Context

Social change

The Cone-Gatherers is set against a backdrop of social upheaval. The working classes are more educated and the rise of the socialist and communist political parties has meant they will not accept the current social order.

On their return from the war they will change things to such an extent that society itself will be changed.

The upper classes have inherited their wealth. In Scotland much of this is based on the theft of land and property from the lower classes. The upper classes are no longer respected or obeyed without question.

This, more than losing the war, is what the upper classes and aristocrats fear most.

There will be less submission by the workers to their landlords and employers thanks to the increasing power of the unions and the introduction of the welfare state. These undermine or destroy much of the feudal authority of the landed gentry in Scotland and elsewhere.

War

Another major aspect of the background to The Cone-Gatherers is World War Two.

Although it doesn't actually happen in the area where the book is set, it is always there.

There are sightings of naval ships steaming away to fight the enemy, soldiers train in the local woods and the sound of their gunfire disturbs the peace and beauty of the forest.

Even the reasons for the cone-gatherers arriving are because of the war. The forest must die to help the war effort and the seed cones must be collected to enable the rebirth of the wood (and the local area) after the war.

Rationing

Rationing was another factor that brought change. Due to the war there was a lack of many foodstuffs and goods. Rationing was introduced to ensure limited resources were shared out fairly. Everyone had to make sacrifices and make changes to their lifestyles.

The gentry were supposed to give up their fine wines and dining to share the same basic foodstuffs as the rest of the population.

This aggravates all the characters, especially the doctor. It also causes anger from the lower classes when they perceive the upper classes trying to get around rationing or ignoring it.

The deer hunt, after which the venison will be mostly eaten by a small number of people, few of whom have been involved in the hunt and killing, is one example of this.

Summary

Overall the background to The Cone Gatherers is a complex one.

These are times of great struggles between nations all over the world. Things are being done to and by humans that should never happen - such as the Holocaust, arguably one of the greatest evils ever committed in human history.

There are also struggles going on between the different levels of society, between men and women, as women demand more equality in employment and the way they are treated, and between master and servant as the latter begin to regard the former as an irrelevance in the modern world.

Move on to Test
next