The Emigrants Summary (Johan Bojer)

Johan Bojer


(Essentials of European Literature)

Erik Foss came back to Norway after some time spent working in America. To the cramped, class-conscious farmers and laborers of his Norwegian countryside, he held out hope for a more free and generous life in the new country. Many resolved to join his party of emigrants to America.

There was Ola, the colonel’s hired boy. Ola had a way with people, especially with girls, and Else, the colonel’s daughter, looked on him with eager eyes. Ola, however, was poor, and the stories about him did not please the colonel. After his dismissal from the farm, Ola set fire to the barn. He spent a year in prison and came out in time to join the emigrants. Else came too, as Ola’s wife. There was Per Foll, a big, hulking man and his new wife, Anne, the most attractive girl in the parish, already carrying a baby who was to be born too soon after her marriage. There were Kal Skaret and Karen, a kindly and slow-moving couple. The tax collector took their only cow when they could not pay even the previous year’s taxes. There was Morten Kvidal, a skilled joiner.

When the steamer left, the little band sorrowed to leave Norway; but Erik was strong, and he knew the way and he had enough money to help them.

That first summer the emigrants reached Wisconsin. They stayed there during the bleak winter, and the men worked in the sawmills to add to their meager funds. Early the next spring, they started out across the prairie. Erik had been to the Red River Valley before; he had tested the soil and knew it was good. The settlers now had wagons and oxen, and all of their supplies.

Erik said they had arrived when they came to a vast level land covered with a six-foot stand of grass.

Kal took the quarter farthest to the west. There he swung his scythe in sweeping strokes. The children and Karen piled the fodder, enough to feed a cow all winter! Now he would plow. Morten took no heed of the buffalo grass; he set his great breaking plow and turned it under. They built their homes...

(The entire section is 821 words.)