The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Chris Guthrie is the heart of A Scotts Quair and is one of the most finely wrought characters in modern fiction. In her is shown not only the human struggle to come to terms with one’s own reality but also the struggle of a nation for its very soul. Lewis Grassic Gibbon has created a “real” woman, rare for a male writer, and more remarkable in this trilogy because much of the narrative is recounted from Chris’s perspective. Her very thoughts are put on the page, and they invariably ring true. Gibbon’s physical description of his protagonist varies little from beginning to end, and while there are touches of gray in the golden hair at the end of Grey Granite, the physical Chris remains tall and strong, long-legged and fair. Between latent periods when she simply revels in life and the living of it, she searches for that which makes her real. She dreams, only to give up the dream when confronted with irrevocable reality. Rather than choosing her destiny, she uses the results of that destiny to show her the truth in her soul and character, a very feminine trait. She is a strong woman, flawed but ultimately wise.

In a reference to “Chris Caledonia,” Gibbon makes it clear that on a deeper level, Chris is also Scotland, a country in search of its true identity in the early 1900’s. It is important to see Chris this way, but equally crucial to see the wonderfully human character Gibbon has created.

All the other characters pale by comparison to Chris. None is as finely crafted or made as fully known to the reader. Each is important, however, for what he or she brings to Chris’s personal growth and for what he or she represents.

John and Jeanne Guthrie are Chris’s past. Her mother is a happy, easy-going woman, full of compassion and understanding, who is ultimately broken by the hard farm life with John Guthrie and the multiple...

(The entire section is 775 words.)