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MonkeyNotes Study Guide for Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson-Book Notes
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The Central Theme of Kidnapped

The central theme of the novel is the power of good over evil with the other minor themes being variations on this central theme. David and Alan, although complete opposites in most way, represent good; in contrast, Ebenezer, Captain Hoseason and Red Fox represent evil. In the end, the forces of evil fail, and the forces of good succeed.

The naïve and innocent David, as a youth of sixteen, is inexperienced in the ways of the world when he starts on his journey to Edinburgh to meet his uncle. His cunning elderly guardian tries his best to harm his nephew. First he sends the boy to climb the slippery tower stairs on a dark, rainy night, and then he has him kidnapped. David, however, manages to protect himself through his instinct for survival, his innate goodness, and his alliance with Alan. He wards off the evil designs of his uncle, fights against the captain, survives the rough Highlands, and successfully confronts his uncle and claims his inheritance.

Alan Breck Stewart, David's companion, is a kind, generous, and noble man, a force of goodness in the book. When David saves him from being murdered by Captain Hoseason, Alan pledges to help David regain his identity and inheritance. He is loyal to the pledge until the end of the novel. He takes David through the Highlands and protects him along the way. When the boy falls sick, Alan sees that he is nursed back to health, risking his own life in the process. Alan is a devoted Jacobite leader, who is sought by the authorities for his admiration of Ardshiel and Bonnie Prince Charles and his hatred for the Campbells, who are cruel the Highlanders. He is delighted when Red Fox is killed, for he judges him to be an evil force. In a like manner, he is delighted when Ebenezer, another force of evil, is forced into admitting his crime and giving David his rightful inheritance.

The novel ends in comedy with the victory of good over evil. Red Fox, who is taking the land from the poor Highlanders, is killed. The orphaned David gets back his inheritance and regains his status in society. Alan has managed to escape from his enemies and prepares to leave for France where he can live in safety.

Minor Themes in Kidnapped

Kidnapped is a novel about survival. David at the age of sixteen, is an orphan thrown to the mercy of a wicked uncle, who tries to kill him. David, however, escapes death at the top of the tower steps through his own caution. It is his first lesson in survival. It prepares him well for the many times he will have to fight for survival throughout the rest of the novel.

When he is kidnapped, he is placed on a ship to be sent to America and sold as a slave. On board the "Covenant," the captain treats him cruelly and plans to murder his new-found friend, Alan. In order to survive, the two of them successfully plot to overpower Captain Hoseason. After surviving the fight with the captain, David falls into the sea, where he must again fight to survive, especially since he does not know how to properly swim.

Through sheer determination and instinct, he manages to reach the shore. It is another lesson in survival. After a strenuous journey to Appin, he meets Red Fox and accidentally views his murder. He is suspected of being an accomplice to the killing and must flee to survive. He joins forces with Alan, and they make a dangerous journey through the Highlands. At times the trip is so strenuous and exhausting that David looses his will to survive, but Alan is always there is protect him. In the end, the two of them survive the arduous journey and reach the Lowlands, where David successfully confronts his uncle and regains his identity and his inheritance.

Another minor theme is that no one is completely good or completely evil. David learns this lesson on board the "Covenant", when he realizes that the sailors who are participating in illegal activities are basically good at heart, caring for and protecting David. The theme is clearly repeated in Alan, who rebels against the government, protects a murderer, and takes and loses David's money.

In spite of his flaws, Alan is a noble character with a kind and generous heart. Even the wicked Ebenezer is shown to have some goodness in his being when he finally acknowledges David and gives him two-thirds of the property, an amount larger than expected. David himself is pictured as a mixture of good and bad. Although he is basically moral and just, he also has his flaws. Throughout his journey with Alan, David complains about his suffering, contemplates fleeing from Alan, and even fights with his friend. Because of the duality of the nature of his characters, Stevenson makes them realistic and believable.

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MonkeyNotes Study Guide for Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson-Summary


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