David tells Ebenezer it's plain that he doesn't him, and offers to leave, but Ebenezer protests, claiming they will get along fine.


These early chapters set up the initial premise of the novel. David Balfour, a poor boy, is actually from a wealthy family, and is presumably in the position to inherit a great fortune. It seems like a fairy tale, and it partly is. Since the focus of the novel will be upon David's adventures with Alan Breck Stewart and not very much with David's quest to get his rightful inheritance, one might wonder why Stevenson bothers with the inheritance sub-plot in the first place.

There are several reasons for Stevenson creating this situation. First, he intended Balfour to represent one of his own ancestors, the well-known family of the Balfours, so it would be a misrepresentation to make David a poor boy. Second, and more importantly, Stevenson is writing for children, and some of those children may not be wealthy. It is every boy's dream to suddenly discover he is heir to a great inheritance. Finally, by making David one of the gentry (the upper class), Stevenson may have made the book more appealing to adults who want to believe they're reading something respectable, and not just a young boy's fantasy novel.

The attitudes of those he talks to toward the House of Shaws contribute to David's own growing sense of disappointment, which reaches a climax at the sight of the rickety old house. The house is large, but it has become run down and destroyed.

Ebenezer Balfour seems evil before he is even introduced, and his interest in David's father's death only makes the case against him worse. Stevenson makes no attempt to play on the reader's identification of the house with the man, as both are rotten. What makes Ebenezer interesting is the conflict that seems to rage within him. On the one hand, David is absolutely right. Ebenezer treats him like a thief, hates to have him in the house and lets him know, and clearly does not like David at all. Yet Ebenezer seems reluctant to let David leave once he has come to the house. Even after the reader has finished the story, Ebenezer's behavior makes little sense, since David is at this point not interested in claiming the decrepit House of Shaws and believes the family has no money.

It may be possible that the uncle is suffering from an inner conflict. On the one hand, he has fond memories of his brother, and he wants to do well by his brother's son. But on the other hand, he may feel vengeful toward David's father, and want to take out that vengeance upon David. He is probably also greedy and is worried that David will eventually try and claim his inheritance, which technically he has the right to do, as the eldest son of the eldest brother, though David does not know this; he thinks that Ebenezer is older than his late father. Whatever the reasons for his eccentric behavior, Ebenezer is clearly a villain, and this will not change by the end of the book.