Summary (Masterplots: Revised Category Edition, European Fiction Series)
Benjamin was an old man who had already buried two wives. His overtures to Maja, the servant girl, were matter-of-fact, but somehow Maja saw in this tobacco-dribbling tyrant an opportunity for improvement. She had borne one child out of wedlock, and she longed for position. When they were married, the parson was at some pains to refer to Maja as a maidservant.
As she awaited Jussi’s birth, she thought that now she might be like other farm wives. Benjamin drank far too much and quarreled incessantly. The night her labor started, he went to drink with Ollila, a neighbor. Maja was left with only Lovisa, the cupper woman, to look after her. Lovisa was sharp-tongued but competent; before Maja came to the farm as mistress, she herself had enjoyed Benjamin’s favors. In fact, when Benjamin stumbled home long after his son was born, he called for Lovisa.
While Jussi was little, he stayed in his cradle and fretted at the lice. As he grew older, he sometimes drank coffee. He learned at an early age to avoid his father, who for fun would poke plug tobacco into his protesting mouth. He played with poorer children on top of Pig Hill and was initiated into many mysteries. He looked forward to his confirmation, for he believed it was the dividing line between childhood and man’s estate.
A period of drought seriously impaired the family fortunes. Maja was no longer afraid of Benjamin. Too old and weak to beat her, he continued to drink with...
(The entire section is 1194 words.)
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