Category Archives: Sunset Song

Snowset Song – UPDATED!

Aye, That'll Be Snow, Then...

I HAVE RECEIVED A NUMBER OF EMAILS FROM PEOPLE WHO DO NOT HAVE ALL THEY NEED TO WRITE THE ESSAY. (Stupid snow!) I have every sympathy with you, so will extend the deadline to THIS Friday: 10th Dec. That will give you time to retrieve books/notes from lockers, and still do a decent job on the essay.


Hi class. I’m guessing you’ll all be well on your way to finishing your Sunset Song essay on a minor character, so thought I’d open up a post for you to ask questions and or seek advice as required.

I appreciate that the snow is playing havoc with everything, but if you’ve had time to work on your essay, I’m happy to accept them by email. If you want to send them to me, you can do so using: english[at]perthacademy[dot]net. Two things to remember, put my initials in the Subject line, and include YOUR INITIALS in the filename! (It gets difficult when I receive 30 essays all called ‘Sunset Song Essay.doc’)

The question you should be looking at is:

There are many methods by which a novelist can create a character.

For example, through a narrator, a novelist can give the reader information about:

  • what the character does
  • what the character says
  • what the character looks like
  • what others say about the character.

Choose one character from Sunset Song and show how the novelist gives the reader an insight into that character mainly through one of the above methods.

I had recommended that you think carefully about the character you choose. Many of you had mentioned using John Guthrie, and he would be a good choice.

As a general point, don’t forget that your essay will need to address/make mention of the main theme(s) of the novel, and I also advise you to bear the following ‘guidelines’ from the Critical Essay section of the final exam:

Answers to questions on prose fiction should address relevantly the central concern(s)/theme(s) of the text(s) and be supported by reference to appropriate techniques of prose fiction such as: characterisation, setting, key incident(s), narrative technique, symbolism, structure, climax, plot, atmosphere, dialogue, imagery . . .

You cannot possibly hope to cover all of these points in an essay — especially one which you need to write in only 45 minutes in the exam — so you need to be sure that the points you make are relevant, and help you address the task.

The mark of an able student is the ability to leave things out. You know lots about Sunset Song, but this doesn’t mean you need to try and say it all in your essay. Make sure your points are relevant and logical… and remember P.E.E.R.

  • P = Point: What point are you trying to make. Introduce it and ensure the reader understands what you are trying to say;
  • E = Evidence: Use quotations that you believe illustrate or support the point you are trying to make;
  • E = Explain: Explain how the quotation supports your point;
  • R = Relevance: Make sure the point and/or quotation are actually relevant – and especially, they must be relevant to the task.

Most of you have encountered P.E.E.R. before, but if you’re not sure, feel free to post a question in the comments.

So, to sum up… you are being asked to:

  1. Choose a character from Sunset Song;
  2. Choose ONE aspect of how L.G. Gibbon creates that character;
  3. Find examples to illustrate the aspect you have chosen;
  4. Acknowledge that the character has been created by Gibbon to allow him to further the themes of his novel.

As a final point, Gibbon wants the reader to think positively about the things that are important to him (the land/diffusionism/socialism/etc). Any characters, no matter how ‘negative’ they may appear, will serve to advance Gibbon’s views/themes and so you should remember this as you write your essay.

As ever… leave any questions in the comments!

Sunset Song Student Notes

I’ve posted the Student Revision handout to the Sunset Song Wiki. You’ll find it at the top of the page. It’s in PDF format so you shouldn’t have any problems opening it.

Prelude – The Unfurrowed Field

(With thanks to Emily for doing the live-typing in class!)
Please note… you are welcome to add your own thoughts as these are not definitive! Also… there are very few quotations here, so you still have a fair bit to do to make the most of these thoughts. Enjoy!

The Map

Q: Why do you think this map has been included?

It lets the reader see who lives where in Kinraddie and so makes Kinraddie appear more ‘real’. It gives a sense of the size of the village, while also setting the scene for Kinraddie as a community.

Q. What does it suggest about the community of Kinraddie?

The map suggests that, as well as being rural, the community is close-knit… almost living in each other’s pockets! Everyone is aware of everyone around them… and furthermore that it reinforces the sense that the village is distanced from the rest of the country. It helps to establish the notion that Kinraddie is parochial and inward looking.

Gibbon begins his account of the Kinraddie lands by referring to “a Norman childe, Cospatric de Gondeshil”.

Q. Why do you think he has chosen to begin his account at this stage?

Because it gives us an approximate date, not long after 1066 at the Battle of Hastings which is when the French took over the English. The lands of Kinraddie and the standing stones were already there before the invasion and the ‘Norman childe’ took the land over. This hints at the notion that the novel is about the influence of ‘civilization’ on the land/Kinraddie. Remember that this is a novel that is concerned with change and endings.

We also touched on the point that (arguably) the Normans were the first to ‘conquer’ the area and make a real difference to the people of Kinraddie. (Think of the mention of ‘Aberlemno’s Meikle Stane’)…

Q. What reference to earlier times is made?

A. It’s where written history was started because the Normans were the first to invade Scotland which changed society. There is a reference to the Picts defeating the Danes… which is a reminder of earlier times. This has hints of Gibbon’s ‘diffusionist’ message in the novel.

Q. After the slaughter at Dunnottar, what attitude did the Kinraddies have to political and social events?

The people of Kinraddie, to all intents and purposes, turned their backs on the rest of society and kept themselves to themselves. They were not interested in becoming more involved in the affairs of those outwith Kinraddie.

Q. When did this attitude change and why?

This changed with the arrival of the Covenantors… When ‘Dutch William’ arrived as he could relate to the common people as he turned them protestant because the ornate ways of Catholicism weren’t for them. Kinraddie embraced the Covenant as it was quite like them, plain, simple and harsh.

Fair plain a fixture that none would move, and the Kinraddies were all for the Covenant then, they had aye had God’s Covenant at heart, they said. (p.3)

Q. After the Reformation, what was the next most important change for the Kinraddie lands?

For the ordinary people of Kinraddie, the next important change was the French Revolution. They rose up against their laird because he wanted to ship all their money to France to help the revolution… interestingly, they were not interested in helping those outwith Kinraddie… and they did not want to help the French for doing so would make their lives harder.

Look at the following references…(see your sheet for them!)

Q. What impression of the area do you think Gibbon is trying to give by including these references?

There is, I think, a real sense that the people of Kinraddie are very definitely Scottish, but in spite of their parochial attitudes, have played a part in Scotland’s bigger picture. It helps to give a sense that Kinraddie, even though it is little more than an insignificant part of the country, is touched by the history of Scotland and is part of the history of the land. As such, it helps establish Gibbon’s aim that this should be a ‘true’ novel of the land, of the Scots, and of Scotland.

Q. In what ways does the content of this section of the novel relate to its title – The Unfurrowed Field?

It gives a sense of more to come and it sets the scene at the beginning of the book for the growth of the story. Like an empty field, Kinraddie and the Mearns are prepared for what will follow – namely, the arrival of Chris’ family. The scene is set, all the parts are in place, and Gibbon has given us full and rewarding picture of the parish of Kinraddie.

Q. How does this title relate to the title of the novel – Sunset Song?

It reminds us that the Land will play an important part in the novel, that the farming year will lend the novel its stucture, and that it is a ‘Prelude’ to what will follow.

Q. Why do you think Gibbon has chosen to introduce his novel with this section?

By taking the form of a ‘history’ his introduction gives the novel a sense of the ‘real’ that is essential in understanding the context for what is to follow. He introduces the characters who will interact with Chris so that we have a real sense of the place, and also in doing so, he is able to start the real ‘Song’ without constantly having to write explanations of who various characters are.

Prelude: Who? What? Where?

Hopefully you have all finished your reading of the Prelude to Sunset Song and have completed the grid to say who lives on which farm. I though I’d be nice and put you out of your misery by posting some thoughts… with the usual proviso that these are NOT definitive! Feel free to add your own observations in the comments.


The Mains Ellison m. Ella White Irish; manager – ex-servant of Kinraddie; “fair gentry”; tarred; Tory.
Peesie’s Knapp

Chae Strachan m. Kirsty Strachan; 3 children

“wandering billy”; socialist and sceptic; well-liked; handyman; trapped into marriage.

Blawearie Guthries due to arrive. Poor, infertile land.
Cuddieston Munro and wife Ugly, argumentative pair, she midwife; 2 asylum children; Andy the “daftie”; Tony – pretence.
Netherhill Old Sinclairs and Sarah. Hard-working; still loving; spinster daughter.
The Mill Long Rob/Rob of the Mill Atheist ironic humorist bachelor; hard-worker but often pointless jobs.
Upperhill “upprums” Gordon & wife. Nellie and Maggie Jean; John – seducer. Small but vain; wife a snob – vain attempt to speak English; foreman called Ewan Tavendale – proud Highlander, hard-worker, good farmer.
Pooty’s Knapp Old Pooty Stammerer, “but-n-ben”, unwashed.
Bridge End Alec Mutch, wife & 5 Hard-worker~ she is described as a “slummock” – smokes!


As I say… these are some thoughts to get you a good grounding in the people who live in Kinraddie. You are encouraged to add your own ideas in the comments below.

As a final thought for just now, think about why Gibbon has given so much detail. He does so so that when the Guthries arrive in Kinraddie, they are arriving in a ‘real’ place filled with real people. We have a real sense of continuity through the ages and of the notion that the land itself is ready waiting for Chris and her family to arrive.


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