Narrative point of view

Jenkins uses many stylistic techniques within this novel.

Jenkins changes the point of view (POV) frequently in the novel. Sometimes we are in Duror’s mind, sometimes in Neil’s, or we see events from the perspective of other characters.

Shifting the POV can create empathy for the characters, enabling the reader to understand their motivations.

Consider the following section from Chapter One, describing Duror looking in on the lives of the cone-gatherers:

he had been in their hut so often, they were in his imagination so vividly, and he was so close every sound they made could be interpreted; therefore it was easy for him to picture them as they went about making their meal.

They peeled their potatoes the night before, and left them in a pot of cold water.

They did not wash before they started to cook or eat.

They did not change their clothes.

They had no table; an upturned box did instead, with a newspaper for a cloth; and each sat on his own bed.

They seldom spoke. All evening they would be dumb, the taller brooding over a days-old paper, the dwarf carving some animal out of wood.

Although Duror is not narrating this, we get a vivid impression of the workings of his mind; we see the cone-gatherers and their hut from his perspective. Jenkins uses sentence structure to make this clear.

Several sentences begin with they, which highlights the fact that he is looking in on them and is removed from them, but this also works to give us a sense of Duror’s hatred; what follows is a list of things about the brothers that irritate the gamekeeper.

The repeated they also emphasises the fact that there are two of them, but Duror is alone – does this imply he is jealous because he has no companion?

The word dwarf and the description of Calum carving some animal are also loaded expressions that suggest Duror’s repulsion for Calum. This is, therefore, not a neutral narrative stance.

Narrative structure

The novel has a cyclical structure. It begins in the trees by the loch and ends there. The destroyer that is heading out towards the conflict returns in the final pages as Lady Runcie-Campbell takes in the ‘dream-like’ woodland scene.

There are other echoes from Chapter One that are picked up at the end. Calum is in the tree once again, but this time he does not descend to earth, but rises up, becoming a source of salvation.

Duror’s icy sweat of hatred has become so infinite a desolation that he commits suicide, and Lady Runcie-Campbell, who had given permission to the cone-gatherers to enter the woods, always having the power to remove them, ends the novel kneeling before the brothers. This is indicative of the element of change which the resolution might bring.