Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 193
Pan by Knut Pedersen is a love story about Thomas Glahn, a lone hunter who lives in the wilderness with his only companion, a dog called Aesop. The story is set in Norway. Glahn, who is also the narrator in the story, survives through fishing and hunting. He is not...
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- Critical Essays
Pan by Knut Pedersen is a love story about Thomas Glahn, a lone hunter who lives in the wilderness with his only companion, a dog called Aesop. The story is set in Norway. Glahn, who is also the narrator in the story, survives through fishing and hunting. He is not a social person and prefers staying in the wilderness. The author states that he has an animal-like resemblance and wears leather. The author delves into the human psyche and reveals the different types of thoughts people have about others.
Glahn’s personality and way of life attracts many women. Perdersen shows the terrible romantic experiences that he had. For instance, the narrator mentions how he once threw a girl’s shoe into the ocean. However, his life changes once he meets Edvarda. The young girl comes from a nearby town and her father is a merchant.
Glahn and Edvarda end up having a romantic relationship. However, Glahn constantly chases after Edvarda especially in social settings. She ignores his advances in public but reveals her feelings to him in private. The book primarily focuses on the various dynamics in Edvarda and Glahn’s relationship.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1016
Pan depicts the stormy romance between the vacationing Lieutenant Thomas Glahn and Edvarda Mack, the beautiful daughter of the most influential businessman in the Nordland region. The story is narrated by Glahn himself, who, two years after the events of 1855, has decided to write down his memories, as he says, for his own amusement. A second narrator, Glahn’s murderer, relates the events of 1861 leading up to the fatal act.
Glahn’s narration is prompted by a mysterious note that contains two green feathers. Although he feigns indifference, his emotions are stirred by these tokens. As the reader comes to learn, they are the belated and nearly final interchange in his volatile relationship with Edvarda.
Glahn had journeyed to this wild, northern region in order to indulge his passion for nature’s magnificence and for the independent life of hunting and fishing. Beginning in the late spring, he lived with his dog, Aesop, in a simple hut, occasionally venturing into the nearby coastal town of Sirilund. On one of those visits, Herr Mack, his landlord and a wealthy trader, introduces him to the Doctor, a lame older man who seems to have been chosen by Herr Mack for his daughter, Edvarda. At first, Edvarda makes little impression on Glahn, but soon he is fascinated by her beauty and manner.
Their mutual attraction is enormous, but each is willful and perverse. Edvarda is sometimes vulnerable, often coquettish, and at times disdainful. Glahn can never be sure where he stands with her, and yet this unpredictability continues to attract him, even while he senses that he is being played for a fool. The mixture of serenity and awe that Glahn feels during the long summer days in this magnificent setting is counterpointed by the complexity of his anxiety-ridden affair.
Part of the complication grows out of Glahn’s own nature. Socially awkward, his courtship of Edvarda puts him in situations which show his worst side. On one such occasion, he gives her two feathers of the kind that he uses to make fishing lures. Only a short time later, he disgraces himself by impulsively throwing her shoe into the water. Further social engagements trigger irresponsible, insulting actions that embarrass Edvarda while making Glahn less and less welcome to Herr Mack. The stubborn pride in both characters makes apologies and forgiveness difficult. Drawn to each other by an overpowering erotic magnetism, they routinely destroy each other’s happiness. In fact, their egoistic actions are finally self-destructive.
Glahn is attracted to other women, partly as a consolation for the wounds that he suffers at Edvarda’s hands. After all, she measures him against her father’s favorites: first the Doctor and then the Baron. Eva, the young wife of the blacksmith, provides Glahn with uncomplicated comforts. She gives while asking nothing in return, while Edvarda, a social creature, is her antithesis.
Herr Mack, aware of Glahn’s fondness for Eva, tries to irritate him by making Eva’s life difficult. As her employer, he assigns her arduous tasks for long hours. Unsure of his control over Edvarda, Herr Mack plans a series of slights, threats, and ugly incidents to drive Glahn away. In his perverse way, Glahn enjoys countering Herr Mack.
As Glahn’s humiliation at the hands of Edvarda grows, he becomes more and more irrational. At one point, in a fit of jealousy, he shoots himself in the foot in order to win sympathy and to resemble the limping Doctor. To get back at the Mack family and all they represent, Glahn drills holes beneath a boulder in preparation for sending it crashing down on the Sirilund dock, the site of Herr Mack’s trading enterprises. Glahn believes that Herr Mack, who seems to have discovered this plan, may have set fire to the hut. When Glahn ignites the powder packed into the drilled holes, the boulder not only does its damage but also kills Eva, whom Herr Mack had assigned to work there.
Meanwhile, Edvarda has her own battle. On the one hand, she recognizes Glahn as her spiritual soul mate, turning to him again and again when he least expects affection from her. On the other hand, she is flattered by the attentions of the respectable suitors whom her father has encouraged. Furthermore, she resents Glahn’s periods of independence as well as the hold he has on her emotions. Each waits for the other to find the means of saving the relationship, but neither is able to do anything but watch and contribute to its disintegration.
As Glahn prepares to leave the territory and Edvarda’s marriage to the Baron is planned, she makes an outlandish request: She asks Glahn to give her Aesop, his most valued personal possession. Stunned, once again, by Edvarda’s unpredictable charm and her seeming admission of their special relationship, Glahn agrees. Remembering her past cruelties and his need to assert himself, however, Glahn shoots Aesop and sends her the grotesque gift of the corpse. Soon after, Glahn leaves and his narrative ends.
A brief second section of the novel is presented as a paper written in 1861 explaining the death of Lieutenant Glahn. The writer, a man who had become Glahn’s hunting companion in India, describes a haughty, reckless Glahn who goes out of his way to irritate others. Attractive to women, Glahn steals Henriette, a beautiful native girl, away from the narrator and, in so doing, seems to invite retaliation. Glahn’s behavior becomes more and more self-destructive, as though the memories of his affair with Edvarda have never given him peace.
Glahn receives a letter that the reader assumes is from Edvarda, once again testing or tormenting him in some way. He becomes sullen and even more reckless. By provoking his hunting partner a number of times, Glahn makes it clear that he fully intends to have himself killed. His last act is to fire purposely a gun inches from the narrator’s head, and then insist that the enraged rival take his revenge—which he does, putting Glahn out of his misery once and for all.