Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Lieutenant Thomas Glahn

Lieutenant Thomas Glahn, the principal narrator. Thirty years old at the time he recounts events that occurred two years earlier, in 1855, he takes up solitary residence in a hut in rural northern Norway, on the outskirts of the coastal town of Sirilund. Awkward in society yet extraordinarily attractive to women and men, he shoots himself in the leg in frustration over his relationship to Edvarda. He is disingenuous in claiming that he writes his account merely to pass the time and that he is indifferent toward Edvarda. After the death of Eva, he moves to India, where he dies of a gunshot wound.

Edvarda Mack

Edvarda Mack, the tall, flirtatious, and headstrong only child of the town’s wealthiest man. She is fifteen or sixteen years old at the time that Glahn, who is struck by the curve of her eyebrows and her long, delicate fingers, moves to Nordland. Her ambivalence over the handsome stranger, Glahn, exacerbates Glahn’s anxieties.

Herr Mack

Herr Mack, a successful and imperious trader. A widower who conducts clandestine trysts with Eva, he is envious of Glahn’s success in luring her away from him and resentful of his daughter Edvarda’s attentions to the outsider.

The doctor

The doctor, an urbane physician. He is one of Glahn’s rivals for the affections of Edvarda. He discovers and treats Glahn’s self-inflicted leg wound....

(The entire section is 438 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Knut Hamsun’s intent is to demonstrate the power of irrational forces at work in his characters. Like other late nineteenth century European writers, such as August Strindberg and Fyodor Dostoevski, Hamsun creates character studies that seem to anticipate the theories formulated by Sigmund Freud and his followers. In particular, Hamsun demonstrates how the subconscious precipitates actions that are contrary to an individual’s conscious motives and acknowledged self-interest.

The case is especially clear with Glahn. As much as he is attracted to Edvarda, he resents the intrusion of this uncontrollable element into his life. He is a man who thrives in isolation, living by and for himself. He feels compromised by relationships and social codes. Once drawn into the world of courtship and social convention, he becomes uneasy. Without knowing the reasons, Glahn does impulsive things that mark him as a dangerous eccentric: He throws Edvarda’s shoe into the water, he speaks abusively in polite company, he shoots himself in the foot, he dynamites a boulder which destroys a dock, killing Eva, he spits in the Baron’s ear, and he shoots his beloved dog.

The reader can understand this behavior, in part, as a kind of survival instinct, the means by which Glahn extricates himself from a relationship and forces himself into the isolation in which he thrives. Yet Glahn’s ego and his passion for Edvarda lead him, on the conscious level, to attempt to...

(The entire section is 577 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Ferguson, Robert. Enigma: The Life of Knut Hamsun, 1987.

Gustavson, Alrik. Six Scandinavian Novelists, 1940.

Larsen, Hanna Astrup. Knut Hamsun, 1922.

Naess, Harald. Knut Hamsun, 1984.

Sehmsdorf, Henning K. “Knut Hamsun’s Pan: Myth and Symbol,” in Edda. LXXIV (1974), pp. 345-393.

Vige, Rolf. Knut Hamsun’s Pan, 1963.