Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 180

Independent People is a novel by Icelandic author Halldór Laxness, published in two volumes in 1934 and 1935 (and first published in English in 1945). It recounts the struggles of a poor sheep farmer amid the isolated world and harsh climate of early 20th century Iceland.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Independent People Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Guðbjartur Jónsson, known as Bjartur, is the main character. He is a farmer who, after many years toiling on another’s land, finally buys a plot of his own. He is obsessed with independence and making his own way.

Bjartur brings his wife, Rósa, along with him to the new farm, and soon finds that she is pregnant by another man, Ingólfur Arnarson. When Bjartur leaves his home to search the mountains for the demon he believes may be haunting his farm, Rósa dies in childbirth, but the baby, Ásta Sólilja, survives. Bjartur decides to raise her as his own.

Other important characters in the story are Finna, Bjartur’s second wife, her mother, Hallbera, as well as Bjartur’s and Finna’s three surviving sons, Helgi, Gvendur, and Nonni.

Characters Discussed

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 618

Gudbjartur Jonsson (Bjartur)

Gudbjartur Jonsson (Bjartur), a stubborn, roughly poetic, often cruel, fiercely independent crofter. He loses two wives, one quickly, the other after years of his harshness. He rears Asta, knowing of her illegitimacy. He loses several children in their infancy, Helgi as a child, and Nonni to a home in America. Only Gvendur remains after the ejection of the pregnant Asta, but even Gvendur longs to join Nonni in America and, later, to join the political radicals opposed to the Icelandic government. At last, reunited with Asta after the loss of his big, unfinished home by foreclosure, Bjartur takes her and her children to live with him and Hallbera in the old woman’s sod home. Bjartur appears to be a symbol not only of the Icelandic peasant but perhaps of land-loving, independent farmers the world over.


Rosa, Bjartur’s first wife, a small, sturdy woman with a cast in one eye; she is pregnant with Asta when she marries Bjartur. A believer in tradition and folk superstition, she opposes Bjartur’s scorn of these things. She dies when Asta is born.


Finna, Bjartur’s second wife, a pauper sent by Madam Myri to care for Asta. She dies after several years of poor diet, rapid childbearing, and unfeeling scorn and neglect, climaxed by Bjartur’s slaughter of her beloved cow.

Asta Sollilja (Sola)

Asta Sollilja (Sola), Rosa’s romantic, imaginative daughter, doomed to unhappiness. Pale-faced and dark-haired, she has, like her mother, a cast in one eye. Pregnant by a drunken, tubercular tutor, she is thrown out by Bjartur, has another child by another father, and is carrying a third when Bjartur comes for her. Independent like Bjartur, she has rejected the offer of Ingolfur, her father, to help her. Consumptive when she is reunited with Bjartur, she has only a short time to live but finds joy in the anticipation of being again with the first man she ever loved. It is ironic that, having lost all his own...

(The entire section contains 798 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Independent People study guide. You'll get access to all of the Independent People content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Characters
  • Themes
  • Critical Essays
  • Analysis
  • Quotes
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial