Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
“Sorrow-Acre” opens with a leisurely description of the Danish landscape, and it is clear that the setting is to be as strong a character in this folktale as any of the humans populating its stage.
It is the end of the eighteenth century, and at the opening of the story, everything is still in its time-honored place, from manor house through the church to the peasant huts in the village. The winds of change are beginning to blow, however (the serfs will be freed here in 1887), and enlightened ideas from England and the Continent are just beginning to be heard in this semifeudal land.
Adam has been serving in the Danish legation to the court of King George, but now he has returned to his ancestral home “to make his peace with it.” In his long absence, his sickly cousin and the heir to this estate has died, leaving Adam, for the moment, as the heir himself: The old lord has now married his son’s betrothed, and he hopes to perpetuate his line with another son. During the day of the action of “Sorrow-Acre,” Adam spends most of his time in the company of his young step-aunt, and the indication is that he himself will marry her after his uncle’s death.
Early in the morning after his arrival, Adam is strolling the grounds and meets his uncle, who, in Adam’s childhood, was a second father to him. The uncle is up early, even for this first day of the harvest, but, as he explains, “a matter of life and death” is being...
(The entire section is 674 words.)
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At his mother's urgent request, a young man named Adam has returned from England to his ancestral home in Denmark at the height of the short Danish summer. He meets his uncle in a beautiful garden on the estate. After an amiable discussion comparing the tasks confronted by the gods of Rome to those of the earlier Norse gods, Adam notes that his uncle seems distracted. His uncle admits that his thoughts are elsewhere and tells Adam the story of Goske Phi.
One week before Adam's arrival, his uncle says, someone burned down his barn at Rodmosegaard. A few days later, the keeper at Rodmose and a wheelwright came to the house with Goske Fiil, a widow's son, in tow. They swore that Goske was the person who had set the barn on fire. Both men disliked Goske. The keeper suspected him of having poached on the grounds of Rodmose, while the wheelwright suspected Goske of having relations with his own young wife. The boy swore to his innocence, but he was unable to convince Adam's uncle in conversation with the two men that he was truly innocent. Adam's uncle had Goske locked up, meaning to send him to the judge of the district with a letter. The judge, he explained, is an idiot and would have done whatever he thought the uncle wanted him to do: send the boy to prison, put him in the army as a bad character, or even free him.
During a ride through his fields, Adam's uncle met Anne-Marie Pill, Goske's mother. She protested her son's innocence, saying that...
(The entire section is 771 words.)