The literary career of Knut Hamsun is marked by the contrast between the great artistic quality of his works, which are almost universally admired, and the questionable, even bizarre, behavior of many of his central characters. While social themes became the focus in Hamsun’s later novels, resulting in a subordination of character portrayal to the author’s ideological concerns, his early works were explorations of highly unusual minds. Artists or artists in the making, his early protagonists are always memorable, although not always to be admired, and their tortured lives are made intelligible to the reader through their occasionally outrageous actions. Through it all, the reader is made acutely aware of the price that must be paid for creating art. Such later characters as Isak in Growth of the Soil exhibit a similar degree of commitment to their own particular projects.