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O.E. Rölvaag’s thesis in the novel Giants in the Earthis well hidden throughout the text of the novel, but his purpose is very clear. The purpose of the book is to give the reader a full experience of how life was like for an immigrant to start all over again in an unknown, unexplored habitat. It also furnishes the reader with the knowledge of the hardship and consequences that the alien settlers dealt with on the prairie.
The topics that Rölvaag writes about in the novel are those of manual labor for survival and the mental state of each
character after living in the total desolation of the wilderness.
All throughout the book, each of the characters does their own
share of work. From Per Hansa’s building of a barn-house combo,
white washing the sod walls with lime, and growing and selling
potatoes to Ole’s chopping wood up on the copping block; everyone
did their part in order to survive or at least to live somewhat
comfortably. The second topic deals with the mental state of
the pioneer when living in total desolation. For the male pioneers,
living on the prairie was almost a dream. This was the place one
could hunt and build. This was the place one could live off of his
own hands. For example, Per Hans is basically happy with the prairie from the beginning to the end of the book. He knows that someday it will become a large town or city that he helped start or that in the future it will be the same clear and peaceful prairie forever. He finds happiness in these thoughts and he continues to keep himself busy by working as hard as he possibly can to keep the property in the best possible shape it can be. The story was not quite the same for most female pioneers of that time. Most of the
female pioneers, shown by the character of Beret, feared the open plains, feared the desolation that stretched out infront of them. While the men were out working, the women stayed in the small huts or houses, all alone or sometimes with children to look after. This wasn’t fun nor was it exciting for the women. A good deal of those women went mad after a period of time and most of the time, their mental state was unreachable. I think one of the more important parts of the book is when you begin hearing Beret preach more and more about insignificant things, for example, the naming of the newborn child “Victorious';.
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O.E. Rölvaag presented this material in the form of a novel and he expresses himself quite well. His perspective is that of any true pioneer of the book’s time. Rölvaag seems to be slightly objective in his writing of the mental state of being, but other than that, I cannot see anywhere else one could be objective or
biased in the book.
Rölvaag’s source material was that of experience, so his sources were indeed adequate in the writing of this novel. Rölvaag achieved his purposes in which he wrote this novel for. This book is valuable to anyone who wants to learn about the true pioneer life in the Great Plains during the 1800s.
Ole Edvart Rölvaag was born April 22, 1876, in a settlement on the island of Dönna, just south of where the Arctic Circle cuts the coast of Norway. Receiving very little education in Norway, Rölvaag traveled across to America where he moved to Sioux City, Iowa and entered Augustana College, a grammar school in South Dakota. He then moved onto St. Oalf College and graduated in 1905. In 1906, he took to teaching at the St. Oalf’s. Rölvaag has written other works besides Giants in the Earth. These include: In Those Days,The Emigrants, and Founding the Kingdom.