Monday, May 7, 2012

The Cone-gatherers

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The Cone-gathers

“The Cone-gathers” by Robin Jenkins deals with conflicts such as good and evil, which is embodied in the characters of Calum and Duror. There are also class conflicts and conflicts between Lady Runcie-Campbell and Roderick. In this essay I will be dealing with these clashes of opposing forces. I thought this novel was very effective and delivers the subject of conflict in a detailed and convincing way.

The subject of good against evil is displayed effectively through the portrayal of Calum and Duror. The writer shows evil is lurking and trying to get out by

“Gunshots had cracked far off in the wood”

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This is like the beginning of the fight between good and evil. Calum symbolises good. He is introduced as a very sensitive person who is at home in and around nature

“For Calum the tree-top was interest enough; in it he

was as indigenous as squirrel or bird”

This shows that Calum is a good climber and is at home in the trees with natures around him. Calum is very simple, hasn’t got much common sense and therefore doesn’t understand things going on around him. Calum gets upset when Neil tells him that the wood is going to be cut down in the spring.

“There no sense in being sorry for trees…

when there are more men than trees being struck down”

Calum doesn’t really understand the war and is more interested in the trees and animals. Throughout the novel good and evil meet, when he see Duror watching him he gets very scared and self-conscious. When he sees Duror coming through the wood “he stretched over to touch Neil, and point” Calum can feel Duror’s eyes on him and this meant

“Calum could not concentrate on the cones…

He began to whimper, and tilting over in a panicky attempt to hide from

that distant scrutiny he let some cones dribble out of his bag.”

This emphasises that Calum is scared of Duror and feels like a caged animal. Calum knows that even though he can’t see Duror, Duror is watching over them. This stresses the clash and how strong these conflicting forces are.

He feels very nervous and scared in front of Duror. Duror symbolises evil, he is really mean and doesn’t like imperfection. The first time we meet Duror he is hiding behind a tree spying on the brothers.

Duror “in an icy sweat of hatred, with his gun aimed all the time

At the feebleminded hunchback”

Duror thinks very deeply about shooting Calum all because Calum has come in to what Duror thinks of as his wood and “sanctuary.” Duror is married to Peggy who is disabled and has been since the first two years of their marriage. She is now looked after by her mother. Duror finds been married to Peggy hard and his mother-in-law notices this

“Do you think I don’t ken what an effort it is for you”

The cone-gathers, especially Calum have made a very big impression on Roderick. He looks up to them, and craves he could be like them. Another contentious idea is that of Lady Runcie-Campbell, who is an aristocrat and of her son Roderick, who is a democrat.

Lady Runcie-Campbell is very well off and tries to use this to influence her children “She was wealthy and influential enough to dispense with conscience” She is also trying to show Roderick and Sheila that money means power and privilege. She is very hypocritical as she is an aristocrat and as one she thinks that she is better than everyone but as a good Christian she should think of everybody as equal. She treats her inferiors like animals and forces the cone-gathers to live in a little hut instead of the beach hut. She is very unkind to the brothers and will not let them stay in the beach hut with her during the storm. “What is the meaning of this” she asks when she finds them there. She is appalled to find them in the beach hut and orders them to leave.

Roderick on the other hand is a democrat. He likes the brothers, especially Calum and looks up to him. He would like to treat them as equals but his mother will not let him. Roderick even goes as far as to suggest “Why don’t we offer them a lift, Mother?” when he sees them in town. Roderick is very weak in body but strong in mind and knows what he wants. The only thing is that he does not act “as a baronet’s heir should.” He sees everyone as equals and an unknown bond builds between himself and Calum throughout the novel. Lady Runcie-Campbell tries to keep Roderick away from the cone-gathers, but he wants to befriend them.

“Carrying the cake in the gamebag…

which he meant to offer to the cone-gathers”

At the end of the novel he climbs a tree like Calum, who he admires. This has troublesome consequences.

There is a catharsis at the end of the novel, when Duror finally cracks and shoots Calum dead, who is in a tree picking cones.

“He was walking away…

with so infinite a desolation in his every step.”

He knows that now Calum is gone he is free and that he can go, Duror then shoots himself. Calum is left hanging from a tree. This is a fitting ending to Calum’s life as throughout the book Calum is portrayed as good and angelic. He is left crucified.

The writer does not have good or evil winning but leaves the reader with a sense of justice been having done. “She could not pray, but she could weep… and joy, welled up in her heart.” Lady Runcie-Campbell sees her wrongdoings towards Neil and Calum. It is like a sacrifice of an innocent offers up hope and salvation to mankind.

In conclusion after looking at the confrontation of the contrasting forces of good versus evil it shows that good and justice overcame evil. I hope to have shown that all opposing forces of the novel related back to good or evil and

“That the struggle between good and evil never rested… in every human being” meaning that the story, be it the war, Calum and Duror or Lady Runcie-Campbell and Roderick all related back to the main theme of Good versus Evil.

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