The central idea of the fight between good and evil is one of many religious threads permeating the novel. At several points the setting comes to symbolise Eden, although this is often tainted by human presence.

We get the impression that Duror is wavering on the edge of an abyss of black filth, a horrific mire which we can only presume is hell.

We wonder whether Duror’s religion of endurance and his crown of thorns bitterer than those that bled the brow of Christ are punishments for previous sins.

The doctor describes the complexes of Duror’s mind as twisting like the snakes of damnation, and there is the sense that Duror’s life is fated to spiral into tragedy.

A large Douglas Fir Tree, with mossy brown bark
Calum sees a light through the trees

While Duror fears the idea of hell, Jenkins also explores the concept of the afterlife. Prior to the storm the brothers see a cascade of light streaming through the trees.

Calum asks Was it from heaven..? and says that he saw his mother up there, implying that there is an afterlife. Neil, however, is cynical, and states There was no such place.

Calum is the opposite of Duror – he is inwardly beautiful and kind. His wish to protect the animals likens him to St Francis of Assisi, and he is sacrificed like a lamb at the end of the novel.

Sadly, his death does not free Neil nor Duror from their burdens, but it perhaps heralds a new beginning in the same way that the end of World War Two brought about a change in attitudes to social class and status.