The community

The community of the village of Kinraddie is portrayed as small and tight-knit. This is shown to have both good and bad aspects.

The community is shown as vigorous and mutually supportive at Chae Strachan's threshing, John Guthrie's funeral and Chris's wedding. All of these occasions are enhanced by the participation and support of all the villagers. After the war, the community disintegrates.

Traces of the old supportive spirit remain in Rob and Chae, but they are absent most of the time. People are selfish and take a greedy, short-term view. For example, Kirsty Strachan pockets the woodmen's money without realising they are destroying the land.

Gossip is a cruel and destructive aspect of the community. There is a tendency to think the worst of people even if there is no evidence:

  • Will's girlfriend Mollie is assumed to be pregnant
  • Chae is rumoured to have started the fire at his farm for the insurance money.
  • A whispering campaign forces Ewan to leave the land he loves
  • The pressure of public opinion sends young James Leslie to an early death
  • Rob is turned upon and ostracised because of his pacifist beliefs
  • Chris is also cold-shouldered when she enters a relationship with Robert Colquhoun. She is viewed as a traitor to her class.

This aspect of the community is shown as very damaging: Will leaves, and Ewan and Leslie lose their lives.

Attitudes are also reactionary. In the discussion of education at the threshing supper, most said it was a coarse thing, learning, just teaching your children a lot of damned nonsense. Only a minority are enlightened.

Chae and Rob are seen as a pair, frequently ranged against and separate from the others. Both are honourable men who uphold moral values, but they are a minority.

Most other characters are flawed. Munro and Mutch take advantage of Chae's generous hospitality. Mrs Munro is the best midwife for miles around, but the good she does is undermined by her meanness and the malice of her gossip.

The minister is a weak link – the man who should be a moral example is depraved and ridiculous.

However, Chris herself reflects on the impossibility of stereotyping:

How funny were folk! Chris thought,... you knew them, saw through them, tied them up in little packets stowed away in your mind, labelled COARSE or TINKS or FINE; and they came tumbling from the packets at the very first shake, mixed and up-jumbled, she'd never known a soul bide neat and sure in his packet yet.

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