The Story of Gösta Berling

by Selma Lagerlof

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Characters Discussed

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Gösta Berling

Gösta Berling, a tall, slender, handsome, and poetic but irresponsible priest unfrocked after an investigation of his brandy drinking. He becomes successively a beggar, one of Margareta’s Cavalier pensioners, a good Samaritan to Anna, the fiancé of Marianne, the husband of Elizabeth, and at last a good man.

Countess Elizabeth Dohna

Countess Elizabeth Dohna, a gay, lovely woman married to a stupid husband from whom she escapes to lead a pleasant life. Following the annulment of her marriage, she bears a child and asks Gösta to marry her to give the child a father. They marry, but the child dies a few days later.

Margareta Celsing Samzelius

Margareta Celsing Samzelius, a once beautiful woman, now the major’s aging, influential wife and formerly Altringer’s mistress. She is an innocent woman both strengthened and coarsened by her unhappy experiences. Disowned by the major after her admission of adultery and deserted by the Cavaliers she has helped, she becomes a beggar but returns to her estate after her husband’s death. She dies shortly afterward.

Marianne Sinclair

Marianne Sinclair, a beautiful, witty, and learned young woman in love with Gösta. Scarred by smallpox and rejected by Gösta, she becomes a recluse in her father’s home.

Captain Christian Bergh

Captain Christian Bergh, Gösta’s crony and drinking companion. He is a coarse, malicious giant who is stupidly responsible for Gösta’s loss of his pulpit. Secretly in love with Margareta for forty years, he sottishly causes her disownment by her husband.


Altringer, Margareta’s fiancé and later her lover. He bequeaths his fortune to Major Samzelius so that Margareta may benefit from it.


Sintram, an apelike ironmaster who delights in his own wickedness. He is a demon who blights the lives of others.

Anna Stjärnhök

Anna Stjärnhök, a wealthy, beautiful young woman who breaks her engagements to two men and elopes with Gösta.

Ferdinand Uggla

Ferdinand Uggla, Anna’s good, gentle, and timid first fiancé with whom she is reunited by Gösta.

Ebba Dohna

Ebba Dohna, a sweetheart of Gösta who sought death because of his deceit.

Count Henrik Dohna

Count Henrik Dohna, the ugly, wrinkled and stupid but honest brother of Ebba and husband of Elizabeth.

Countess Märta Dohna

Countess Märta Dohna, the mother of Ebba and Henrik. She dislikes and mistreats Elizabeth.

Major Samzelius

Major Samzelius, Margareta’s ugly, bearlike husband, who dies from the bite of a wounded bear.

Melchior Sinclair

Melchior Sinclair, Marianne’s wealthy, wife-beating father, who casts her out for loving Gösta.


Dahlberg, a wealthy, little, bald man. He is Anna’s second and older fiancé, to whom she becomes engaged because of his money.

Captain Lennart

Captain Lennart, one of the Cavaliers killed by a drunken brawler.

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