The Unfurrowed Field

The first three main plot points of Sunset Song are depicted within a rural setting

The beginning of Sunset Song is a 'prelude' - an introductory chapter that underpins the historical and social conditions that create Chris Guthrie's experiences.

The other chapters – 'Ploughing', 'Drilling', 'Seed-time' and 'Harvest' – refer directly to Chris herself. She becomes the field, and each chapter outlines her emotional, intellectual, sensual and spiritual development. Just like the field, Chris's life is turned over and transformed throughout the course of the novel.

The prelude section shows the field to be 'unfurrowed' – that is, unmarked and undeveloped.

Grassic Gibbon uses this section to parody the types of writing that had, in the past, made representations of Scottish history and experience trivial and depressing – the novels of the Kailyard School and The House with the Green Shutters by George Douglas Brown.

There is a curious blend of first, second and third person narration in this section. This emerges elsewhere in the novel, but is at its strongest in the prelude. As a result, a 'community' or 'folk' voice emerges which combines a variety of forms of storytelling, from gossiping anecdote to fantasy, reverie and historical detail.

The section ends with a comment that seems to come straight from Grassic Gibbon himself, in which he advises us to disregard much of what has been said by the community voice:

So that was Kinraddie that bleak winter of nineteen-eleven and the new minister, him they chose early next year, he was to say it was the Scots countryside itself, fathered between a kailyard and a bonny brier bush in the lee of a house with green shutters. And what he meant by that you could guess at yourself if you’d a mind for puzzles and dirt, there wasn’t a house with green shutters in the whole of Kinraddie.