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The Land Endures: Bringing Sunset Song to Life

Ewan Tavendale

Ewan panel image

British Gun Crew wearing PH-type gas helmets, July 1916.

Ewan Tavendale Display Case Ewan Tavendale - Interpretive Panel

When discussing Ewan with her brother, Chris is warned 'look after yourself, for he's Highland and coarse.' This negative opinion of his background as an immigrant from the Highlands is a recurring theme for Ewan in Sunset Song. His previous life is not discussed but he is clearly an experienced farmworker, which is shown when he takes over John Guthrie's farm and reinvigorates it. He meets Chris after her father's death and after a whirlwind romance, they marry. Ewan's previously devoted character unravels when he is pressured to go to war, becoming abusive towards Chris and their son before finally being shot for desertion and cowardice.

Ewan is viewed by Kinraddie's community as quick-tempered and rough but when he first meets Chris, she sees him as a quiet and mostly gentle young man. Due to his background, he never quite fits into the community of Kinraddie though it can be argued that this is mostly due to the community's reluctance to accept outsiders. He differs from Chris as he is not interested in education, but he does strive to modernise the Guthrie's farm, showing both his ambition and hardworking nature. At the start of their marriage, Ewan portrays they typical working husband: coming in from a long day working the land and enjoying Chris' company. Unfortunately, his experiences in World War One turn him violent and the themes of adultery, violence, and even rape, are introduced through his character. His fate also portrays the lasting and damaging effects suffered by many soldiers when faced with the horrors of war.

Lewis Grassic Gibbon clearly put some reflection of himself into Ewan as they were both outsiders and did not belong in their communities. Grassic Gibbon moved to Hertfordshire for the latter part of his life and felt our of place as a Scot in England, just as Ewan did as a Highlander in Kinraddie. The author also used Ewan to portray a cyclical theme which is constantly highlighted in the book. Although Ewan seems to bring a new era to the farm, he ends up just as abusive as Chris' father before him. History repeats itself through Ewan's tragic experience.


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