Structure

A number of different literary techniques are used in Sunset Song such as:

The novel is organised in a very structured manner. The main story (The Song) takes place in four sections, flanked by a Prelude and Epilude. The farming terms used as chapter headings – Ploughing, Drilling, Seed-Time, and Harvest – relate to stages in the development of Chris Guthrie. The headings may suggest the cycle of the farming year but the book spans several years, from 1911 until after World War One.

The structure makes clear the close connection between the characters and the land.

While the Song focuses on the character of Chris, the Prelude and Epilude place her story in a wider historical and geographical context. The Prelude begins back in history in the time of the Normans and goes on to describe the community of Kinraddie, its farms, church and inhabitants.

By contrast, the Epilude describes the break-up of this community after the war. The ceremony at the war memorial is a reminder that it is not only individuals (Chae, Ewan, and Long Rob) that have died but alsothe old Scotland that perished then.

Each of the four main chapters begins in a similar way, with Chris at the Standing Stones reflecting on events. The chapter then recaps on what has happened before taking up the narrative again.

For example, Ploughing ends as Chris' younger brothers call to her like the lowing of calves that had lost their mother. It is only at the start of Drilling that we realise the significance of this simile and we are told that they have in fact lost their mother as she had poisoned herself.