The Mother, Elise, a newly widowed matriarch of a lower-class Swedish household. The Mother considers herself a model of motherhood because of the self-sacrifices she has endured on behalf of her husband and children. Actually, however, her life is a fabric of lies intended to conceal her own extravagance and indulgence. She has eaten well and kept warm while her children have virtually starved and frozen. She does not deny this history to herself, yet she shows no remorse and continues to insist on a frugality that perpetuates hunger and ill health. She is suspicious and defensive, quick to judge or blame others. She demands obedience and attention and is ready to fight for them. The Mother claims to love her children, yet she manipulates them and treats them with contempt. The only person she trusts is her Son-in-Law, but that trust is based on a mercenary complicity, and she even takes pride in having stolen his attentions from her daughter. Supposedly in mourning for her husband—whom she knows she drove to his death—she cannot stand the smell of the funeral flowers and imagines his ghost to be present as the wind rocks his chair.
The Son, Fredrik, a law student. The Son is a hungry and delicate young man because of the deprivations of his childhood. He is unhappy and racked with coughing and stammering. Basically practical-minded, he hopes to finish his education and become a lawyer, but his ambition is hollow because he has lost all faith in the legal system, and...
(The entire section is 630 words.)