Consider the Lilies – Chapter Fifteen Notes

Mrs Scott finds out more about Donald Macleod and tries to understand him. He tries to understand her.

The letter

What does she decide not worry her son about?
• “The man on the white horse” – about being put out of her home.

What was Donald Macleod thinking about as he read the letter?
• “…her poor husband whom she had driven off across the seas.”
• “…the way she had brought up that son, always interfering.”
• He regrets for her, that she has damaged her own life by living the way she has.

What did he realise was missing from the letter?
• “Not a word about God from beginning to end.”

Why did she not just tell him?
• She cannot bring herself to say that she has lost her faith in the church, and is questioning her faith in God.

What message was she trying to give him?
• That she had changed – that staying with his family had changed her beliefs.

Her life with her mother during her illness

What has Donald Macleod realised?
• “…all the pain, and all the dead, and all the sorrow of those who had lived in this world.” He realises the suffering Mrs Scott has endured because she couldn’t express her emotions.

What does he think religion has driven out of Highland people?
• “…who evicted emotions and burnt down love.” He feels that religion had bottled up the emotions these people wanted to express, and made them feel “…such pure horror that his head ached.”

How does he connect this with Patrick Sellars?
• He uses a metaphor. Patrick Sellars is driving the people from their homes, while religion is driving love from their hearts.

During Mrs Scott’s speech to Donald Macleod other things happened.

What is the significance of each of these:

The wasp
• Symbolising his anger for those responsible for the clearing, and how they are filled with “poisonous energy”.

His “kneeling, as if like a child at the breast of a mother”
• He is replacing her absent son, making her a whole mother again.

Cutting his hand on the scythe
• The scythe is a symbol of the challenge he faces in telling the world of the clearances, and the blood represents the sacrifices he will have to make.

• It also shows the anger for the “Patrick Sellars” he feels.


Donald Macleod and Mrs Scott

Why does he not explain some of his ideas to Mrs Scott?
• She cannot understand the hugeness of the events to come. She didn’t realise they were being put out only so that the Duke could make money.
• “She couldn’t understand all this for she hadn’t been taught to think on general lines.”
• If he told her it would destroy her world, “and she would hate him for this…”

What does he fear will happen when she realises how much she has told him?
• That she will regret sharing such personal ideas, and that she will return to her Christian faith, and sink back to unhappiness.

Donald Macleod and Patrick Sellar disagree about most things but they understand each other’s language. How do they disagree about the following:

• Sellar thinks the truth can change. It’s “…what we care to make it.”
• Macleod thinks the truth is consistent and must be told.

• Sellar that Macleod will easily come across a great fortune after being put out of his home. “…you’ll thank me for having put you in the way of making a fortune.”

• Sellar is willing to put others in danger whilst being in none himself. “The question doesn’t arise for me.”

• Sellar believes that the law is on his side, and so is God.
• Macleod knows that the law and God are tied together by the rich, but there exists a fairer judge of people – history.

• Sellar doesn’t realise that his actions will cause people to see him as an appalling man, doing terrible things. “You will become a legend. You have become a legend… your name will be on people’s lips.”

Big Betty brings news of the Clearances beginning.

What is the general attitude to the minister now?
• She thinks the minister should have noticed Mrs Scott was unwell before her fall. “Why hadn’t he seen that Mrs Scott wasn’t herself, they say.”

What problems are people facing in the new places because of:

• The new houses have not been built. “They had to build them themselves.”

• There are no fishing boats waiting for them. “…they had to make a boat.”

How can the Law

Help them?
• They “have to give us notice of a week or two” before the villagers are put out.

Be used against them?
• The law forces them to leave their houses.

Mrs Scott reads Donald Macleod’s private papers

What does she learn from his political writings?
• He is defending the Highlanders, especially the soldiers.

She reads the letters which he had found in an old book.

Do you think they are fact or fiction?
• They could be either, though the names do not tally with Donald or his wife. They seem realistic.

What have they to say about religion and sex?
• The letters show the way in which sex was scorned by religion. They tell the story of a young couple who have a child out of marriage. “You and I will be outcasts…” Society will not accept them or their child.

What is Donald Macleod’s attitude to them?
• He finds them entertaining but does not seem to consider them important.

Why do you think he had kept them?
• These letters show the brutality of the church, and its lack of compassion or feelings for the people in society who most need its help.

What does Mrs Scott’s remark that she knew his mother was not called Emily tell us about her approach to life?
• She is very straight-forward and cannot understand fantasy, or things that are not real.

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