Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



Ole Rølvaag has been acclaimed as an interpreter of the Norwegian immigrants, particularly those who settled on the Midwestern prairies. In his probing of the psychological side of pioneering, he added a new dimension to what Henry Cornmage!' calls the "two grand themes of American history"--immigration and the westward movement. The central purpose of Rølvaag’s life was two-pronged: the interpretation of his countrymen's experience in the New World and the preservation of Norwegian heritage in America. The latter cause he championed for two reasons: l) to help the immigrants make their adjustment to the new land, and 2) to enrich the culture of America. The significance of his central purpose was not limited to his lifetime. Much of his philosophy is applicable in present-day America. His sympathetic understanding of his particular kind of minority group, the Norwegian-American, is helpful in establishing attitudes toward minority groups that are currently clamoring for recognition. There is still validity to his persistent pronouncement that a man needs roots in order to be a whole person, and that these roots convey to America a wealth and stability that rightfully belong in its culture in order to counteract a tendency toward shallow materialism. It is the purpose of this paper to examine the relationship between the novels of Ole Rølvaag and the author's central concern. The analysis will be accomplished by 1) focusing on the immigrant at. each stage of his experience and 2) determining the place of his cultural tradition in his experience in the New World. The thesis is divided into five principal chapters, followed by the summary and conclusion. In chapter two, the entire predicament of the immigrant is explained as it is set forth in the Fourth of July oration in The Third Life of Per Smevik and as it relates to Rølvaag’s own life. Chapter three concentrates on, the plight of the emigrant as he leaves Norway, as revealed in The Third Life of Per Smevik and The Boat of Longing. Chapter four is devoted to the cost of transplantation of the immigrant onto the prairie, based primarily on Giants in the Earth. Chapter five probes the problem of assimilation into American life by members of the second generation. The basis of the study is Peder Victorious and Their Fathers' God. Chapter six looks at a sidetracked second-generation immigrant as revealed in Pure Gold and returns to Rølvaag's central theme by examining Reflections on a Heritage, considered Rølvaag’s pronunciamento on the possible significance of the ancestral heritage.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Rølvaag, O. E. (Ole Edvart), 1876-1931

Norwegians -- United States



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University