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Cone-Gatherers, The

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the best-known of Robin Jenkins's early novels, published in 1955. The narrative is set in Scotland during the Second World War and draws on Jenkins's experience of forestry work at this time, when he was a conscientious objector to military service. The ‘cone-gatherers’ of the title are the brothers Calum and Neil, who are collecting pinecones on the estate of Lady Runcie-Campbell to provide seeds for a new forest. Calum, a simple hunchback with a visionary love of nature, possesses an innocence and gentleness which make him the object of the irrational hatred of Duror, the estate's gamekeeper and the novel's central figure, who resents the brothers' intrusion into his domain; Duror's progressive psychological deterioration culminates in his gratuitous murder of Calum, following which he kills himself. In emblematizing the tensions between good and evil in the human psyche, the novel forms the earliest mature demonstration of this central thematic preoccupation in much of Jenkins's work. His concern with the extent to which social conditioning affects personality and behaviour is also evident in the characterizations; a spectrum of attitudes and assumptions is established, which range from Lady Runcie-Campbell's ineffectually religious notions of patrician responsibility to the degraded narrow-mindedness displayed by some of the minor working-class figures.

Confederacy of Dunces, A [next]

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