Alexandra Bergson, the daughter of a Swedish immigrant homesteader on the Divide in Nebraska. A strong-willed woman of great courage and resourcefulness, she takes charge of the farm after her father’s death and, through good years or bad, uses the land wisely. When times are hard and neighbors become discouraged and move away, she scrimps and saves to add their acres to her own. She is the first on the Divide to try new agricultural methods, to plant alfalfa, to build a silo. She keeps Oscar and Lou, her younger brothers, from leaving the farm for easier work and softer living in town. At the end, she can look out over her cultivated fields and know that she has won prosperity for herself and her brothers. Yet her success as a farmer is bought at the price of her experience as a woman. Twice she sees Carl Linstrum, whom she loves, leave the Divide with no words of love spoken. She is more than forty when the death of Emil, her youngest brother, killed by a jealous husband, teaches her the need of love and the grace of compassion, and she and Carl are reunited. Alexandra Bergson is a character almost epic in stature, a fertility goddess of the plains subduing the wild and stubborn land and making it fruitful.
John Bergson, an immigrant farmer who dreams of re-gaining on his Nebraska homestead a family fortune lost in Sweden. He dies after eleven years of failure, his faith in the land still unshaken. On his deathbed, he asks his two eldest sons to be guided by their sister, for he sees in her qualities of imagination, energy, desire, and wisdom that her brothers lack.
Mrs. Bergson, a devoted wife and mother who tries to maintain household order by clinging to old, familiar European ways. Her twin passions are gardening and preserving.
Carl Linstrum, a grave, introspective young man unsuited to farm life on the Nebraska frontier. His predicament is that of many transplanted Europeans, divided as he is between his Old World heritage and his prairie environment. When his father sells the Linstrum farm and moves back to St. Louis, Carl goes to the city to learn the engraver’s trade. Sixteen years later, dissatisfied with commercial life, he returns to the Divide, but Oscar and Lou Bergson, Alexandra’s brothers, insult him and drive him away with accusations that he has come back to marry their sister for her money. Carl goes off to Alaska but returns when he reads the news of Emil Bergson’s murder. This time, he and Alexandra plan to marry.
Oscar Bergson and
Lou Bergson, Alexandra’s younger brothers. Dull, insensitive, greedy, they respect their sister but have no real affection for her. Their great hope is that they or their children will inherit her land.
Emil Bergson, Alexandra’s youngest brother, whose relationship to his sister seems more like that of a son than of a brother. He grows into a moody, restless young man. Less stolid than the Scandinavian Bergsons, he finds his friends among the more volatile, merrier Bohemians and French settlers in nearby communities. In love with Marie Shabata, a young married woman, he goes to Mexico for a time. After his return, he plans to study law in Omaha. One night, Frank Shabata finds Emil and Marie together and in his jealous rage kills them.
Marie Shabata (sha-BAH-tah), a pretty Bohemian housewife, innocently flirtatious from childhood, always merry and teasing. Having eloped with Frank Shabata, she tries to make the best of a bad situation and endures as cheerfully and patiently as possible his jealous suspicions and wild outbreaks of rage. At first, she refuses to acknowledge her true feelings for handsome young Emil Bergson, but circumstances bring them together until, one disastrous night, Frank Shabata finds the two in the orchard and shoots them.
Frank Shabata, a wildly jealous, bad-tempered man distrustful of his pretty young wife. After shooting Marie and...
(The entire section is 1,441 words.)