Duror has buried deep within himself his resentment at the unfairness of his life, as he sees it, but something about the little hunchback Calum has triggered his pent-up anger, turning him into a malevolent, bullying monster.
Hidden among the spruces at the edge of the ride, near enough to catch the smell of larch off the cones and to be struck by some of those thrown, stood Duror the gamekeeper, in an icy sweat of hatred, with his gun aimed all the time at the feeble-minded hunchback grovelling over the rabbit.
Brothers Neil and Calum work as foresters in Ardmore in the Scottish highlands.
Now they have been sent to the estate of Lady Runcie-Campbell to gather cones from the trees in her woods, prior to the woods being chopped down as part of the war effort.
I don’t know if this was because so much of the action is driven by dialogue, or because many of the descriptive passages are written with such economy and concision that they could almost serve as stage directions.
The narrative point of view shifts constantly, and we never really inhabit any of the characters, which heightens the sensation that we are spectators watching events unfold.We also learn that because of his wife's illness where she lies in her bed all day growing larger, he relates Calum in the sense of his deformity and thus conveys a reason why he grew so much resentment towards him.Lady Runcie-Campbell, the aristocratic landowner, dislikes having the two brothers on the estate, and tries to avoid communicating with them.But Lady Runcie-Campbell's gamekeeper, Duror, has taken a strong dislike to them, especially to Calum.Partly this is because Calum's soft heart has led him to free animals caught in Duror's traps, but mainly it's an irrational horror of the stunted body and mind of the man, mirroring Duror's own stunted life, which has turned out so differently from what he expected.The Cone Gatherers (also The Cone-Gatherers) is a novel by the Scottish writer Robin Jenkins, first published in 1955.The background to the novel comes from Jenkins' own wartime experience as a conscientious objector doing forestry work.This carries on throughout the book, and at the end we can see that Lady Runcie Campbell might even have been able to stop the death of Calum. Calum himself is extremely close to nature - he does not feel close to the human world, but in nature he seems to coexist with it: "it was a good tree [...] with rests among its topmost branches as comfortable as chairs." The situation between these characters within the grounds of the estate is a microcosm for the world at large, where dominating factions (Duror, Nazi regime) have decided to despise and want to get rid of those whom they deem inferior (Calum, Jews and other persecuted peoples in WW2).Duror also feels a similar sense of hatred and disgust for his ill wife, who has grown morbidly obese and does not fit his ideals.Her turmoil between trying to appear to be Christian, and upholding her aristocratic background, recurs throughout the novel, which introduces the theme of religion.Another theme is class structure - Lady Runcie-Campbell believes she is above the lower subjects, Duror himself enjoys the small luxuries he is given because of his higher job of game keeper, but Neil hates the class structure: "we're human beings just like them".