Independent People

by Halldór Kiljan Guðjónsson

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Independent People by Halldor Laxness revolves around the themes of independence, individualism, and freedom. The main character, Bjartur of Summerhouses, protects his freedom at all costs, desiring above all to live as an independent man—able, self-sufficient, and in debt to no one. He suffers incredible hardships, as he lives in a unforgiving and isolated world where he must constantly battle forces, both natural and contrived, that undermine his spirit.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, economic and political theories revolved around the idea of individualism. Bjartur embodies the principle. Laxness addresses ideas inherent in capitalism, socialism, and democracy and shows how those defining ideals mold Bjartur of Summerhouses into a man who, above all, relies on himself.

Bjartur lives a primitive life not very different from the lives of his ancestors, who battled the harsh and foreboding forces that define the Icelandic land. Bjartur battles the same forces but lives in a time of tremendous social change and upheaval. Laxness's character, however, could be any Icelander from any era: strong-willed, independent, and intent on survival at all costs.

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