The Cone Gatherers CEL by Robin Jenkins – Critical Evaluation of Literature
The Cone Gatherers written by Robin Jenkins covers many topics. The two topics I shall mainly focus on are the eventual insanity of Duror the gamekeeper and also his evil towards Calum and Neil, the two cone gatherers. As I read the book, I discovered that Duror was an evil and disturbed human being who was driven to insanity by his hate towards the cone-gatherers. The evil inside Duror is the book’s focus, although other themes appear throughout the book. Evil is described in Chapter 8 as “a presence like air, infecting everyone”.From the start of the book, Duror’s cold evil is made very clear. “Duror the gamekeeper, in an icy sweat of hatred.” This is referring to one of the opening images when Calum, who loves everything about nature, bends over to pity a poor rabbit caught in the gamekeeper’s trap. It says that Duror keeps his gun targeting the “hunchback” whilst Calum is bent over. Duror’s hate for Calum I assume, is because Calum is happy. Jealousy is apparent when he realises that although Calum is a hunchback, he is happy and loves everything about nature. Whereas, Duror’s marriage is not the happiest because his wife is ill and has to be helped to do everything.In Chapter 2, Duror says that he wishes that he was Calum with a hunched-back and “hellishly beautiful face and idiots mind”.
He feels that if he “could cleanse the wood of his defiling presence”, he would be all right and he would be happy again to see that no one lesser than him, was happier than him. I feel that Duror’s hate for the cone-gatherers deepens and becomes more complicated. I think that Duror feels that because the cone-gatherers are his inferior, they should not be happy if he isn’t happy. Although he isn’t technically their boss, he wants to feel power over them and this is the only way he can get the feeling of power he craves for so much.To try to satisfy his craving for power and jealousy, he spreads rumours about the cone-gatherers, and in particular Calum. Before he spoke to Effie Morton about the ‘sightings’, he debates whether he really should spread rumours about them. He does speak to Effie Morton, who is the cook-housekeeper of Lady Runcie-Campbell’s mansion. He tells her that Calum is a pervert who exposes himself in the forest for his own pleasure. An example of this found in chapter 4, “now when he was going to lie again, this time knowing it would implicate evil, he felt that he was about to commit before her eyes an obscene gesture, such as he had falsely accused the dwarf of making.” Before he tells Lady Runcie-Campbell of Calum’s ‘obscene gestures’, they talk about the deer drive.
Words are powerless when looked at individually but they have the potential for good or evil, when someone who can properly use them to his or her advantage. That is what Nathaniel Hawthorne quote means, and I fully agree with him. An example of words being used for evil could be a dictator trying to convince his people that he is best for the country. An example of words being used for good could ...
Yet another of Duror’s plans is put into action. He suggests that the cone-gatherers should be used as beaters. She asks if one of them is a ‘cripple’. Although Duror has an immense dislike toward Calum, he replies by saying “He’s a hunchback, but as agile as any monkey.” She rang Mr. Tulloch the overseer of the Ardmore men’s (cone-gatherers) work and he said it should be all right. As Duror was about to leave, the telephone rang. Mr Tulloch was explaining that Calum had certain sensibilities, especially towards the deer drive. Duror, when asked by Lady Runcie-Campbell if Calum and Neil were really needed, he insisted they were so Lady Runcie-Campbell told Mr Tulloch the same.In Chapter 5, Duror seemed to take great pleasure in telling the cone-gatherers about their necessary attendance of the upcoming deer drive. Neil got very irate about it and said that Duror was deceiving them by trying to get them to do things, that they don’t particularly want to do. Neil knew that Calum was never asked to take part in deer drives because of his particular sensibilities and then accused Duror of deceiving them. “Duror was silent. His triumph was become a handful of withered leaves” He thought that to deliver this “deadly message to them in the eyrie where they fancied themselves safe” would be gratifying, yet after his ascent to half way up the cone gatherers ladder, he wasn’t so sure.
... two contrasting characters, John Duror : the self implosive villian and Calum : the innocent ,christ like, hunch backed cone-gatherer he explores how one can ... shelter. She then wants them removed from her grounds, Mr Tulloch ( friend to the brothers) can do nothing to keep them ... him removed from the wood and organises a deer drive which he knew Calum would spoil (due to his sympathy for all ...
His vertigo restricted his movement up or down the ladder. He had thought that climbing the ladder, as he was more able than Calum, would have not caused any problems. In the end, sensing the lack of ideas his brother had come across, Calum decided to become a beater in that afternoon’s deer hunt.That afternoon, the drive didn’t go to plan. Captain Forgan, Lady Runcie-Campbell’s brother, shot a deer. Calum ran and put his hands around the deer’s neck trying to comfort it, coating himself in the deer’s blood. Duror, who found this amusing, also ran into the middle of the field but he had a knife in his hand. He threw Calum off the deer with a terrific force, seized the deer’s head in one hand and attacked the throat of the deer using a knife with the other. Not only had he killed the deer, he had coated his hands and face with blood. Others assumed that Duror had hurt himself as there was no movement, but when Mr. Tulloch ran over, he disproved that theory. Although Duror was all right physically, people started to think that the savageness of this attack was due to a mental disturbance or that there was a problem somehow. As Duror had collapsed when he had put the deer out of its misery, the sight of blood was far too common in Duror’s job and consequently couldn’t have been the reason for his collapse.He went to the doctor, where yet again, he told of the ‘abominations’ of Calum.
He let down his guard when trying to hide his hatred this time though. When asked if his natural reaction would have been to “kick his backside”, he replied, “I wouldn’t have soiled my foot.” In Chapter 10, Mrs. Morton let slip to Roderick that the cone-gatherers were ‘evil’. Roderick went to the cone-gatherers hut, but as soon as he saw that Duror was hiding under the Cyprus bush, he headed home. Roderick thought that when Mrs Morton said the cone-gatherers were evil, perhaps she was meaning Duror, after what had happened at the deer drive.In chapter 14, every one realises that what Duror has been saying about Calum was just visious slander and not the truth. Calum is too simple minded to understand what they are meaning and he found it hard to even understand the facts of life.When Duror is at home, he seems to want to spend more time with his dogs as they can’t argue or answer back, but they seem frightened of him at first then realise what mood he’s in and react. “The dogs were uneasy. Although he spoke to them with more than customary friendliness, and handled them with unwonted gentleness, they still mistrusted him.” They always seemed wary towards him, in case he decided to mistreat them, yet, followed him like guardians whenever they were told.Mrs.
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Lochie, Duror’s mother-in-law, can tell he’s not happy with the fact that his marriage is not satisfying him. He is late most evenings and he barely spends ten minutes a night with his wife. Mrs. Lochie tries to get him to feel guilty and get him to spend more time with his wife, but to no avail. He already feels guilty but doesn’t know how to deal with it, or if he wants to deal with it. The final chapter tells of Duror’s eventual insanity. Roderick had got himself stuck up a tree whilst trying to copy the cone gatherers. Duror had been told by Mr. Tulloch about the events and how the pride of the cone gatherers was hurt. They would only help Roderick down if Lady Runcie Campbell would come and ask them herself. When she heard, she did as they asked whilst trying to convince herself that she should be angry, but she couldn’t be. When they arrived at the tree she saw Calum’s bag of cones hanging off the tree with cones falling out. The thing that caught her eye though was the drops of blood falling from the tree. Calum had a smile on his face although he was dead.The next thing that distracted her from this unsightly scene was a gunshot. Duror lay on the ground with his face shattered.My assumption is that the reason for Duror killing the cone gatherers was that after he had heard of their stubbornness and refusal to help Roderick, he was irate. Then after killing Calum, he decided that it wasn’t the right thing to do after all. Thus, killing himself.The book was very surreal in parts and also intriguing. Duror had been married to his wife for twenty-five years and for twenty-two of them she had been ill. Pressure all around him could have made him commit murder and suicide. Although, I am fairly certain that the author had hidden meanings within the story.