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Kidnapped

Robert Louis Stevenson

Important Quotations Explained

Chapters 28–30

Key Facts

There was now no doubt about my uncle's enmity; there was no doubt I carried my life in my hand, and he would leave no stone unturned that he might compass my destruction. But I was young and spirited, and like most lads that have been country-bred, I had a great opinion of my shrewdness. I had come to his door no better than a beggar and little more than a child; he had met me with treachery and violence; it would be a fine consummation to take the upper hand, and drive him like a herd of sheep.

This quote, from Chapter 5, highlights both David's growing perceptiveness and his naïveté. He has swiftly recognized his uncle Ebenezer's dislike or even hatred of him, and also his uncle's intentions toward him. But rather than using his common sense and simply leaving the House of Shaws, David decides to try and "take the upper hand" and get back at his uncle, even come to control him. David's pride leads to his downfall; he underestimates his uncle's cleverness and is kidnapped at Queensferry.

Then I looked round again into the deck-house. The whole place was full of the smoke of my own firing, just as my ears seemed to be burst with the noise of the shots. But there was Alan, standing as before; only now his sword was running blood to the hilt, and himself so swelled with triumph and fallen into so fine an attitude, that he looked to be invincible. Right before him on the floor was Mr. Shuan, on his hands and knees; the blood was pouring from his mouth, and he was sinking slowly lower, with a terrible, white face; and just as I looked, some of those from behind caught hold of him by the heels and dragged him bodily out of the round-house. I believe he died as they were doing it.

This quote is from Chapter 10, during the battle of the Round-House. Since Kidnapped is primarily an adventure novel, it is important to look at an action scene. Stevenson fills these scenes with words that bring to mind action and heroism, such as smoke, firing, burst, blood, swelled, triumph, invincible, "blood…pouring from his mouth." Stevenson here conveys both the action and the chaos of battle.

We also see here a difference between Alan and David. While Alan takes great pride in his fighting, and feels that each death of an enemy is a "triumph," David cannot help but notice the details of death: Shuan's "horrible white face" and the blood that pours from his mouth. He pays attention to Shuan's death, and, from the language, it seems to horrify him somewhat. Alan, on the other hand, seems quite used to it. When the battle is over, he jauntily stabs each of the four men remaining in the room to make sure they are dead, and then kicks them out the door.

"Why, David," said he, "the innocent have aye a chance to get assoiled in court; but for the lad that shot the bullet, I think the best place for him will be the heather."... When it came to this, I gave Alan up. But he looked so innocent all the time, and was in such clear good faith in what he said, and so ready to sacrifice himself for what he deemed his duty, that my mouth was closed. Mr. Henderland's words came back to me: that we ourselves might take a lesson by these wild Highlanders. Well, here I had taken mine. Alan's morals were all tail-first; but he was ready to give his life for them, such as they were.

This quote, from Chapter 18 is one of the main instances where David and Alan have a moral disagreement. The primary focus of Kidnapped is on the friendship between these two, and David's growing understanding of Alan's Highland ethics and attitudes. This scene is key because David, while not agreeing with Alan's belief that the killer should go free, admires his devotion to his cause and his people.

"I have but one word to say," said I; "for to all this dispute I am a perfect stranger. But the plain common-sense is to set the blame where it belongs, and that is on the man who fired the shot. Paper him, as ye call it, set the hunt on him; and let honest, innocent folk show their faces in safety." But at this both Alan and James cried out in horror; bidding me hold my tongue, for that was not to be thought of; and asking me what the Camerons would think? (which confirmed me, it must have been a Cameron from Mamore that did the act) and if I did not see that the lad might be caught? "Ye havenae surely thought of that?" said they, with such innocent earnestness, that my hands dropped at my side and I despaired of argument.

Like the previous quote, this one from Chapter 19 reveals an important moral difference between the Protestant Whig, David, and the Catholic, Jacobite Highlanders. David still believes that the guilty party should be punished, whereas Alan and James believe that it is Alan's and David's duty to take the blame, mostly since they have the best chance of escape. This suggests that both James and Alan feel that justice has been done; the killer of Colin Campbell was the punishment for a greater crime, not a crime itself.

There is a practical reason to blame Alan and David as well. Alan is a notorious figure and a well-known hater of the Campbells. It is much easier to claim that he acted alone, thereby sparing the Stewart clan the brunt of the Campbells' anger.

"David!" he cried. "Are ye daft? I cannae draw upon ye, David. It's fair murder."

"That was your look-out when you insulted me," said I.

"It's the truth!" cried Alan, and he stood for a moment, wringing his mouth in his hand like a man in sore perplexity. "It's the bare truth," he said, and drew his sword. But before I could touch his blade with mine, he had thrown it from him and fallen to the ground. "Na, na," he kept saying, "na, na — I cannae, I cannae."

At this the last of my anger oozed all out of me; and I found myself only sick, and sorry, and blank, and wondering at myself. I would have given the world to take back what I had said; but a word once spoken, who can recapture it? I minded me of all Alan's kindness and courage in the past, how he had helped and cheered and borne with me in our evil days; and then recalled my own insults, and saw that I had lost for ever that doughty friend. At the same time, the sickness that hung upon me seemed to redouble, and the pang in my side was like a sword for sharpness. I thought I must have swooned where I stood.

This scene, from Chapter 24, is the climax of the book. The main action of the book involves Alan and David's flight through the wilderness and focuses on their developing friendship, which is often stalled by their differences in religion, ethics, and politics. In this chapter, this conflict comes to a head, and erupts in an argument between Alan and David in which David says terrible things to his friend. Until this point, David and Alan were often at odds. Now, David finally recognizes how good a friend Alan has been, and how important he has become to David. David exaggerates his fainting fit so as to bring Alan to him, and wash away their differences through Alan's concern for his life. David has come to truly respect his friendship with Alan, the wild Highlander, and by fainting his insures that their friendship remains solid.

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Vengeance or Loyalty? It depends on your point of view!

by English-Lit-Major, August 20, 2013

"To them, vengeance is a code of ethics that is acceptable."

This seems all wrong to me!

Stevenson takes a very sympathetic approach with the Highlanders. He wants us to LIKE them. He would not have considered vengeance an acceptable code of ethics, so he would not have meant for us to view the Highlanders as a vengeful people. There is something missing in this Sparknotes interpretation.

Considering the historical context, we know the Highlanders considered the English Whigs to be USURPERS. Therefore, they did not v... Read more

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