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MonkeyNotes Study Guide for Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson-Book Notes
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David, the protagonist of the novel, becomes an orphan at the age of sixteen. He goes in search of his uncle in the hopes that he will provide for him. Instead, his uncle plots against him to have him kidnapped by Hoseason, the Captain of the "Covenant". The novel relates his adventures and his struggle to re-establish his identity and regain his inheritance.


Mr. Ebenezer Balfour is David's antagonist. In the past he had illegally established his right over the estate of the Shaws. He resents David's intrusion into his life, fearing that his nephew will successfully assert his right over his property. He, therefore, schemes with his friend, Captain Hoseason, to kidnap David and take him on board the "Covenant", which will transport him to America, where he will be sold as a slave. Ebenezer creates the crisis in David's life and is responsible for his plight.


The climax occurs in the House of Shaws near Edinburgh after David returns from his adventures in the Highlands. After seeking the advice of Mr. Rankeillor, David lays a trap for his uncle. Alan is made to talk to Ebenezer and to elicit information from him about the kidnapping of David. Mr. Balfour falls into the trap and confesses his guilt. Mr. Rankeillor and David then force him to meet their terms.


When Ebenezer becomes aware that he cannot play games with David, he agrees to pay "two clear thirds of the yearly income of Shaws" to his nephew. The novel, therefore, ends in comedy with David succeeding in regaining his fortune and his status in society.


David Balfour starts relating the story of his adventures from 1751, when he was a youth of sixteen. Shortly after the death of his father, he decides to leave his birthplace in search of fortune. Mr. Campbell, the clergyman of Essendean, gives him a letter from his father, which asks him to go to Edinburgh to meet his uncle.

Mr. Ebenezer Balfour is not very happy to see his nephew but allows him to stay with him all the same. Disliking the intrusion into his privacy and afraid of losing his property, he plots to kill David by sending him to the tower of the house on a dark night. When his attempts fail to trap David, he has the boy kidnapped and taken on board the "Covenant" with the help of his friend, Hoseason.

After the initial seasickness, David adjusts to the life on the ship and makes friends with its crew. When the ship heads towards the southwest of Scotland, it hits another boat, whose sole survivor, a Jacobite rebel, boards the ship. The captain and his mates plot to kill Alan Breck, but David reveals their evil plan to him beforehand. Together David and Alan defeat the crew and show their superior strength to the captain. Shortly afterwards, as the ship sails through a dangerous route, David falls overboard into the sea and is separated from Alan.

He reaches the Isle of Mull and meets people who direct him to Appin. However, on the way he meets Colin Campbell and becomes a witness to his murder. The followers of Colin Campbell (the Red Fox) suspect David of being an accomplice in the murder and pursue him. David finds Alan, and with the help of James of Glen, they make their escape into the wilds of the Highlands. After a long and strenuous journey, they finally reach the Lowlands.

David hires a lawyer, and they devise a plan to make his uncle confess his crime. When Mr. Ebenezer realizes he has been discovered, he agrees to pay two-thirds of the income from the estate to his nephew. As a result, David succeeds in recovering his money and establishing his identity in the world.


Major Theme

The main theme of Kidnapped is good conquers evil. While Ebenezer tries his best to harm his nephew and keep all the wealth for himself, David bravely fights against his antagonist and succeeds in exposing his uncle, regaining his identity, and acquiring the wealth due to him.

Minor Themes

There are two minor Themes in the novel. The first one is in the struggle for existence, the fit will survive. David must fight all kinds of odds to survive and return to Scotland to expose his uncle and his cruel plot. A second minor theme is that no one character is completely good or evil. Even the wicked Ebenezer shows some decency at the end of the novel.


The prevailing mood of the novel is serious. Stevenson, however, offsets the somber mood by maintaining action and suspense throughout the plot and by creating eccentric characters who are entertaining. The clergyman Campbell's emotional farewell, Alan's pompous talk, and Mr. Rankeillor's pretended forgetfulness also lighten the novel's atmosphere. Kidnapped becomes a delightful adventure story.

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MonkeyNotes Study Guide for Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson-Summary


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