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Exploration of Minor Characters in Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

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Introduction

Lewis Watson Choose a novel in which minor characters play a significant role. Outline their role in the novel and discuss their significance to the novel as a whole. Lewis Grassic Gibbon's "Sunset Song" features a village of minor characters. John Guthrie, the main character Chris' father and her husband Ewan Tavendale are central in conveying Gibbons ideals and themes. John Guthrie is conflicted between traditional and modern and had many admirable qualities that make him an engaging character. He supports the main charcter in displaying the theme of change. Ewan is only a dominant in the second half of the book but still had a major impact. He is the result of Chris' development in the first half and replaces John Guthrie as Chris' male counterpart. They are both advocates of the peasant way of life. Throughout the novel, the character of John Guthrie is tormented by his high sex drive: "she saw a caged beast peep form her father's eyes". ...read more.

Middle

In the early stages of the novel, John Guthrie is seen through Chris' eyes as a brutal and cruel character. His sexual torment results in the deaths of his wife and twins. The struggle of working the land gives John Guthrie a cruel nature that causes conflict between himself and Will. However, upon his death Chris' view of her father changes. After his funeral, she sees that her father was the victim of circumstance, that it was forces beyond his control that destroyed him. "the fleetness of him and his justice, and the fight unwearying he'd fought with the land and its masters to have them all clad and fed and respectable." The character of John Guthrie allows Gibbon to show us the essentially good nature of the Scot's folk. John Guthrie can also be seen as the character "fathered between a Kailyard and a bonny brier bush in the lee of a house with green shutters." He is neither the perfect Kailyard character in an overly sentimental representation of rural life, nor is he an entirely brutal character in a harsh community. ...read more.

Conclusion

Ewan's marriage to Chris resolves two of the major themes of the novel. Ewan's love and deep connection to the land allows Chris to solve her childhood conflict between a life working the land and an educated professional lifestyle. In her marriage to Ewan, she is making that commitment to the land, for he "had fair the land in his bones". The sexual element of her relationship with Ewan shows Chris triumph over Kinraddie's unhealthy relationship with sex: "she wasn't afraid, only this could wait for another night's coming, it was sweet and she wanted it to live and last". Her marriage to Ewan is the result of Chris' sexual and emotional development and is a victory over Kinraddie's corrupted view of sex and relationships. Both Ewan and John Guthrie are symbolic of the peasant way of life. They hold traditional views, are closely linked with the land and are unwilling to allow their way of life to change. In the course of the novel, both Ewan and John Guthrie die: John naturally after a stroke and Ewan in the First World War. Their deaths are symbolic of the end of the peasant way of life. ...read more.

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