In Robin Jenkins “The Cone Gatherers” we follow the malicious character of Duror who goes through an internal battle to try and control his hatred for deformities. Duror’s mental deterioration is caused by the hunchback, Calum’s, presence, Calum is in Duror’s forest as be has been sent with his brother Neil to collect cones, which leads to the inevitable dramatic ending to the novel. The central theme throughout the novel is ‘Good versus Evil’ and how they have to co-exist in order to keep a balance between one another.
Jenkins use of interesting and descriptive detail helps to convey the development of Duror’s evil character. During the opening chapters of the novel we are introduced to the malicious character of Duror. He has an obsessive hatred for Calum unlike everyone else in the estate that cannot help but feel sympathy for the cone gatherers: “Since childhood Duror had been repelled by anything living that had an imperfection or deformity… ” This clearly portrays how Duror’s inner hatred of deformities comes from when he a boy and since then he has kept these feelings repressed and hidden.
However, the presence of Calum being in the forest means that Duror’s disgust for imperfections grows which then leads to the tragic events throughout the novel. The reader is clearly able to see how evil Duror can be which helps the reader understand the central theme of the novel: the interdependence of good and evil. The people who are around Duror are able to perceive that he is not quite right but are not yet fully aware of his evil state of mind. While Duror is walking home from the forest he is met by Dr Matheson who offers him a lift and tries to make small talk with Duror: “… ere twisting and coiling there like the snakes of damnation … there could not be victory. ” The religious imagery used here is very effective as it gives connotations of the evil and twisted thoughts lurking around in Duror’s mind, the source of Duror’s inner conflict. Dr Matheson cannot fully comprehend what is going through Duror’s mind which makes him unable to help Duror. The word choice of “victory” has connotations of Duror’s inner battle with his emotions.
Also the reference to “victory” and the fact that Duror will never have any foreshadows the tragic events that will happen during the novel. The reader is able to see that the evil inner thoughts of Duror and the fact that he tries to repress these emotions help us to understand more about his character. Duror’s emotional struggle is conveyed through his relationship with his wife, Peggy. After coming in from the forest he is confronted by Mrs Lochie who dislikes Duror as she believes he doesn’t treat her daughter the way he should: “… hat love itself could become paralysed. ” This is an ironic statement as Peggy is the one who is physically paralysed however Duror is the one is emotionally and mentally paralysed. It also conveys the intensity of Duror’s hatred as it affects his closest family. Duror’s lack of desire for his obese wife because of his hatred of deformities makes the reader see him as the vindictive and evil character he is. Duror’s inner instability becomes clear during the key incident of the deer drive.
During the deer drive a deer is wounded, Calum throws himself upon the wounded deer with sympathy when Duror emerges from the forest wanting to kill the deer: “He seemed to be laughing in some kind of berserk joy. ” These actions of Duror, slitting the deer’s throat then remaining beside the deer show his complete loss of control because of the hate he has been trying to hide. The reader is also made aware of the extreme hate Duror has for Peggy as he imagines Peggy is the deer he is attacking.
This image of Duror laughing allows the reader to be able to comprehend the evil that is within Duror which highlights the theme of good versus evil. Also because of Calum’s goodness, wanting to comfort the deer we are clearly able to see the effective theme of the co-existence of good and evil. Duror’s hatred for Calum is conveyed through his lies he tells about the cone gatherer. Duror attempts to lie to Lady Runcie Campbell about a doll which he claims Calum stole from the beach hut: “… he had begun to utter quietly, hoarsely, and with an undercurrent of pleading, the most loathsome accusations against the little cone gatherer. This shows Duror loss of control at trying to contain his evil emotions forcing him to lie about Calum. By suggesting hideous and sordid actions of Calum, he tries to convince Lady Runcie Campbell he is not suited for the wood. At this point Lady Runcie Campbell is forced to accept that Duror is mentally unstable. Also the word-choice of “little” gives connotations of the child-like innocence and goodness of Calum conveying to the reader the theme of good versus evil. Duror’s malicious character ultimately brings the novel to its tragic climax.
Lady Runcie Campbell goes to Scour Point to seek the help of the cone gatherers but she arrives too late as she hears a gunshot knowing Duror has murdered Calum. She then sees Duror walking away from the scene: “He was walking away among the pine trees with so infinite a desolation in his every step that it was this memory of him, … which was to torment her sleep for months. ” Lady Runcie Campbell who has experienced the horror and emptiness lurking inside Duror is now witness to the climax of his instability.
Duror’s murder of Calum leaves him feeling empty, it’s an emptiness of emotion and an emptiness of humanity leaving Duror as only a hollow person because without his hate for Calum , he has nothing to live for. With Duror unable to go back and unable to move forward he commits suicide. This tragic ending to the book clearly displays to the reader the central theme of the novel, that when good versus evil they co-exist to balance each other conveyed by the sacrifice of Calum which leads to the death of Duror changing the lives of people within the wood.