The natural world dominates this novel. We are reminded of the cruelty and the beauty of nature, and the natural order of predator and victim.
Calum has the closest affinity with nature - he loves its beauty and empathises with its animals, although he hates witnessing suffering or death, and struggles to comprehend it -
This was the terrifying mystery, why creatures he loved should kill one another.
Calum’s is very much the childlike voice of innocence before corruption - his jacket is
stained green with naivety.
To the other characters nature is not so benign. Neil sees it as a
hostile force, while Duror, in his role as gamekeeper, asserts power over it. We see this in his setting of snares and his treatment of his dogs.
His desire to cleanse the wood of the presence of the cone-gatherers is also bound up with this idea of control.
It is interesting that he
profoundly approved of Hitler’s Final Solution – another insane attempt to rid the world of imperfection.
Finally, Jenkins uses pathetic fallacy, where the weather reflects the emotion and behaviours of the characters. The storm incident is an example of this when Lady Runcie-Campbell confronts the cone-gatherers, exacerbating Neil’s disapproval of her.
It is a significant moral test for her, highlighted by the intensity of the weather and perhaps the religious seeing of the
light before the thunder.