May portrays the Calvinist churches of Lewis as cold cheerless places of worship with the Minister thundering sermons of fire and brimstone upon the parishioners gathered on the pews below the pulpit.
Beckwith attends church at an equally cheerless building but as the “missionary” presiding roars about the devil she sees the congregation intensely amused rather than threatened. All are concentrating on the mints they have brought to suck upon during the service.
They approach Scottish fatalism differently.
For May’s Islanders there is a resigned acceptance of grim fate.
Morag illustrates the cheerful approach of her Islanders when, on advising Beckwith about morning breakfast, she states:
“Half past eight,” Morag agreed; “and if the Lord spares me I’ll have your fire lit by eight then”.
She further explains:
“I’m feelin’ quite well tonight,” replied Morag piously; “but who can tell if the Lord may call any one of us before the morn comes; and if He chooses to call me in the night then I canna’ light your fire in the mornin’, can I?”
May’s Island homes are drafty and uncomfortable unless they have double glazing on windows and doors. For the young Fin the attic room of his aunt’s home that is his bedroom is cold and uninviting.
For Miss Beckwith there is a warm and comfortable bed in her bedroom.
May’s characters have had troubled and bleak lives. Regrets are many as they look back upon their lives.
Beckwith’s Islanders make the best of their lives upon the land. They enjoy life.
Probably the greatest difference is humour.
Laughter is rare in the lives of May’s residents. They are often a stereotype of Scottish dour.
Morag and her neighbours are constantly jibing each other and are a happy people. A funeral procession is marked by Islanders telling stories and jokes.
I appreciate the books were written about 50 years apart but do not see the respective perspectives flowing from the differing time periods. May is just as dark when he looks back 50 – 60 years.
I am sure life is neither as dark as in May’s books nor as light as in Beckwith’s books. I do find it striking how each makes their Hebrides credible.