Out Stealing Horses Themes
by Per Petterson

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Out Stealing Horses Themes

Although many of the characters in this story live alone, the theme of loneliness does not play a large part in this novel. Rather, it is the other side of the issue, that of solitude. The people who live alone, like Trond (as an older man), his neighbor Lars, and his father, all are alone because they have chosen to be. They want to be separated from people. They have moved into the wilderness to sort their thoughts out or maybe even to stop their thoughts completely, like a long meditation.

Solitude in this story is related to peace. Peace and solitude are achieved by either by surrounding oneself in pure nature or isolating oneself away from society. Silence and solitude are closely related. Solitude is silence, even through speech. For these characters, an economy of words is the norm. Spaces of silence in between words allow the listener to figure out what is meant.

The theme of war is diametrically opposed to solitude, peace, and silence. While the Germans occupy Norway, there is no place for these elements, except for silence in the form of keeping secrets. Germans ride loud motorcycles through the fields and across the small roads, surveying the countryside, looking for spies. They carry guns on their backs and are conditioned to shoot at anything suspicious. The underground resistors lay bombs in the roads and explode them when are no other alternatives.

While the war is mostly the antithesis of silence, there is a related element: suffering in silence. Although this is a hard concept for Trond to master as a young boy, he learns to accomplish this task. He models his father, who at one point in the story grabs handfuls of stinging nettles and pulls them out of the ground. Trond had been afraid of cutting the nettles even with his sickle. His father shows him that what must be done is best done without complaining. This lesson is recalled when Trond hurts his leg helping his father cut down the trees. Rather than staying in bed to nurse his wound, he gets up because he knows his father needs him.

As an older man, Trond worries about spending the winter in his...

(The entire section is 567 words.)