(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Johannes Edvard Carlsson arrives from the mainland to the island fishing village of Hemso to manage the farm of an old widow, Anna Eva Flod. His ignorance of things nautical and of the folkways of the small community provokes the disdain of Mrs. Flod’s son, Gusten.

Carlsson dreams big, however, and does know about managing a farm and about asserting his superiority. In no time, he works his way up, literally, from sharing a bed in the kitchen to enjoying the solitary attic room. He sees great promise in the terrain and livestock. He quickly becomes not only indispensable but also revered by everyone but Gusten. Carlsson gives fervent Bible readings on Sundays too inclement for the household to get to church, wins over the farmhands through trickery, spruces up the big summerhouse to accommodate a professor and his family as paying summer guests, and then flirts with their pretty cook, Ida. Although Norman, another farmhand, also woos Ida, Ida is Carlsson’s partner at the July haymaking and dancing festivities, and when they sneak away hand in hand, the widow looks longingly after them.

In the fall, the professor’s family moves back to the city, Ida goes with them, and Carlsson pines after her. One stormy night when Carlsson has gone to the city to get supplies (but, more important, to see Ida), the pastor, Erik Nordstrom appears, drunk and voicing the rumor that Carlsson will marry Mrs. Flod. Carlsson returns, spurned by Ida, and proposes to and is accepted by Mrs. Flod. At the news, the community feels hostile toward Carlsson, because he is an outsider coming into possession of “their” property through marriage. Gusten even persuades the pastor to postpone the wedding for six months, and the winter passes quietly. The professor’s family returns in the spring, but Ida is no longer with them. Once the banns are read and Carlsson is unshakably sure of himself, both he and the widow begin to fight bitterly.

The day before the wedding, Gusten rows to Norsten, a small, rocky islet that is a...

(The entire section is 832 words.)