Common Themes

Apart from Tartan, each of the six stories by Brown on the Scottish Set Text list is set in Orkney. In almost all of his work, Orkney was Brown’s canvas.

Brown acknowledges in his autobiography that:

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Farmers and fishermen figure largely in the stories and poems I have written. The two rhythms of land and sea I have tried to weave into my work; they are, in one sense, different and opposed, and yet, once taken into the imagination, they beget a pattern and a harmony.

Note the rhythmic structure of the lives of the farmers and fishermen in Brown’s stories. Many of his characters lived lives that were at the mercy of the natural elements that surrounded them.

Note too, the ‘types’ of characters that are present within these stories. Though a sense of community is central to these stories, there are often divides in class that distinguish people. Brown wrote that:

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The centuries have thrown up other classes and characters: the lairds (or landlords), merchants, ministers, lawyers and skippers. All have left their mark on the life of the islands. And of course they varied as individuals. A bad laird could cause much misery to his tenants; a good laird could be a kind of father to his people.

Modernity and material progress was a major concern of Brown’s. The theme of modernity is explored in The Wireless Set. Consider how this theme is present in the story and the modern world, as people become more and more focused on technology.