The land

Beauty and hardship

The beauty of the landscape is frequently mentioned, as is Chris's appreciation of it.

The first chapter, Ploughing, opens with a description of the view from the hill above the Guthries' farm as seen through Chris's eyes: the June moors... yellow with broom and powdered faintly with purple, that was the heather but not the full passion of its colour yet.

The scent of wild flowers and even the dung is attractive and the smell of the earth itself: the pringling smell of a new-ploughed park. Birdsong is frequently mentioned, particularly the plaintive cry of peewits (lapwings).

Chris's love of the land is one of the main threads in the novel. However,at the beginning the view in her eyes is far from idyllic, due to the drought: all the parks were fair parched, sucked dry... the hayfield was all a crackling dryness and in the potato park beyond the biggings the shaws drooped red and rusty already.

The land and its inhabitants

The land reflects what is happening in the human community. For example, the scene of the whin-burning in chapter two prefigures the destruction brought about by the war a few years later:

There spread before them a park like an upland sea on fire sweeping the hill, now the sun had quite gone and the great red roaring beast of a thing hunted and postured unchallenged, all Kinraddie was lit by its glare.


A bolt of lightning
A bolt of lightning

Weather is used symbolically in Sunset Song. Tension builds with the drought which mirrors the tensions within the Guthrie family.

A great thunderstorm, with lightning which zig-zagged across the Grampian peaks ends the drought, and the tension in the family is broken when Jean Guthrie commits suicide.

When Ewan leaves, the light literally goes out of Chris's life: a cloud came over the sun.