Captain Jäger, a Norwegian army officer in command of the mountain post near Gilje. He wants his favorite daughter, Inger-Johanna, to be a society woman and sends her to live with his sister in the city. He is bitterly disappointed when the girl refuses a good marriage because she loves a radical student. The captain’s health fails rapidly after this disappointment, and he dies.
Inger-Johanna Jäger, the captain’s charming and favorite daughter. She falls in love with a radical student, Arent Grip, who teaches her to look beneath the symbols of success to the inner human nature. Because she loves the young man, she refuses to marry Captain Rönnow and instead becomes a schoolteacher. When her beloved is fatally ill, she goes to nurse him.
Mrs. Jäger, the captain’s wife.
Thinka Jäger, a pliant daughter who marries Sheriff Glucke as her father wishes. She really loves a young clerk her father will not consider as a husband for her. She makes a considerate wife, but she is a sad woman.
Jorgen Jäger, the captain’s son. He has aptitude as a mechanic and migrates to America, where he does well for himself.
Captain Rönnow, a suitor for Inger-Johanna’s hand in marriage. She refuses to marry him, though the captain has her father’s approval, because she does not love him.
Arent Grip, a radical student who loves Inger-Johanna and is loved by her. He is a failure in the world, becoming by turns a drunkard and an ascetic, always wandering about the country. After twenty years of aimless roving, he returns and is nursed during his final illness by Inger-Johanna.
Gülcke, the sheriff, a widower who marries Thinka, though she loves a younger man.