The Cone Gatherers

The Cone Gatherers
Robin Jenkins
The period
• Second World War ( 1939-45)
• There are many references to the war in the
novel ; Captain Forgan is back from the war, the
forestry workers from Ardmore are conscientious
objectors; Tulloch’s brother has been killed at
Dunkirk, Duror refers to ‘the Germans putting
idiots and cripples to death in the gas chambers’
• The war provides a moral edge to the book . It
suggests that this inhumanity and evil is to be
found everywhere and not just in the wood
The Moral Question
• The eternal war between good and evil
• Duror’s hatred of Calum is not fully explained by
his wife and the slight irritation of Calum
interfering with his traps.
• In some ways the wood is like the garden of
Eden with Duror lurking around it like the devil.
• Calum is a symbol of innocence and has a
childlike faith in heaven
• We see the parallel between what Hitler was
doing to the Jews and the handicapped in
Germany and Duror’s attitude to the cone
gatherers in the wood
Can absolute goodness survive in
the world ?
Why does evil exist?
• ‘read that the Germans were putting idiots and
cripples to death in gas chambers. Outwardly, as
everybody expected, he condemn such
barbarity; inwardly, thinking of idiocy and
crippled ness not as abstractions but as
embodied in the crouch-backed cone-gatherer,
he profoundly approved.’
The religious aspect
• The struggle between good and evil
• The wood as the Garden of Eden
• The cone gatherers being thrown out of
the hut like Mary and Joseph being turned
away from the Inn at Christmas
• Calum’s body hanging from the tree at the
end like Jesus on the cross
Religion and God’s order
• Mrs Lochie says that what happened to Duror’s
wife is ‘a punishment from God’
• Mrs Morton says of Calum ‘ the small one’s not
as God meant him to be’
• Lady Runcie Campbell struggles between her
Christianity and her feudal class. Jenkins
describes her attitude towards religion as
tolerant but distrustful’. It is only at the end of the
book that she breaks free from her mistrust and
sense of rank and goes to plead with the cone
gatherers to help Roderick down.
• The absent Sir Colin tells LRC
‘What d’you expect, Elizabeth ? They’re still brutes under the skin
y’know…After the war they’ll be trying to drag us down to their level .
It’s up to us to see they don’t manage it.’
• Sir Colin sees the war as a threat to the
established order Neil sees it as an opportunity
and thinks that after the war things will change
and people will not be allowed to treat Calum
and himself the way they do.
• Class is closely related to deformity in the book
with the idea that one person can be inherently
better than another purely by birth being
challenged by Robin Jenkins.
Setting - Nature
• The link between man and nature in the book
gives it depth
• Nature can be beautiful but can also be cruel.
• Animals hunt for survival – man hunts for fun
causing unnecessary pain
• Jenkins compares people to animals all the way
through the novel but only the cone gatherers
are seen as in harmony with nature
Setting – The cones
• The cones represent resurrection
• After the war the cones will enable to
wood to come back to life.
• When the dead Calum is hanging from the
tree the cones drop like blood from his
bag- there is no resurrection for him now.
The Ending
• Lady Runcie Campbell
‘wept and as she wept pity, and purified hope, and
joy welled up in her heart’
• This hope can be seen as LRC being changed
by Calum’s death in some way so that the world
will be a better place now or that Calum is like
Christ in that his death brings forgiveness and a
new start for the characters in the book maybe
hope for mankind in relation to the war in that
the sacrifice of the fallen can lead to hope for
The Ending
• The novel can be seen as a fable
• Set in a wood and imagining the characters as
animals all fits in with out idea of a simple tale
with a moral at the end.
• Roderick see the wood in terms of fable like Sir
Galahad and the pilgrim from Pilgrim’s Progress
where the characters meet evil and have to
struggle to triumph over it to achieve salvation or