Plainsong

by Kent Haruf

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Why is Plainsong an appropriate title for the book?

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The title of Kent Harufs novel is very appropriate for two main reasons. One refers to the setting and the other to the construction.

The book takes place in and around a Colorado town in the Plains area of the United States.

The second reference is more metaphorical than literal. Plainsong is a type of music that consists of chants and is associated with the Christian church. Rather than a linear sequence of different chants, the individual chants are both distinctive and interrelated. One type is known as Gregorian chant. Plainsong is often used for singing psalms. Each chant has its own individual characteristics, but the dominant theme of a soloist generates response from multiple voices, or a chorus.

In the latter regard, the novel's structure and content resemble this type of vocalizing. Any individual character's voice is heard, and is distinct, but no one character's story line is definitely primary. Rather, their lives and stories intersect in different combinations, and their singular actions influence each other's, singly or in a group.

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