Skip over navigation

Kidnapped

Robert Louis Stevenson

Chapters 28–30

Chapters 25–27

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Chapter 28: I Go in Quest of My Inheritance

Mr. Rankeillor tells David the truth about David's father, Alexander Balfour, and David's uncle Ebenezer. Ebenezer was the younger of the two brothers, and very handsome at one time. He was admired and beloved by many people. Both men fell for the woman that would become David's mother, but Ebenezer was confident he would win her. To his surprise and anger, she chose Alexander. Ebenezer "screamed like a peacock," sometimes faking illness and sometimes drinking his sorrows away. Alexander felt bad, and left David's mother, but she refused to be "bandied about" and threw both men out. Ultimately, the two men made an agreement and Alexander married David's mother and went into poverty while Ebenezer kept the estate. The agreement was not truly legal, and in fact, as the eldest son of the eldest son, David deserves the inheritance. But a lawsuit would be long, costly and scandalous.

David does not want the estate, just some money to make his way in life. He comes up with a plan that involves Alan. At first Rankeillor doesn't like it, but he soon begins to agree, and repeatedly tells David a story about how he once couldn't recognize his own assistant because he had forgotten his glasses.

David takes Rankeillor to meet Alan, and Rankeillor discovers on the way that he has forgotten his glasses. This means that he will not really be able to see Alan, and therefore cannot swear in court that he ever saw the man.

Chapter 29: I Come Into My Kingdom

David, Alan, and Rankeillor go to the House of Shaws. Alan goes up to the door alone and knocks. He tells Ebenezer that he is from a family near the Isle of Mull, and that they discovered David after the shipwreck and held on to him. They are now holding him for ransom. Ebenezer doesn't want to pay for him, so Alan says they'll kill him. Ebenezer doesn't want that, so Alan says they must pay him if he wants them to keep David alive. Ebenezer haggles over the price, admitting in the process that he had originally sent David to become a slave in the Carolinas.

At that, Rankeillor and David reveal themselves. Ebenezer is shocked, and remains speechless. There is a small celebration as Rankeillor and Ebenezer retire to draw up an agreement. David is to get two thirds of the yearly Shaws income, while Ebenezer keeps the other third and the estate.

Chapter 30: Good-bye

David has to help Alan escape to France. He also desires to clear the name of James Stewart of the Glens, but to do so would risk having himself caught and blamed, and possibly hanged. David believes he must perform his duty, which impresses Mr. Rankeillor. Rankeillor gives him two letters. One letter is to the British Linen Company, giving him the Shaws money that is due to him, and one to a well-respected Balfour, who might be able to help David when he gives his testimony on behalf of James.

David plans to get some money to Alan so that he can buy passage to France. Alan arranges for a lawyer to get the money from David and give it to him. The two walk away from the House of Shaws, then part.

As he continues on, David goes to Edinburgh and, as the book ends, comes to the doors of the British Linen Company.

Analysis

Ebenezer is defeated, in a very fitting manner, as he is tricked, just as he repeatedly tricked David. By showing a reluctance to have the boy killed, Ebenezer shows he is not a complete monster or he may just be selfish, and did not want the boy's death on his conscience. It is hardly even a satisfying defeat, since Ebenezer simply gives in without a word.

As mentioned previously, both David and Alan can be fitted into an archetypal role. Alan is the dashing rogue, while David is the naïve youth who, through great acts, becomes a hero and comes into some sort of inheritance. This is certainly the case with David. He has gained a great amount of experience thus far. He has killed men, survived a shipwreck, spent days alone on an island, trekked through the Highland wilderness, been a wanted man, and fled by cover of night into safety. His character has undergone dynamic change, which is part of the definition of the protagonist, or the main character of the story. Certainly David might be considered a protagonist of Kidnapped, but many readers would be wise to question whether Alan's character has changed much by the end of the book.

As an archetype of the "dashing rogue," Alan is in many ways what is often called a "stock character," or a character that is the same no matter what time period or place he turns up, acts in much the same way, and hardly changed. The purpose of most stock characters is to advance the plot, either by helping the protagonist or slowing him down. Often writers will play with stock characters by making them the protagonists and then making them dynamic. Alan, however, is difficult to assess. After his association with David, Alan may have become something less of a braggart, and be nicer to Whigs, if not to Campbells, though he did make peace with Robin Oig. He has grown into a great friendship with David. But he is the same Alan we have known throughout the book. He is no more or less intelligent, clever, or sensitive. Alan has served as a guide and mentor to David for two months, taking him both through the Highlands and down the path to manhood. That is Alan's most important contribution to David's growth as a character.

The ending is quite abrupt, and perhaps a little unsatisfying. We know the story is being told at least a few years after the event, and perhaps even more, from the hints dropped by the narrator throughout the novel. A reader could reasonably expect a brief history of what happened after the events in the novel. For instance, David must have failed in his task to get James Stewart acquitted, because in the real history, James was convicted of being "art and part" of the Campbell murder by a tribunal composed mostly of Campbells, and was then hanged. His body was left up for months as a warning to the Jacobites.

But Stevenson may have written Kidnapped with a sequel in mind. The sequel, called Catriona, published in 1893, takes up the story immediately following the end of Kidnapped. In Catriona, David again meets up with Alan Stewart, and has a number of further adventures in Scotland.

The enduring legacy of Kidnapped has been its ability to entertain young people and older people for more than a century. Unfortunately, it has started to suffer from the combined problems of age and place. The book is full of terms that were nearly archaisms in Stevenson's time, since so much of the dialogue is spoken in Scots English, in particular, Highland Scots English. An older reader, with some annotations, can read it with ease. But for Stevenson's intended audience—young children of about the ages of 12–17—the book has become increasingly more difficult to read as times wears on. The result is that Kidnapped and even Treasure Island are now considered "literature," and are read by more adults than children.

More Help

Previous Next
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

0 Comments

8 out of 11 people found this helpful

Follow Us