Other themes

Jealousy and hatred

Neil’s hatred for Lady Runcie-Campbell, because of her aristocratic status and treatment of the brothers, becomes apparent until the climactic ending when Neil’s refusal to help her costs his brother’s life.

Lady Runcie-Campbell’s hatred for the cone gatherers is portrayed through her constant wrestling with her Christian conscience before deciding to assist them only when others intervene on their behalf.

Duror’s hatred for the cone gatherers, in particular Calum and anything he finds ‘misshapen’, including his wife Peggy, is a significant recurring theme which leads to the inevitable climax of the novel.


Duror, Calum and Neil are similar in that they are isolated characters, struggling to make sense of the world and their situation. No one really understands the brothers or Duror, and they have no one to turn to for help. This is particularly true of Duror, whose home life is perhaps the most wretched of all the characters.

The nature of goodness

Calum is disfigured but Jenkins wants us to see beyond his physical appearance to the human being within.

Nature and animals

Man’s relationship with nature is explored in the novel through the characters’ attitudes towards nature and the treatment of animals.

Calum is constantly compared to an ape and is in fact most comfortable climbing and sitting in trees, but is clumsy and incapable on the ground, suggesting a kind of reversal of the process of evolution.

However, despite his love of nature and the way he is inclined to suffer when other animals such as the rabbits and deer suffer, Calum could not survive in the wild, without his brother Neil.

Neil finds nature hostile and believes it is wrong to love animals, like the dogs Lady Runcie-Campbell appears to love, more than humans. Neil also worries that he could be harmed by an animal such as a snake, which could prevent him from looking after his brother.

Duror is quite jealous of Calum being so perfectly content in the woods when he himself, a gamekeeper, is not in harmony with nature. Duror sets rabbit traps and gets angry with Calum for setting the rabbits free.

Duror also views deer as vermin and is further enraged by Calum when he flees like the deer during the hunt and then tries to protect it. Duror is so needlessly cruel that even his own dogs are afraid of him.

Even the trees are victims of war and the cones represent the resurrection of the woods once the war is over. Beyond the woods, the war and the Holocaust demonstrate that humans are cruel and dangerous animals.

Moral aspect

Numerous reasons are offered for Duror’s apparent hatred of Calum - for setting the rabbits free, loving nature, being agile, protecting the deer and for defiling his wood with his disfigured appearance.

This has much to do with the fact that Calum reminds Duror of his abhorrent bedridden wife and all creatures whom he considers to be imperfect. Deeper than this is that Duror is inherently evil, and the woods represent the Garden of Eden which Calum comes to inhabit with his simple, angelic good nature.

During World War Two, millions of Jewish people, homosexuals, disabled and elderly people were murdered by the Nazi regime, led by Hitler. Duror secretly condoned these actions and would have destroyed all goodness for the sake of a physically “perfect” race, even if it means destroying truly innocent and good people like Calum.

Thus, it is fitting that Duror dies in a similar fashion to his hero, Adolf Hitler, by committing suicide after Calum has been sacrificed, like the millions of other innocent victims of World War Two.

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