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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1200

Isak leaves a small Norwegian village and sets out into the wilds to claim a homestead. Carrying some food and a few rude implements, he wanders until he finds a stretch of grass and woodland, with a stream nearby. There he clears the land. He has to carry everything he buys out from the village on his back. He builds a sod house, procures several goats, and prepares for winter.

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He sends word by traveling Lapps that he needs a woman to help in the fields. One day, Inger appears with her belongings. She has a cleft lip and is not beautiful, but she is a good worker and shares Isak’s bed. She brings things from her home, including a cow.

That winter, Inger bears her first child, Eleseus. He is a fine boy, with no cleft lip. In the spring, Inger’s relative Oline comes to see the new family. She promises to return to take care of the farming in the fall, when Inger and Isak plan to go to town to be married and have the child baptized. The farm prospers through the summer.

The harvest is not good, but potatoes carry Isak’s family through the winter without hunger. Inger bears a second son, Sivert. Then Geissler, the sheriff’s officer, comes to tell Isak that he will have to pay the government for his land. He promises to make the terms as easy as possible. Geissler loses his position, however, and a new officer comes to look at the land with his assistant, Brede Olsen. He, too, promises to do what he can for Isak.

One day, Inger sends her husband to town. While he is gone, she bears her third child, a girl with a cleft lip. Knowing what the deformed child would suffer, Inger strangles the infant and buries the body in the woods. Later she convinces Isak she had not really been pregnant.

Oline, who knew that Inger was pregnant, finds the grave in the woods when she comes to the farm. Inger explains her deed as well as she can to Isak, and he is satisfied. When Lapp beggars tell the story of the hidden grave, the sheriff’s officer hears of it and there is an investigation and a trial. Inger is sent to prison at Bergen for eight years. Needing someone to help with the farm and the children, Isak hires Oline.

Isak gets the deed for his land and pays the first installment, but there is no joy in his farming now that Inger is gone. He works only from habit and necessity. Geissler comes to tell Isak that he has seen Inger in Bergen and that she has borne a girl in prison, a child without a blemish.

The old life is changing. Men come through to put up a telegraph line. Between Isak’s place and the village, Brede starts a farm. Other settlers appear as the years pass. Oline is unbearable. She steals livestock from Isak and spends his money for trifles. Speculating on copper mining, Geissler buys some of Isak’s land. With Geissler’s help, Inger, whose cleft lip has been operated on in Bergen, is finally released from prison. At first she is happy to return to the farm with little Leopoldine, but she has learned city ways and now farm life seems rough and lonely. She no longer helps Isak with his work. Eleseus is sent to town, where he gets a job in an office. Sivert, who is much like his father, remains at home. Axel Ström now has a farm near Isak’s. Brede’s daughter, Barbro, comes to stay with Axel and help him with his work.

Inger bears another daughter, Rebecca, and Isak hires a girl to help with the housework. Eleseus returns from town to help on the farm. Geissler sells the copper mine property, and Isak receives a large sum for the rights he retained on the property. He is able to buy the first mowing machine in the district. Eleseus takes an interest in Barbro, but when he discovers that she is pregnant, he goes back to the city. Axel buys Brede’s farm when Brede moves back to town. One day, he finds Barbro down by the brook with her drowned baby. She says she...

(The entire section contains 1200 words.)

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