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.


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