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Some of the novel's themes are set up in this brief opening. The connection between the land and the people is a recurring theme of the novel. The narrator, an outsider, expresses dismay at the incredible harshness of the Starkfield winters. The name of the town is symbolic of the character of the land and its people. This is not a bountiful or generous land. A living must be scraped from the soil. Frome's own farm mirrors the name of the town, as his nearly barren soil provides barely enough for his family's survival.