Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 224
Plainsong by Kent Haruf, like many of the author's earlier novels, takes place in a rural setting. In a small town in Colorado, high school teacher Guthrie struggles with a failing marriage. His wife has depression and wants to separate from him. He also tries to support his children during this turbulent time. The theme of separation is evident in the novel.
The type of separation in the story is that of a disconnection between people. Guthrie could no longer relate to his wife and vice versa. In this context, the theme of alienation is also evident. The theme of alienation is even more pronounced because of the rural, small-town setting of the story. As the narrative progresses, the town feels more claustrophobic to Guthrie.
Likewise, Victoria Robideaux, a high school student, struggles with teen pregnancy. Her boyfriend, who is the father of the unborn child, leaves her. This continues Plainsong's theme of separation. In essence, the basis for Guthrie's wife wanting to separate and Victoria's boyfriend leaving her are rooted in escapism. The former wanted to escape inward psychologically—due to her depression—while the latter is trying to escape unwanted fatherhood.
When Victoria becomes pregnant, her mother throws her out of the house. This symbolizes another form of separation, which is a parallel to Guthrie's wife wanting to abandon their young children.