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Pillars of Society was Ibsen's first successful realist drama, first performed in 1877. Karsten Bernick is the dominant businessman in a small coastal town in Norway, with interests in shipping and shipbuilding in a long-established family firm. Now he is planning his most ambitious project yet, backing a railway which will connect the town to the main line and open a fertile valley which he has been secretly buying up. Suddenly his past explodes on him with the arrival of Lona Hessel, the woman he once jilted, and Johan Tonnesen, who left town in disgrace fifteen years earlier.