Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Matthias Boryna

Matthias Boryna (mah-TEE-yas boh-REW-nah), a well-to-do peasant, the leading man of Lipka village in Poland. Though he is sixty years old and has already outlived two wives, he is thinking of marrying again. That his grown children wish him to retire and divide his land among them makes no difference. Sorrow comes of his marriage, for he unwisely takes a wanton as his third wife. Worst of all, she takes Matthias Boryna’s married son as her lover. The old man learns to endure having such a wife, but at great cost to his peace of mind. He turns for moral support to Hanka, his son’s wife, and asks her and her children to live in his house, for he is a kindly, if headstrong, man. During a battle to protect timber claimed by the peasants from being cut by the owner of a nearby manor, Matthias is severely wounded. He lies many months in a stupor, neglected by his wife but nursed tenderly by his daughter-in-law, until he dies.


Yagna, Matthias Boryna’s young wife, the prettiest girl in Lipka village. She turns out to be a common trull, taking up with whatever man her fancy falls on at the moment. She has an affair with Antek Boryna, her stepson, who truly loves her and is intensely bitter when the girl marries his father. Concerned only for herself, Yagna is not sorry for the trouble she brings to the Boryna family. Her only feeling while her husband lies injured for many weeks is bitterness that he still lives. She goes too far at last by chasing after a young man of the village who is studying to be a priest. The indignant villagers carry her out of Lipka on a dung cart and warn her not to return. The shock of the treatment leaves her insensible for weeks.

Antek Boryna

Antek Boryna, Matthias’ grown son, a man as headstrong as his father. Sick with love for Yagna, he leaves his father’s house and becomes a common laborer, neglecting his wife and...

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The Peasants Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Kridl, Manfred. A Survey of Polish Literature and Culture. Translated by Olga Sherer-Virski. New York: Columbia University Press, 1956. Claims The Peasants is universally acknowledged as “the richest and artistically the most perfect picture of peasant life in world literature.” Excellent description of Reymont’s ability to endow characters with individual traits while preserving the general impression of peasant life in Poland.

Krzyanowski, Jerzy R. Wadysaw Stanisaw Reymont. New York: Twayne, 1972. A chapter on The Peasants discusses Reymont’s interest in rural peoples. Asserts that it is inappropriate to consider the novel simply a political tract; claims the novelist is adept at portraying the psychological dimensions of his characters.

Krzyanowski, Julian. A History of Polish Literature. Translated by Doris Ronowicz. Warsaw: Polish Scientific Publishers, 1972. Places The Peasants in the context of a larger tradition of Polish novels depicting the life of rural folk. Highlights the struggle between traditional values and the changes wrought by the introduction of foreign elements into the society.

Miosz, Czesaw. The History of Polish Literature. New York: Macmillan, 1969. Describes Reymont’s plan to write the epic of the Polish peasantry. Explains how The Peasants presents traditional Polish values through a story that has more universal significance.

Pietrkiewicz, Jerzy. Polish Prose and Verse. London: Athlone Press, 1956. Insightful comments about The Peasants, highlighting the use of the seasons as a unifying device and citing the psychological complexity Reymont achieves with both major and minor characters.