The Cone-Gatherers by Robin Jenkins
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 ...
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... 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.