Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Consul Bernick is the unquestioned leader of the town, with his wealth and influence extending into every enterprise. He owns the large shipyard that is the source of most of the townspeople’s income, and he has successfully fought the project of building a seacoast railway. He also introduced machines into the yards, leading Aune, his foreman, to stir up the workers because the machines mean the loss of jobs. Bernick, not wishing to have his authority questioned, threatens Aune with loss of his job if he does not stop his speaking and writing against the machines.
There is only one breath of scandal about Consul Bernick, and that concerns his wife’s family, a tale from many years before. Johan Tonnesen, Mrs. Bernick’s brother, is seen leaving the rear window of the house of Mrs. Dorf, a married woman. Later, Johan leaves town and goes to America. It is said that before he left, he stole the strongbox containing Bernick’s mother’s fortune. What makes the matter worse is that Mrs. Bernick’s half sister, Lona Hessel, follows her younger half brother to America and is like a mother to him. Only Bernick’s standing in the town prevents his ruin, and he made it clear to his wife that her family is a disgrace to him.
Mrs. Dorf’s husband deserts her and their daughter. When Mrs. Dorf dies soon afterward, Bernick’s sister, Martha, takes the child into their home. The girl, Dina, is a constant annoyance to Bernick. Not only does she...
(The entire section is 1417 words.)
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