Kent Haruf's Plainsong

Kent Haruf's Plainsong

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Plainsong tells of a small town through the eyes of a half-dozen residents, interweaving their viewpoints and lives together. One of the viewpoints are the Mcpheron brothers, Harold and Raymond, who eventually emerge as the heart of this novel and a literary gem. They are two shy elderly bachelor farmers who perceive the raising of cattle as an analogy for human existence. Their parents died at a young age and ever since they have spent their lives on a farm isolated from others. However, this changes as Victoria Roubideaux is introduced into their lives by Maggie Jones. Amazingly, they agree to take under their roof, a young pregnant girl who has neither resources nor options to solve the problem of where to stay during her pregnancy. The two did not know anything about women, babies, or kids for that matter. As the shrewd right-handed urging of Maggie Jones goads them out of their work-bound isolation to step beyond their set ways. The elderly bachelor farmers who show a resilience and courage to grow and learn new things at a time in life when most people are content to withdraw.

Until now, the older men did not grow up with the social graces that would have put them in situations leading to more relationships. After having Victoria living with Maggie for the time being, it became troublesome for her elder father. Then she contacted the Mcpherons to see if they would accept her offer and allow this young girl into their home. At first they were reluctant to the proposal, but Maggie pushed them to overcome this fear. The source of this unwillingness came from that they never had to interact with anyone else, especially women. The only thing they have done is farming, and that's all they had to know up till now. Now they were forced to venture out of their habitual ways and accommodate another person. When she moved in they were very concerned with her situation, but more with how to connect with her on a new level that is one that they had never experienced. They found this very difficult due to their lack of social skills and their inexperience on how to talk to a teenager as well as in changing their many decade long customs of their everyday life. Most of all they were very generous in changing their lives for this girl.

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At first, the two did not know each others boundaries and habits, which created an uncomfortable atmosphere. In the coming weeks, there was very little interaction between the two parties. At school during her break, Victoria complained to Maggie that they simply didn't talk, after dinner they just read their newspaper and she would go to her room and study. Later, Maggie approached Harold about not talking to her the way they should to keep her happy. That night they attempted at talking to her after dinner by starting a discussion about agricultural market prices for soy beans and corn and choice steers. The two men were very satisfied believing that there was a promising future in their growing friendship. This produces the novel's tenderest moments, as the older men and the expectant mother develop a relationship that surprises them all by its strength and by the satisfaction it brings. As time passes, the Mcpheron brothers are learning and adapting to change their habitual ways to become more hospitable. This growing relationship as Victoria's new guardians highlights an important theme in the book of acceptance. Victoria begins to accept them and her baby, while the Mcpherons accept her in the same way.

As elder statesmen, they have never had to take on a parents role of raising a child. There are many problems placing a pregnant teenager in the home of two solitary bachelors who have spent half a century raising cattle. A conflict develops whether it is appropriate to compare Victoria to one of their heifers to understand her. Victoria's loneliness is echoed throughout the book with her pregnancy that has alienated her from her family and friends. The Mcpheron brothers turn her life around by understanding that emotional encouragement is the most important things about caring for a girl. Now, they realize that it is not the material things that they have given Victoria that have meant the most to her, such as the bed she sleeps in or the crib they bought for her baby, but she values most the love, acceptance, and the feeling of family that has been given to her. This takes a strong role when she leaves with her boyfriend, Dwayne, to Denver. The Mcpheron brothers were not unhappy or lonely in their solitary life prior to Victoria's stay. However, upon her departure their lives seem empty without her. But when she comes back looking to be forgiven, she is welcomed back with open arms. Their love is the strongest as they throw Dwayne out of their house to protect Victoria from a sad chapter in her life. The unity between them is most relevant as all the character in the book are having dinner, showing a circle of trust tat has now been established.

In their late lives, they showed the courage to change and learn new thing at a time where most people would not care. The eventful experience of taking a young girl into their lives puts them at the heart of this novel. Since they were boys, they have lived in isolation that did not allow them to experience many social situations. They work through this experience and outgrow their work-bound isolation. This meant stepping outside of their habitual ways. As time passed they took on a parental role in proving structure and love to help her through life. The Mcpheron brothers growth into a new stage in their life really is the highlight of the book.
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