the cone-gatherers - mrsbhigherenglish

 ‘The
Cone-Gatherers’ by Robin Jenkins is set in
Scotland during World War II. It is set on the
estate of the Runcie-Campbell’s, a wealthy
Scottish family.
 The action takes place over a few days in
Autumn in the forest on the estate. The trees are
to be cut down to provide wood for the war
 The cones from the trees are to be collected
before the forest is destroyed so that the trees
can be replaced.
 Brothers Calum and Neil have been sent to do
this hard, demanding work.
The main themes that we will be studying are:
Good versus Evil
Class conflict
Jenkins cleverly uses imagery to convey depth of
meaning below the surface:
In the opening chapter we are introduced to Calum and
Neil who are high in the trees gathering cones. It is set
during WWII and the forest is to be cut down for wood
and needs to be replaced. Thus the reason for
gathering cones.
We also find out that Calum is very compassionate to
animals and is very sensitive to their pain. He has
released rabbits from their traps which angers Duror,
the main character in the novel.
The reader begins to learn of Duror’s shocking
opinions. He hates the brothers, particularly Calum
because of his deformity and wants him out of his
You will be given the context of various points in
the novel and you must provide the textual
reference (quote/evidence) and provide a
comment (analysis)
 The
theme of good v evil is developed in the
opening chapter through:
 Setting
 The character of Calum
 The character of Duror
From the top of the trees Calum and Neil can see
a ship on the loch.
‘A destroyer steamed seawards, with a sailor
singing cheerfully.’ P1
The reference to a destroyer reminds us that the
novel is set during World War Two.
Symbolically, perhaps the destroyer represents
Duror, the sailor Calum, who is ‘singing’,
oblivious of danger. The juxtaposition of the
cheerful sailor and the warship hints at the
coexistence of good and evil.
 Calum
has a childlike innocence and an
affinity with nature
 Calum cannot understand why animals
kill each other
 He successfully blocks out the war
 The extent of Calum’s love of animals is
realised when he sees a rabbit in distress
 Calum is skilled in carving – nature
 Description of the brothers
The brothers foreshadow events
Calum’s compassion for the rabbits angers Duror
He vows to get rid of the brothers
Duror spies on the brothers – his hatred revealed
Duror thinks that his obsession with the brothers is a ‘noose of
disgust’ – comment fully
Shocking revelation from Duror’s childhood. His revulsion of
anything imperfect stems fro childhood.
There is an indication that Duror may act on his feelings of hatred
He is obsessed with the brothers and cannot help spying on them
Shockingly, Duror supports the Nazi regime
He fanaticises about murder
We become aware that the hared in Duror will not leave him
without tragic consequences
 The
brothers live in squalid conditions
 Neil is aware of the vast differences
between them and the Runcie-Campbells
 He questions their living accommodation
when there are more suitable, humane
 Significance
of the war – good versus
evil, Duror, Calum
 The silver firs – class
 The cone-gatherer’s hut – class
In chapter two we meet Dr. Matheson as Duror is walking
home form the woods. He offers Duror a lift home, for
which Duror is an inconvenience as he will have to
make small talk with the doctor.
The doctor seems to be more interested in the lack of
food due to the war and is not at all happy about it as
he is used to fine food such as venison and whiskey.
Duror returns home to a desperately unhappy home life.
His wife, Peggy, is morbidly overweight and is
bedridden. We also meet the dour, hostile mother-inlaw Mrs Lochie. She blames Duror for her daughter’s
misfortune and wants him to spend more time with her.
We are of course, aware that Duror is repelled by
anything that is deformed.
Duror meets Dr. Matheson. We can tell he is not happy
about having to talk to the doctor
Duror’s wife Peggy is morbidly obese. Why is this so
When asked about Peggy he is compared to a tree.
What does this tell us about his relationship?
The doctor is suspicious that despite Duror’s stalwart
and stoic appearance, something dark lurks in his mind
The doctor admires Duror’s stoic nature
Duror is desperately unhappy at home yet he hides his
Duror thinks of the cone-gatherer’s and how he is
becoming obsessed
Has Duror known than his sanity would, at one time,
escape him?
 Duror
wishes that he could be in the ‘miserable
hut’ rather than be at home
Mrs Lochie
 She, like Duror will never show
 Mrs Lochie is aware of, and not
her suffering
afraid to
comment on, Duror’s dissatisfaction with his
married life
 Duror
likens Peggy with Calum
 Peggy
and Duror were, at one time,
 Duror
has a strong bond with his dogs
 His dogs then sense the inner turmoil in their
master’s mind as he fantasises about thrashing
them – he manages to regain control
 We first hear of the deer drive and the hatching
of the evil plan to create immense suffering for
the brothers
 At the end of the chapter Duror remarks ‘it too
late’ and ‘as an infant separated from his
mother in a great crowd’ – what does he mean?
In this chapter we are introduced to Lady
Runcie-Campbell’s rather clumsy son,
Roderick. We are also introduced to his
sister Sheila and their uncle Captain
It is in this chapter that Duror involves Mrs.
Morton, the cook-housekeeper, and Lady
RC in his plan to destroy the conegatherers.
 Roderick
– a clumsy child
 Captain Forgan says he is envious of
Duror’s life on the estate. However Duror
would much rather be at war – note
Duror’s bitterness
 Mrs
Morton is used by Duror and becomes
involved in his plot. She has shown no hostility
towards the brothers
 Duror tells Mrs Morton that he saw Neil
exposing himself in the woods and is a threat to
young girls like Sheila
 Mrs Morton and Duror have feelings for each
other but perhaps now Duror is incapable of
 Duror admits to Mrs Morton that he needs help
Day two – in a discussion with Lady RC, Duror
suggests that Calum and Neil be used as
beaters. She asks Mr Tulloch and he agrees that
they can be used. However, he phones back to
explain that Calum has scruples over being a
beater. Lady RC asks Duror for advice and her
Christian values are overcome by her
aristocratic values. Later though she proposes a
compromise – that only Neil be used. Duror will
have none of it. Thus the fateful deer hunt is to
go ahead.
Lady Runcie Campbell struggles with her Christian
Values, she should be compassionate to those less
fortunate than her. However, her aristocratic status often
contradicts this. The theme of class often explores this
contradiction (note how she was so easily persuaded
by Duror to make them stay in the hut)
Lady cannot understand Roderick’s admiration for Neil
Lady RC does not want the brothers near her home
Tulloch explains Calum’s squeamishness to Lady RC
and she refuses to understand (conflict between
Christianity and class)
Lady RC directly compares him to Christ
Duror knows that his actions are wrong and will
implicate Lady RC in his evil plan
Imagery is used to convey the fact that he is aware he is
overcome with evil (filth)
Roderick’s dislike of Duror
Duror considers another opportunity for evil – he
imagines that Roderick has a terrible accident and dies
He does not understand why he responded the way he
Imagery used to describe the terrible lies
Another admission from Duror that he is totally aware of
all the evil he is doing: Peggy, Mrs Morton, to destroy
the CG’s
In this chapter we learn of Neil’s worries over
Calum. He is fearful of Calum’s fate should
anything happen to him.
Duror tries to climb the tree but suffers from
dizziness. The brothers learn that they must
take part in the deer hunt. Neil, furious on
behalf of Calum, tells Duror that they are ‘free
men’ and that they will not take part.
Calum, out love for his brother, agrees to try his
best to take part.
 The
hut is a symbol of humiliation for Neil
 Neil is humble and believes that the RC’s
represent the power of the world
 Neil
is aware of the hatred that Duror has
for him and his brother but cannot
understand it
Lady Runcie-Campbell organises a deer hunt in
honour of hr brother, Captain Forgan, who is on
leave from serving in WWII.
Neil is outraged on behalf of Calum that they
have been asked to act a beaters. Neil insists
that they do not take part.
It is in this chapter that Duror reveals to others
the psychological problems he has been
This chapter is a turning point for many reasons.
Up to this point it has only been the reader who
has been aware of the evil within Duror. At the
deer hunt his deterioration is exploited
publicly. It is also the point at which it is clear
that the cone-gatherers will no longer be able
to remain in the woods.
Furthermore, after the deer hunt, we are to a
large extent, shut off from Duror’s thoughts. We
do not see him very often in the rest of the
novel and often only through the eyes of other
Duror’s nightmare – he reveals his mental state to
Find examples and analyse (there are many)
His plan to kill Calum is connected to the fact that he
has come to hate his wife and longs to be rid of her
Find examples and analyse
Duror has repressed his feelings which is why he
appears stoic and ‘stalwart’
Find examples and analyse
Duror’s intense hatred of Calum continues to grow and
it is shocking to the reader to discover that his evil plan
to rid them form the wood is far from over (reference to
 Calum, with
overwhelming sympathy for the
deer flings himself upon the deer, regardless of
his own safety
 Duror laughs like a madman
 He carries out the savage attack on the deer
 He askes for Peggy in a state of confusion
 He furiously attacks Calum
 It seems that both Duror and Lady RC blame
Calum for the horrific events
 Duror’s misery returns with the realisation that
his wife is not dead
Lady Runcie-Campbell is horrified at the
outcome of the deer hunt. She automatically
blames Calum.
However we also notice that Lady RuncieCampbell believes in the system of privilege
and tries to make sure that her Christianity
justifies it.
It is in this chapter that we see Roderick and Mr
Tulloch try to bridge the gap between lady RC
and the cone-gatherers.
Mr Tulloch and Captain Forgan mistake Duror’s motives for
attacking Calum
Explain this with reference to the text and analyse
Lady RC sides with Duror in blaming Calum
Find evidence and analyse
Mr Tulloch is a decent man. He is fair and expects others,
including Lady RC to be the same.
Find evidence and analyse
Roderick is also fair and he can see that unfairness in the
treatment of the cone-gatherers.
Find evidence and analyse
The silver fir trees act as a barrier between the upper and lower
classes. If the cones are not gathered, the trees will not be
replaced after the war
Discuss with close reference to the text (symbolism)
 Lady
RC takes her children to the
pictures. They meet Calum and Neil and
Roderick suggests that they give them a
lift back otherwise they will have to walk
but Sheila strongly objects.
 Consider the views of Lady RC, Roderick,
Sheila and Duror and their reaction to
Roderick’s suggestion that they should
be offered a lift home
Duror returns from his consultation with Dr. Matheson
Here we witness Duror's inner turmoil. This is how he really feels –
he is a man on the brink, as his physical positioning at the edge of
the pier highlights. The actions which he considers are not only
brutal, but final. Furthermore, there is a direct contrast here
between his outward appearance and his inner feelings.
Duror “stared” at the water which would indicate that he is looking
for himself, seeking an answer in his reflection. However, because
it is night, he can see nothing below him but darkness. Thus there
is no hope for him, no salvation.
Duror appears to realise that he has reached the end. However the
fact that he "halted" would suggest that he is unable to end his own
Duror's longing for the end encourages sympathy from the reader.
There is an inherent sadness here, and the realisation that death
would be preferable to life is expressed through the use of the
word "wish".
 The
men in the pub feel a degree of
sympathy for Duror’s predicament with
 A soldier in the pub tells a joke about
fighter pilot and an ape.
 We learn that the brother’s mother
committed suicide after the birth of
 Lady
RC makes her usual visit to Peggy.
The theme of class is exemplified by the
behaviour of both women: Lady RC
cannot stand Peggy’s ‘fawning’ manner
while Peggy ‘simpers’ and fawns over her
because she is an aristocrat.
 Sir
Colin has concerns about his son. He writes
letters in which he wishes to be reassured
about Roderick’s ‘manner of speaking…to the
lower orders’. He believes that failure to adhere
to the class structure would be ‘downright
 Roderick however admires the cone-gatherers
and his desire to visit them after his mother
would refused them a lift, makes his lie to her.
 Roderick in the wood – references to Christian
in ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ a religious allegory
This ‘quest’ is very improtant to Roderick. He wishes to
give them a ‘cake of friendship’
 The cake should take the form of a reparation
 He thinks of the journey through the wood as a
pilgrimage – imaginative
 He sees Duror and thinks of his as evil and wonders if
he has gone mad.
 He wishes to protect the cone-gatherers from Duror
 Roderick feels frightened when he notices Duror – he
feels defeated.
 This
incident is important because it
 Social class/Neil’s bitterness
 Calum’s goodness
 Duror’s evil
 LRCs battle between Christianity and
Chapter starts with a storm approaching. This has two
purposes, a literal and a figurative.
Literally, storms are violent so the storm is a metaphor
for violence. “…indigo clouds had been mustering”
reflects early hints at inevitability of outcome whilst
“black clouds were now overhead. Thunder snarled”
pg 121 represents the growing animosity of Duror. It is
an indication of what’s about to happen with Duror.
“yet…peace and brightness persisted” pg 122 could
be seen as Calum’s goodness – not yet extinguished or
Roderick’s growing sense of justice and compassion for
the men.
Calum asks Neil if he saw the light – Calum asks if it is
heaven ( this shows the extent of Calum’s innocence
and Neil’s realism “there was no merciful god” pg 123.)
This is relevant because Calum is about to be killed.
Neil is lower down in the tree – partly because of his
rheumatism and partly because Calum is a better
climber. It also makes Calum nearer to
Their individual disabilities make them more
vulnerable in the face of the storm and the fact that
“they were the only living creatures left in the treetops”
pg 120 increases the isolation that they have been
battling against since their first days on the estate.
Their position is also representative of their
They head for the beach hut
Calum knows that they’re not allowed “the lady will be
angry again”
“this represented not only dryness and warmth but
This is another by-product of Duror’s evil.
LRC WOULD have let the CGs have the beach hut but
Duror talked her out of it. She has no idea about their
living conditions BUT doesn’t care enough to find out
The storm itself is symbolic of LRC herself when she
accosts them in a violent and uncontrollable fury
The phrase “for God’s sake” is loaded with heavy irony
– she is behaving in the most unchristian way. Her
anger suggests that she is not only fighting for her
property BUT her place in, and the survival of, the
social system.
When Calum says that Neil was only helping him keep
dry she says “For Christ sake.” She has so much
Christianity that she will not even let them be dry. p
130 “Your father’s right. After this war, the lower
orders are going to be frightfully presumptuous”. This
shows what Lady Runcie Campbell is like.
She is scared she will lose her position. She doesn’t
think that the working class should have any rights.
There are various points emphasising the gulf of wealth
between Lady Runcie Campbell and Neil and Calum
e.g. toys broken being replaced.
Neil knows Calum would pick the toy, which is broken,
because it is disfigured like him. It is a human figure –
feels it might be hurt.
Calum’s inherent goodness is shown once more
through his initial apprehension and reluctance to enter
the hut, and his desire to protect Neil and take the
blame for their “astonishing impudence”.
The toys are a physical representation of Neil’s
resentments of the RCs.
The broken toys represent their carelessness and easy
disregard for others.
Lady RC goes mad when she sees that Neil and Calum
have a fire going
Neil is ashamed and doesn’t speak up “a lifetime of
frightened submissiveness held it down”. This shows
their lack of control over the social system in which
they live.
Neil’s inability to raise his head is symbolic of the class
system and social prejudice that holds him down.
They laugh at Calum because he can’t get his coat on.
Sheila doesn’t recognise how wrong it is – she
humiliates them.
Roderick recognises his mother doing wrong again.
 It
is Calum and Neil’s fire but Lady Runcie
Campbell is getting the benefits. This is
a metaphor – the working class do all the
work but the higher classes get the
 Roderick’s
face is described as ‘grave
and tense’ following his mother’s outburst
 His mother is anxious about his
‘oversensitive conscience’
 Lady RC remembers Duror’s treatment of
Peggy and decides to talk to him about
 The focus in the chapter is
 Neil makes a phone call to
on Mr Tulloch
Mr Tulloch after the
encounter with Lady RC
 Tulloch makes an appointment to come and
investigate the incident
 Neil wishes he and Calum be taken away from
the forest
 Tulloch is kind and understanding
 Brothers will be replaced
 Neil demands an apology from Lady RC in
Find evidence and explain it in detail for the following
Lady RC did not make the incident in the beach hut
sound as offensive as she would have liked when she
reported it to Tulloch
Tulloch consulted his wife about it – biblical reference
Neil’s appearance shocks Tulloch
He admires Neil’s patience and determination
Tulloch is unpatronising and listens to Neil – beach hut,
Neil’s distress is very real
Comment fully on the question Neil asks Tulloch – ‘why
is it…that the innocent have always to be sacrificed?’
Tulloch tries to explain Lady RC’s reaction in the beach
hut – class
Neil rejects this
Tulloch states he will tell Lady RC the CGs will be
replaced with conscientious objectors but because of
her status she must be disgusted by them all because
of the code she lives by – ruling class
Tulloch shows kindness and understanding to the
Comment on the last line of the chapter
“in none of her many rooms…. The one where she
sought them most was Roderick’s.”
There are two clear points in this line. She has many
rooms while Neil and Calum live in a one-room hut –
this is a contrast
Lady RC is worried about Roderick. This is a contrast
with the way she threw Neil and Calum out into the rain.
She sees him as a fragile flower.
She is a “practical Christian” – she can’t admit wrong.
A practical Christian is someone who is Christian when
they want to be. Her Christianity is valid as long as it
supports what she does. She goes against a
fundamental Christian ethic.
P 141 This speech makes Lady Runcie Campbell into a
caricature. The speech is about her attitude to her land,
“angry and frustrated” – she is like a child having a
tantrum. There is an irony that she is arrogant and
overbearing. She doesn’t want to be treated equal to
other people – she wants things to stay the way they
“inferiority” – This idea is fundamental to Lady Runcie
Campbell. She is superior to everyone else – the
others are subhuman. She has “civilised bases”
keeping her in place.
“patronising” “condescending” – It is far more
condescending to presume how they are going to react.
She wants to perpetuate her superiority – she does this
by treating them inferiorly
When Roderick expresses the fact that he doesn’t know
– another reference to war – it changed the way society
worked. A lot of the arguments that she is coming out
with are similar to Nazi arguments. Her privilege is
inherited and not based on any sort of work. It is to do
with birth – same as Nazi beliefs that you had to be
born blue-eyed etc. Jenkins wants to show us that her
attitude causes what happens at the end.
She has the doctor see Roderick. “I’m going to
……gone” – her attitude is that they are so inferior that
they make the wood ugly.
Lady Runcie Campbell does not have a lot of selfknowledge. At the end of the Chapter “it is
….involved”. At the beginning we are reminded of her
wealth and then at the end we are told she is reminded
through a memory that we are all brothers in God. By
being born we are all involved. This shows that she
cannot say she is not involved in what is to come. For
much of the chapter she has gone on about how
superior she is. Yet she doesn’t really seem to have
listened to what her father was saying – she says that
she got her Christianity from her father. There is also a
reminder that she is partly responsible for what is
about to happen.
 The
doctor came from an ordinary working
class background – He cares no more for
Roderick than he would for any other son. He
is polite enough not to ask why he was called
when there is nothing wrong. The doctor is not
flattered at being called out by her. The point
of the doctor being in the story is that he is
everything that she finds inferior but we can
see that he is superior to her. This is a contrast
with the pretend superiority that Lady Runcie
Campbell has.
“Bosom……..shameful” the implication of the conversation between
Lady Runcie Campbell, Duror and Tulloch is that of sexual implications.
Lady Runcie Campbell doesn’t see the doll as innocent. When Tulloch
asks for the doll for his daughter she sees the doll as obscene.
Tulloch knows that Calum would have made a leg for the doll – biblical
allusion of the cripple who couldn’t walk.
Tulloch says that Duror is ill. If Lady Runcie Campbell has to admit that
Calum and Neil have been treated badly then she has to admit that she
treated them badly.
It shows Calum innocent personality as he purely sees the doll as a
broken toy with no sexual implications that Duror has spread rumours
We see Duror dressed very ruggedly and is ill mannered. His shameful
appearance shows the image of mind as well. His mind has become very
deluded and has taken every opportunity to make the cone gatherers
life’s a living hell.
At the beginning of the chapter we discover that Calum and Neil
have gone to a rocky promontory (a point of land that juts out into
the sea). It is rocky because there is an allusion towards Christ’s
crucifixion – it is at the top of a hill-where Christ was killed.
“ Seeing his reflection, he grinned in appreciation at the jokes
made about his face: its flatness, high cheekbones, narrow
eyes and yellowish tan … reference to the Chinese”
When we go to the big house we get a description of Mr Tulloch.
We discover that his wife berates people when they insult him
because he looks Chinese (the enemy during WWII). The first
reason for putting this in is to show that people are seen as inferior
because of how they look. Jenkins is saying that you can insult
anyone but it is what the person is like that is important.
The last thing that Calum says is “Cheerio sand the little man.”
Calum is singing like an angel. This person is innocent, he is
someone we shouldn’t wish any harm.
Roderick looks for Calum and Neil because he wants to apologise
– he wants to be an equal. Roderick wants to be absolved of his
sins – religious references.
He is sad when he discovers that they are leaving.
Tulloch tells Roderick not to go near them – he doesn’t want to
cause any friction.
Roderick shows an interest in the cones etc. This shows that
Roderick has an interest in the cone gatherers. This also shows that
even ‘inferior’ people have expertise. In their jobs Neil and
Calum are the best – they have superiority.
 The
author brings up the thought that Roderick
doesn’t like climbing trees yet this is an irony
because at the end of the novel he wants to be
like the cone gatherers and so goes up the tree
and gets stuck. He does this because he wants
to appreciate what the cone gatherers do.
Lady Runcie Campbell wants Neil and Calum out of the wood –
Neil and Calum want out.
Tulloch asks if they can stay till Saturday. She grants it.
If he had mentioned the incident at the beach hut she would have
been in the position to either admit she was wrong or admit that
she wasn’t really Christian.
Instead of Neil and Calum he is going to send conscientious
objectors – they are deformed in mind rather than body (Calum).
Lady Runcie Campbell has to take these people.
Tulloch doesn’t hate conscientious objectors – he says that they
are not cowards. Tulloch is reminding us that we cannot condemn
people because we don’t think the same as them. Tulloch also
makes the point that his wife and men disliked them at first but
eventually they saw them for what they were – it was the same with
Calum. This is what Lady Runcie Campbell fails to do.
Duror suddenly appears when Lady RC and Tulloch are talking –
note his description – no dogs, no gun, dirty, dishevelled
He has with him the doll which now becomes ‘obscene’
Tulloch explains that Calum would only have mended its leg and
that he had carved a squirrel for his own daughter
However the mood is destroyed when Duror rambles hoarsely to
Lady RC, making accusations of the foulest kind against Calum
Duror keeps repeating the word ‘seed’
Lady RC is absolutely horrified by this out burst and asks Duror if
he has gone mad
He is sent away to continue his work
 The
 The ending is important because we learn
 Lady Runcie Campbell’s realisation
 Duror’s final decline, outcome of evil
 Calum’s murder (culmination of Christ
allegory- personification of GOOD)
 The results of social class
 Setting – links back to warships etc Also
promontory is now tainted forever.
 Could be argued that it has a ‘happy’ ending
Roderick climbs the tree – he admires the cone
gatherers – he cannot get down
LRC acts calmly and decisively
At one point however she turns on Harry as she thinks
he implied cowardice (extreme insult in aristocratic
She needs the cone gatherer’s help but Neil demands
she ask herself
She is appalled at the idea but decides to go
It is she who finds Calum’s body
She goes down on her knees amoung the blood and
 She
cannot pray but she can weep
 As she weeps pity and joy and hope well
up in her heart
 The fact she decided to go to the cone
gatherers is a great concession for her
 The ending shows she has learnt a lesson
about rank and Christianity
 Graham
tells Duror that the CGs refused to
help Roderick – Duror walks of in their
direction without speaking
 Graham tells LRC about Neil and Duror –
 LRC goes in search of the CGs – she hears a
gun shot
 She hears another shot and knows that Duror
has killed himself
 Evil appears to triumph over good but Duror
cannot live with the emptiness that is left – evil
destroys itself