Sunset Song, 1932

(Great Characters in Literature)

Chris Guthrie

Chris Guthrie, a crofter’s (farmer’s) daughter, crofter’s wife, farmer, mother, and minister’s wife, twice a widow, and the principal character of the trilogy. With her high cheekbones, long, finely spun red-brown hair, and bright, piercing brown eyes, Chris is a striking Scotswoman who catches the attention of men and women alike. From childhood, Chris feels like two people: one an English Chris who loves books and genteel culture and the other a Scottish Chris who eschews English bourgeois pretensions and believes only in the immortality of the Scottish land and sky. Chris’s early recognition that nothing human lasts becomes a lifelong conviction and provides comfort to her in the worst times of her life. By the end of the third volume, the thirty-eight-year-old Chris seems herself to be an extension of the Scottish countryside she has lived on and loved.

John Guthrie

John Guthrie, Chris’s father, a crofter. Hardy, firm, red-haired, and red-bearded, John Guthrie strives with the beautiful but harsh farmland of Kincardineshire with undying energy. The incessant struggle finally embitters this fiercely independent man, who dies enraged, paralyzed by a stroke.

Jean Murdoch Guthrie

Jean Murdoch Guthrie, Chris’s mother. By nature blithe and vigorous, Jean is lovely and sensual with her fine, long, golden hair. Worn down by childbearing, a farm wife’s duties, and an unexpected seventh pregnancy, the despondent Jean takes her own life as well as those of her young twins.

Will Guthrie

Will Guthrie, the oldest of the Guthrie children. Resembling his mother in his natural temperament and full head of red-gold hair, Will is the too-frequent recipient of his dour father’s stern, even vicious, discipline. Hating his father and unwilling to endure him any longer, Will runs away to Argentina. Will visits Chris several years later, on his way...

(The entire section is 805 words.)