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Stevenson's Kidnapped is the story of an orphan in search of his fortune, who becomes involved with and saved by an outlaw suspected of murdering the Red Fox, Colin Campbell. The tale of David Balfour, his relationship with his uncle, his kidnapping, his flight into the Highlands, and his return to his hometown to claim his fortune, is fictional. The story of Alan Breck Stewart is based on Scottish history. Alan is a staunch follower of the Stuarts and a devoted Jacobite leader. He is an admirer of Prince Charles, a friend of James of the Glens and Cluny Macpherson, and the enemy of Red Fox. The stories of David and Alan intertwine throughout the plot, making the novel both an adventure tale and a historical novel, suited for both children and adults.
In the book, Stevenson creates a stage full of characters that excite and entertain the reader. Kidnapped is peopled by interesting characters like the youthful David, the chivalrous Alan, the imposing Cluny Macpherson, and the eccentric Mr. Rankeillor. Stevenson creates his two main characters as total contrasts; David Balfour and Alan Breck are opposites in their beliefs, temperaments, and views, but they complement and depend on each other. David, the upright, naïve, idealistic youth from the Lowlands, is on the side of the Whigs; Alan, who is boastful, courageous, and practical, is a Jacobite from the Highlands. Each is symbolic of a part of Scotland, and each is helpless without the other, proving that the Highlands and Lowlands must also be co-dependent in spite of their vast differences.
Critics have aptly termed Stevenson a Romantic writer. From the book, it is obvious that the author was attracted by the romance surrounding the Jacobite movement and the legend of Bonnie Prince Charles. He cleverly interweaves this history with the romantic adventures of David Balfour. But there is also realism in Kidnapped. Stevenson vividly and realistically recreates the action scenes which charge the entire atmosphere of the novel with liveliness. The characters, too, are presented with earthly emotions and use a language that rings true to life.
Stevenson also shows himself to be a master of precision, clarity, and craft in Kidnapped. He is able to compress much information into a few well-chosen, appropriate words, which produce the desired effect of exciting the reader. He also effectively evokes the spirit of the moment through graphic detail and description. The novel, filled with pages of excitement, thrill, and suspense, has become a true classic tale of adventure.