Conflict between good and evil is another major theme of The Cone Gatherers. These are represented through the characters of Calum and Duror.
Calum is innocent and child-like – as if without sin. He sees only the good in people. His attitude to the injured rabbit and deer show his compassion. He even risks his own safety to offer comfort to the deer.
This suggests that Calum is so good that he is willing to sacrifice himself for others. By the end of the novel, he becomes a Christ-like figure. This is anticipated by Duror’s desire to make Calum suffer, wishing on him
a destruction, an agony, a crucifixion.
Like Christ on the cross, the death of Calum is portrayed as cleansing, opening the possibility for others to lead better lives.
Jenkins examines the 'mystery of evil' as he shows the downward spiral of Duror into madness, murder and then his own death.
Duror is not born evil - he is a good 'stalwart' man according to the local doctor but over the years he has become cynical. He feels that whatever he does in life eventually fails. Duror becomes embittered, feeling everyone and everything is against him. He becomes withdrawn then angry as first his marriage then his career and his aspirations to be a war hero all crumble before his eyes.
As he descends into madness he blames Calum, with his crippled body and angelic face and behaviour. If God is to blame for all Duror's ills, then Calum is God's representative on Earth and a target for Duror's hate.
Evil therefore slinks into the story and the theme of a battle between good and evil is expanded until the dramatic and horrific last scenes.