Peer Gynt

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Peer Gynt is a lazy but charming Norwegian farm boy. A liar and boaster, he causes himself to be outlawed by stealing the bride at a wedding and then casting her away once he has seduced her. The latter action is motivated by his having met the young Solveig, who becomes his love ideal. In Solveig’s absence, however, he commits even grosser erotic sins. Consorting with a mysterious woman dressed in green, a supernatural creature modeled on folk belief, he fathers a troll bastard, and later he is taken into the mountain, where he is to be married to the daughter of the resident troll king. Here he is asked to make certain promises which signify his making utter selfishness his rule of life.

After Peer’s banishment, Solveig comes to join him in his forest cabin. A brief period of happiness ensues. Then Peer is confronted with his troll offspring and flees. A lifetime of various activities follows, among which are participation in the American slave trade and gunrunning in the war between Greece and Turkey.

After a period in North Africa and a stint at an insane asylum in Cairo, Egypt, where the other inmates make him their emperor, Peer finally returns home. Shipwrecked off the coast of Norway, he has to travel to his native valley on foot. En route he encounters a mysterious character named the Button Moulder, who states that since Peer has no visible personality he is now destined to have his soul melted down into nothingness. Peer...

(The entire section is 552 words.)