earth Historical Context

The Postwar Boom
The much ballyhooed prosperity of the 1920s, the so-called Jazz Age, was largely confined to the upper-middle...

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Giants in the Earth Literary Style

Setting
Giants in the Earth is set in the so-called east-river region of what is now South Dakota, that is, along the Big...

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Giants in the Earth Ideas for Group Discussions

Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth explores timeless themes of immigration, fear, loneliness, myth, and religion.

1. Relate...

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Giants in the Earth Social Concerns

Giants in the Earth was O. E. Rolvaag's most influential novel. It chronicles the story of a group of Norwegian pioneers who make the...

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Giants in the Earth Compare and Contrast

1870s: Prior to the 1880s, the majority of immigrants to the United States came from the British Isles and northwestern Europe.

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Giants in the Earth Topics for Further Study

Research the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and explain how the provisions of the act might have affected the land claims of the settlers...

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Giants in the Earth Literary Precedents

In Willa Cather's My Antonia (1918), a family of Bohemian immigrants confronts the hardships of pioneer life, including poverty and...

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Giants in the Earth Related Titles

Rolvaag's first fictional work, titled Amerikabreve (Letters from America), was published in 1912 in Norwegian under the pseudonym...

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Giants in the Earth What Do I Read Next?

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, is Dee Brown's critically acclaimed 1970 account of the methodical annihilation of Native Americans by...

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Giants in the Earth Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Joseph E. Baker, "Western Man against Nature: Giants in the Earth," in College English, Vol. 4, No. 1,...

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Giants in the Earth Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Gross, David S. No Place to Hide: Gothic Naturalism in O. E. Rölvaag. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1993. Relates traditional gothic tradition to Rölvaag’s use of the frontier as a gothic setting of terror and wonder, which is especially a problem for Beret. Includes treatment of frontier and immigrant life.

Reigstad, Paul. Rölvaag: His Life and Art. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1972. Examines Rölvaag’s novels in a biographical context, revealing the forces and influences that shaped Rölvaag’s work. Relates the treatment of folklore, myth, and Norwegian religious beliefs and values to...

(The entire section is 268 words.)