Neil is the adult figure who looks after his childlike brother. Forced to give up his dreams of being a sailor and finding happiness, he endures a life exposed to injustice and conflict.
Unlike his brother, Neil is very aware of the world around him and finds no comfort in it. He suffers from rheumatism and often struggles to work outdoors.
He is affected greatly by the war taking place beyond the woods as well as the tensions that arise within his own predicament - being subjugated by the upper class.
While he recognises superiority in Calum’s goodness, he is angered by the assumed dominance of Lady Runcie-Campbell and her treatment of those beneath her. Sadly, Neil’s animosity towards the class division contributes to Calum’s death.
Like Duror, Neil takes out his resentment on others and in doing so gains no relief. We first meet him picking cones with the
constant sight of the mansion house chimneys in the distance.
Neil compares the great house to his hut
which to him remained a symbol of humiliation.
Neil’s hostility is exacerbated by Lady Runcie-Campbell’s mistreatment of the brothers in the deer hunt and again in the beach hut. She also denies them a lift in her car.
Neil takes his revenge by refusing to help her son, Roderick, climb down from the tree. He tells Graham to find someone else more willing to assist:
There are other men besides us, if we are men in her eyes. I tell you,’ went on Neil, with passion, crushing a cone in his fist, ‘she cannot treat us as lower than dogs, and next day order us to do her bidding.
Neil is tired of being regarded as inferior. He questions whether she even considers him to be a man. His anger is clear here, as he crushes the cone.
This is significant, as he tells us earlier that he hates the cones which keep them
prisoners in this wood, so this act of destruction implies he is seeking to break free of the constraints of an unequal society where the elite treat the lower classes like
However, consumed by resentment, Neil ends up betraying his own brother, as by not agreeing to rescue Roderick, Neil provides the insane Duror with a motive and leaves his brother exposed to the predator.