Isak, a sturdy Norwegian peasant, the rough-hewn, monumental hero of the novel. Starting out on his own, he clears some isolated forest land and builds a sod hut. He sends out word by way of some Lapps that he is looking for a woman, and eventually a robust, harelipped woman comes to live with him. Together they acquire livestock, better living quarters, sufficient crops, and a happy life blessed with four children. Then she is sent to jail for killing her newborn harelipped baby, and Isak is unhappily forced to live without her for five years. After her release, he is forced to make some adjustments to her new ideas, but things tend to go on as productively as before. He sells some ore-bearing property; he builds a saw-mill and a grain mill; he buys farming machinery; his children, for the most part, thrive; and he is made a Margrave—all the result of his fidelity to the soil and a fruitful way of life.
Inger, Isak’s hardy, loving, spirited wife. She admires her husband a great deal and lives contentedly with him, bearing his children and helping with the work. A rather primitive person but a woman of deep feeling, she gains some refinement in prison and has an operation that mends her harelip. After her return to Isak, she finds that their coarse way of life is hard on her, but because their relationship is based on mutual love and respect, they continue to live and prosper together.
Eleseus, Isak and Inger’s first child, a relatively weak man who becomes a village clerk. After an abortive romance, he goes from job to job, always with a taste for luxury and a penchant for failure. In the end, he leaves for America.
Sivert, the second child, a high-spirited, active boy. He takes naturally to the rough pioneering...
(The entire section is 757 words.)