Category Archives: Higher “The Cone Gatherers” Revision

Higher “The Cone Gathererers” Revision

This is all the resouces we have been through in class, plus some other things;

The Cone Gatherers bbc class clips

The Cone Gatherers notes

The Cone Gatherers


This is the table I was talking about with some key quotes as well as some analysis, fill in the empty boxes if you want. The Cone Gatherers Key Quotations from Ian Yule

Here I have gone through the novel and typed up any quotes I think are potentially important, there are a few notes in here as well. The most important quotes are in bold.

Cone Gatherers Revision Notes and Key Quotes

Here is the whole document for those of you who can’t open the file.

The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins

Notes and Key Quotes

Chapter one – Introduces the theme of conflict.

You need to be familiar with chapter one for a possible question on a novel with an effective opening chapter. You need to know the themes introduced in this chapter and how they are all resolved by the end of the novel.

Conflict in the setting: During WW2.  The peaceful perfection of the woods vs. war that is raging around the world.

Conflict between classes – rich vs. poor, social upheaval sparked by the war.

Conflict between characters – Duror (evil) vs. Calum (innocence)

Setting: On page one of the novel we immediately perceive the conflict going on between the setting in time and place. The forest is beautiful but the background of the war affects everything. The forest is described positively at this point; it is almost like the biblical Garden of Eden “it was a good tree”, “many cones”, “much sunshine” P.1. Word choice is used to give an impression of goodness and abundance. Imagery is also used: “its topmost branches as comfortable as chairs”.

However this perfection is lost – a contrast begins between the perfect setting and the conflict caused by the war.

We are also introduced to the conflict between social classes.  As we see Neil’s bitterness towards the mansion and the way the estate contrasts with the accommodation of the cone-gatherers.

Conflict between characters: Duror v. Calum

Calum –  Is introduced as an innocent character, in touch with nature. He empathises with all creatures and hates to see suffering. Although he is infirm in body he has a beautiful mind that matches his face.

Duror – On the other hand is the personification of evil.  Although he is strong in body, his mind is rotten, black and twisted. Although his job as gamekeeper dictates him to live closely with nature, he seems to despise life, especially if it is not perfect in his opinion.  He becomes obsessed to the point of perversion with Calum and convinces himself that he has to kill Calum to be free of his torment. His fantasies in the first chapter foreshadow what will happen in the last. Durors unreasonable hatred for Calum should resonate with the reader as a link with the atrocities performed by the Nazis in WW2.

A destroyer had steamed seawards, with a sailor singing cheerfully. More sudden and swifter than hawks, and roaring louder than waterfalls, aeroplanes had shot down from the sky over the wood, whose autumnal colours they seemed to have copied for camouflage. In the silence that followed gunshots had cracked far off in the wood.” P.1.

“From the tall larch could be glimpsed, across the various tinted crowns of the trees, the chimneys of the mansion behind its private fence of giant silver firs” p.1.

“For Calum the tree-top as interest enough; in it he was as indigenous as squirrel or bird… Chaffinches fluttered around him, ignoring his brother; now and then one would alight his head or shoulder. He kept chuckling to them, and his sunburnt face was alert and beautiful with trust”. P.1.

“Listening, as if he were an owl himself, he saw in imagination the birds huddled on branches far lower than this one on which he sat. He became an owl himself, he rose and fanned his winds, flew close to the ground, and then swooped, to rise again with vole or shrew squeaking in his talons. Part-bird then, part-man, he suffered in the ineluctable predicament of necessary pain and death… This was the terrifying mystery, why creatures he loved should kill one another. He had been told that all over the world in the war now being fought men, women and children wewre being slaughtered in thousands; cities were being burnt down. He could not understand it, and so he tried, with success, to forget it.” P.3.

Neil on the injustice of not being allowed to stay in the house, “’Why couldn’t we? We’re human beings just like them. We need space to live and breathe in.’” P.3.

Neil on Calum, “’I ken you do Calum’, he said. ‘And I ken too that, though you’re simple, you’re better than any of them. Is to be always happy a crime? Is it daft never to be angry or jealous or full of spite? You’re better and wiser than any of them”. P.4.

“There’s no sense in being sorry for trees,’ said his brother, ‘when there are more men being struck down. You can make use of a tree, but what use is a dead man?? Trees can be replaced in time. Aren’t we ourselves picking the cones for seed? Can you replace dead men?” P.4

Duror, watching the cone gatherers in the woods, thinking about shooting Calum, “to hear simultaneously the clean report of the gun and the last obsess squeal of the killed dwarf would have been for him, he thought, release too, from the noose of disgust and despair drawn, these past few days, so much tighter.” P.9.

“He could have named, item by item, leaf and fruit and branch, the overspreading tree of revulsion spreading in him; but he could not tell the force which made it grow, any more than he could have explained the life in himself, or in the dying rabbit, or in any of the trees about him” P. 9.

“This wood had always been his stronghold and sanctuary; there were many places secret to him where he had been able to fortify his sanity and his hope. But now the wood was invaded and defiled; its cleansing and reviving virtues were gone. Into it had crept this hunchback, himself one of nature’s freaks, whose abject acceptance of nature, like the whining prostrations of a heathen in front of an idol, had made acceptance no longer possible for Duror himself.” P.10.

The brothers have to live in “A greasy shed, hardly bigger than a rabbit-hutch” P.10.

“And on the misshapen lump of his body sat a face so beautiful and guiless as to be a diabolical joke.” P.10.

Duror was alone in his obsession. No one else found their presence obnoxious; everybody accepted the forester’s description of them as shy, honest, hardworking, respectable men.” P1.10.

Since childhood Duror had been repelled by anything living that had an imperfection or deformity or lack; a cat with three legs had roused pity in others, in him an ungovernable disgust.” P.10.

He had read that the Germans were putting idiots and cripples to death in gas chambers. Outwardly, as everybody expected, he condemned such barbarity; inwardly, thinking of idiocy and crippledness not as abstractions but as embodied in the crouch backed cone gatherer, he had profoundly approved.” P.13.

Chapter 2 – Duror goes home to Peggy.

Doctor Matheson describes Duror as “the monarch of the woods” P.15.

When talking to Dr. Matheson about Peggy, “Duror’s voice was as stripped of emotion as a winter tree” P.16. Simile conpares Duror to a less positive aspect of nature – a bare tree in the depth of winter.

Chapter 3 – Duror heads to the house, planning to spread a rumour about Calum.

Roderick, “startled deer’s eyes and hare’s teeth” p.30.

Duror (sexually) manipulating Effie, “ ‘Given the circumstances, Effie,’ he whispered, ‘I could blossom again like a gean-tree.’ “ P.37.

Chapter 4 – Duror talks to Lady Runcie Campell and convinces her to have Calum on the drive.

“Duror often associated religion not with the smell of pinewood pews or of damp bibles, but rather with her perfume, so elusive to describe.” P.41.

As Durror prepares to spread the lie about Calum to Lady Runcie-Campbell, “he suddenly saw himself standing up to the neck in a black filth, like a stags’ wallowing pool deep in the wood. High above the trees shone the sun, and everywhere birds sang; but this filth, as he watched, crept up until it entered his mouth, covered his ears, blinded his eyes, and also annihilated him. So he would perish, he knew; and somewhere in the vision, as a presence, exciting him so that his heart beat fast, but never visible, was a hand outstretched to help him out of that mire, if he wished to be helped.” P.42.

Lady Runcie Campbell and Duror discussing the deer drive, Duror describes the deer as “enemies”, /” ‘Yes, call them that. Not all our enemies are ugly, cruel, savage, and beastly; some are beautiful and gentle.’” P.43.

Lady Runcie-Campbell describes the cone gatherers, “as discreet as squirrels” p.46.

After Duror has began to plot the cone gatherers demise by setting up the deer drive and spreading the lie about Calum, “the dogs, so innocent of lust or hate or cunning, followed him like guardians.”p.51.

Chapter 5 – Duror visits the cone gatherers at work to tell them about the deer drive.

“So brightly shone the sun, amongst the orange beeches and on the blue water, it dazzled their eyes and made every cone glitter, so that they seemed to be plucking nuts of sunshine” p.52.


To Neil, the sight or the mansion chimneys beyond the forest are “a symbol of humiliation” p.52.

“After the loneliness of the wood, Neil would enjoy sitting in a corner and smiling out at the noise and bustle of the crowd. His pint of beer in his hand would be the token of his membership of the community” p.54.

“Duror was silent. His triumph was become a handful or withered leaves. When he had seen the ladder, he had thought how gratifying it would be to deliver the deadly message to them in the eyrie where they fancied themselves safe. He had not anticipated this light headedness, this heaving of the stationery tree, this treachery of nature, this sickening of his very will to hate. He had never dreamed that he would not be able to do once only what the hunchback did several times a day. It seemed to him that he must therefore be far more ill and decayed than he had thought. He was like a tree still straight, still showing green leaves; but underground death was creeping along the roots.” P.58

Chapter 6 – the deer drive.

“Could that dream have had any meaning? Thought Duror. Was Peggy dead? Suddenly it was as if the burden of misery was lifted from him. He began to laugh.” P.65.

The dead ash clawed at the sky with branches white as bones.” P.67.

“Calum no longer was one of the beaters; he too was a deer hunted by remorseless men.” P.69.

Screaming in sympathy, heedless of the danger of being shot, Calum flung himself upon the der, clasped it round the neck, and tried to comfort it.” P.70

“It seemed to them he was still blaming the hunchback for what had happened. They did not know that there by the dead deer he understood for the first time why he hated the hunchback so profoundly and yet was so fascinated by him. For many years his life had been stunted, misshapen, obscene and hideous; and this misbegotten creature was its personification. Had the face been savage, brutal, ugly, in keeping with the body, there could have been no identification with his own case: then the creature would have been merely itself, as a toad was or a dragonfly larva, horrible but natural; but the face was mild, peaceful, and beautiful.” P.73.

After the deer drive Lady Runcie-Campbell asks Mr Tulloch if he agrees that the cone gatherers were to blame, “I have questioned them, my lady, ; he said, ‘and I saw what happened; and I find no fault in them.’ She gasped and looked sharply at him, wondering whether his words were a deliberate quotation aimed against her faith, or whether their resemblance to Pilate’s was fortuitous,” p.77

“If the crooked little imbecile was sent back now to the forest at Ardmore, he would live happily there whilst here in the wood Duror’s own torment continued. His going therefore, must be a destruction, an agony, a crucifixion.” P.78.

Chapter 7 – The cone gatherers visit Ardmore.

In Ardmore, “There seemed to Neil to be two sunshines: that shining all around, on the water, in the street , and even on the trees growing round the ancient ruined castle; and that radiating from people’s minds. The one warmed his face, the other his heart. As his rancour towards the lady and the gamekeeper disappeared, leaving his mind relieved, cleansed, and buoyant, he knew, with a pang of pride and amazement, that how he felt now, Calum must feel nearly all the time.” P.86.

Chapter 8 – Duror visit’s the doctor.

Lady Runcie –Campbell knew, “that among the working- class itself was a hierarchy as jealously observed as that in church or in nobility. Duror, for instance, would rightly place himself high above these cone-men.” P.93.

“She had not seen him suddenly grow enormous and loom over her like a tree falling; she had not heard him shout, in a voice to be heard in the heaven of her faith, that in the wood his wife had changed for an instant into a roe-deer and he had cut her throat and tried to appease his agony in her blood. She had not seen this monster in her so respectful, so self-controlled, so properly subservient gamekeeper. Like the tiger-tamer in his cage, she had again, with inveterate confidence , turned her back.” P.95

Chapter 9 – At the pub.

Duror, upon leaving the doctor’s, “He’d drunk more whisky than he’d done for years. The result was a revulsion against the doctor’s reiterated philosophy of endurance; indeed, as he walked slowly but steadily along the pier road back into the village he felt in the mood for murder, rape, or suicide.” P.104.

Chapter 10 – Roderick tries to take cake to the cone gatherers in the wood.

Lady Runcie-Campbell on Roderick, “her son had nevertheless shown a self-forgetfulness in opposing any act of injustice or cruelty; and in his attitude towards people, whether lords or labourers, he had maintained out of infancy a tenderness and sincerity” P.112.

Roderick spots Duror, hiding by the cone-gatherers hut, “Why then did he hate the cone-gatherers and wish to drive them away? Was it because they represents goodness, and himself evil? Coached by his grandfather, Roderick knew that the struggle between good and evil never rested: in the world, and in every human being, it went on. The war was an enormous example. Good did not always win.” P.119.

“To Roderick, growing up in a time of universal war, distant human death was a commonplace: he had listened to many wireless estimates of enemies killed and had loyally been pleased. Only once, when his grandfather died, had death appeared to him as a tyrant, snatching ruthlessly away what he loved, putting darkness and terror in its place, and at random moments,  even in the middle of the night when the rest of the house slept, creating fragments of joy only to annihilate them thereafter”. P.120.

Chapter 11 – the beach hut.

“They laughed at you in the pub, Calum, and I was angry at you for giving them a chance to laugh. But don’t change. Keep being yourself. You’re better than all of us.” P.126.

“Neil felt rather than saw how she recoiled from Calum, as if from something obnoxious” P.129.

Chapter 12 – Mr Tulloch visits the brothers after the incident in the beach hut

Neil, “‘Why is it, Mr Tulloch,’ he asked, ‘that the innocent have always to be sacrificed?’” P.135.

Chapter 13 – Lady Runcie Campbell mulls the situation over.

Chapter 14 – Lady Runcie-Campbell and Mr Tulloch discuss the fate of the cone-gatherers. Duror exposes his madness to Lady Runcie-Campell by telling her the lie about Calum and the doll.


Duror shows Lady Runcie Campbell the doll, “Now when she saw it, naked without its gay frilly clothes, squirming, one-legged in Duror’s huge lustful fist, it seemed to her that hes daughter’s innocence was somehow being publicly outraged”. P.157.

“Why had Duror taken a spite against Calum? This was not the first time he had considered the gamekeeper’s disgust at the deformed man, unreasonable and instinctive… Of course Duror and Calum were human; and at that very moment, in different parts or the earth, men were blowing one another to pieces without personal bias or hatred, in pursuance of their respective ideals. Why then seek an explanation of one childish grudge?” P.160

Chapter 15 – Roderick climbs the tree.

Chapter 16 – Duror kills Calum and then commits suicide.

You always did think yourself a lord amongst men. Maybe what happened to your wife was a punishment for your pride, though Christ forgive me for saying what many have thought” P.175.

LRC on her way to fetch the cone-gatherers, “Fear, anxiety, love, sorrow, regret and hope, were in her mind, but not anger.” P.179

“Then she went down on her knees, near the blood and the spilt cones. She could not pray, but she could weep; and as she wept pity, and purified hope, and joy, welled up in her heart.” P.181.

From a review of the theatre production, the production was “alive to the novel’s vision of a ruling class no longer able to sustain its sense of superiority. John Kielty’s Neil is an angry egalitarian, refusing to take orders from Jennifer Black’s Lady Runcie-Campbell, a decent woman who is ill-equipped to deal with a changing social order.”

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