Role of women

Women play a pivotal role in this story of the Highlands. Many of the female roles in the play are anonymous (Woman 1, Girl 2 etc.), but throughout the play, reported accounts of real women in the Highlands and their attempts to resist the changes being imposed on their communities show the importance of women in Highland history.

While men are generally presented as idle, inert or procrastinating, women put up active resistance.

At first the play shows women did not believe that change threatened their lives. The initial monologue says the women were great at making it all seem fine . In, Strathnaver, the First Woman dismisses the Young Highlander’s rumours of change as blethers because the Countess had always been very kind to them.

As reality sinks in, women decide that action is required. Faced with the threat of Patrick Sellar, the women are on guard. Stage directions indicate the daring of the women as they rally together against him:

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They are alarmed but not afraid. They call other women’s names, shouting them in Gaelic: Hurry up, get down here, there come the men with the papers

In contrast to the girls who are alarmed but not afraid the Old Man comes on, anxious. He refuses to take part in the women’s make-shift resistance. When urged in Gaelic by the Second Girl to gabh dhaibh le do chromag ( give it to them with your stick) the Old Man dismisses them by saying och, away.

While the Old Man is frustratingly passive, the Second Girl continues defiantly if you won’t, I will and thrusts the baby into his arms. Both women call to the other women to come and fight. As she takes her place on the frontline, the Second Girl directs her anger not at the factors but back towards the Old Man who has failed them: mo naire mhor ort (shame on you). His claim we will form a second line of defence comes across as pathetic in comparison to the heroism of the girls and is undercut by the First Girl’s damning assessment of the men as useless.