Growth of the Soil Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Sellanraa. Farm of the Norwegian protagonist, Isak, and his wife, Inger. Hamsun was in many ways the opposite of Isak, a simple, honest, and hard-working subsistence farmer who leads the kind of life that Hamsun might have wished for himself. As an aspiring writer, however, he was not attached to the soil or even to his native Norway. He worked for many years as an itinerant farm laborer in North America, where he saw the Industrial Revolution tearing millions from the soil. He suffered loneliness, poverty, and spiritual alienation, as suggested by the titles of some of his other books, such as Hunger (1890), Vagabonds (1930), and The Road Leads On (1934). Through his description of the transformation of Sellanraa, his utopia, Hamsun eloquently expresses his thesis that country life is more wholesome than town life.


Breidablik. Farm of Brede Olsen, whose character is undermined by town life. Scatterbrained, impractical, and lazy, he is used to taking orders from others and is unable to think independently. He envies Isak but fails to realize how much sweat and perseverance are behind Sellanraa’s development. Brede lacks the knowledge required to cultivate the soil, raise livestock, build dwellings and barns, repair tools, store fuel and fodder, and perform all the other tasks necessary for independent survival. As Isak passes Breidablik on his way to and from the village, he notices tangible signs of neglect and deterioration, which proceed from Brede’s weak character. When Breidablik is auctioned off by...

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Growth of the Soil Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Ferguson, Robert. Enigma: The Life of Knut Hamsun. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1987. The best biography of Humsun in any language. Presents a balanced and detailed overview of Humsun’s life and places Growth of the Soil in the context of the author’s life and works. Ferguson stresses the mythic aspects of the novel.

Ford, Jesse Hill. “On Knut Hamsun’s Growth of the Soil.” In Rediscoveries: Informal Essays in Which Well-Known Novelists Rediscover Neglected Works of Fiction by One of Their Favorite Authors, edited by David Madden. New York: Crown Publishers, 1971. Emphasizes the ethical concerns underlying Growth of the Soil, particularly Hamsun’s sense of the benefits of honest stewardship of the land.

Næss, Harald. Knut Hamsun. Boston: Twayne, 1984. A survey of Hamsun’s works written by one of the world’s foremost Hamsun scholars. Includes a section devoted to Growth of the Soil as well as additional references throughout the text. Næss emphasizes Geissler’s role as a spokesperson for the author.

Næss, Harald. “Knut Hamsun and Growth of the Soil.” Scandinavica 25, no. 1 (May, 1986): 5-17. A general discussion of the novel and Hamsun’s ideas at the time when he was working on it.