The whole novel is focused on the one character, Mrs Scott. Crichton Smith says in his preface that the book is
"a fictional study of one person, an old woman who is being evicted." Other characters are introduced as they impinge on this one. There are two sides to her development:
In the first half of the book we see that Mrs Scott has firm opinions on what is important in life.
When Sellar announces that her house is to be demolished, she recognises this is a threat not only to the building but to her whole existence.
"She had never lived in any other house in all her seventy years... She had been born in the house, had spent her girlhood there, and had spent all the years of her marriage – such as they were - in it. She couldn’t exactly put it into words but she knew that if she left the house she would die." She compares this to a natural process:
"It was just like a potato. You tore it away by the roots and soon it would rot."
She had always drawn strength from attending the services.
"She also liked the silence of the church when she could sit there as in a cool well and feel all her troubles and sorrows and tensions unravelling themselves..."
She considered the minister to be someone who should be respected and never questioned.
"She could rely on him, though she didn’t have occasion to up until now." This statement in chapter one is, of course, heavily ironic in view of later events.
When Sellar says she is on her own, Mrs Scott points out:
"there's the neighbours; there's James the Elder, and there's Big Betty, and there's Annie. She gets the water for me."
She does not tell Sellar that she is too old to be able to cope with a move:
"She had her pride to keep." In chapter three, the young girl Annie is willing to help her, but Mrs Scott is fiercely independent.
"If there was anything Mrs Scott hated more than anything else it was the indignity and helplessness of old age, having to accept favours from people."
When her sister had married, Mrs Scott is left to look after her mother.
"Not that she ever had any intention of laying down the burden. In the Highlands one got used to bearing burdens."
Her husband Alasdair has a completely different temperament and Mrs Scott is critical of him:
"Alasdair was for ever singing";
"Alasdair wasn’t very interested in religion or prayer"; when he asks her to marry him
"She thought he laughed rather much for such a weighty matter". Because she had looked after her mother for so long,
"the truth was she was much older than he in suffering?"
When Sellar visits her, she notes that
"rich people and rich people’s servants didn’t know Gaelic; that was the way it was". She does not dare to question Sellar as she feels that
"he was clever and she was not".
Metaphors, similes, personification... test yourself on these and many more English terms with this hazardous game!
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.