Giants in the Earth
presents an unsparing portrait of Norwegian immigrants struggling to make a new life on the Dakota prairie, a subject Rölvaag knew first-hand. Like the author, the novel is half-American and half-Norwegian in spirit: while it reflects a period of American history, it is told completely through the point of view of Norwegian immigrants.
It is not a primarily a celebration of the American manifest destiny. Instead, the novel is essentially a tragedy because it reveals the human cost of the immigrant experience. The indomitable optimism of Per Hansa, forging a new life for his family in America, sharply contrasts with the pessimism of his despairing wife, Beret, who cannot adapt to life in the New World and longs to return to her native Norway.
When Giants of the Earth
appeared in the United States, it was an immediate success. The novel was praised as one of the most powerful novels that chronicled pioneer life in America. Rölvaag later wrote two sequels, Peder Victorious (1929) and Their Father's God (1931). Rölvaag died in Minnesota in 1931, leaving behind him a rich pioneer literary and family legacy. His son, Karl, later became a governor of Minnesota in the 1960s.
"A moving narrative of pioneer hardship and heroism...The background of the boundless Dakota prairie, with its mysterious distances and its capacity for evil, is painted with alternating beauty and grimness."
"The fullest, finest, and most powerful novel that has been written about pioneer life in America."
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