Kidnapped Summary and Analysis
Chapter 6 Summary:
Ransome led them to the Hawes Inn at Queensferry. Up the stairs in a hot room sat Captain Hoseason in very thick, warm clothing. He was large and dignified in appearance. Due to the heat of the room and David's desire to see the ocean, David agreed, against his better will, to leave the room where his uncle sat and go wander by the water. He enjoyed seeing the waves and seaweed. He spoke with one of the ship's men whose language drove him back toward the hotel where he saw Ransome exiting. The boy asked for punch which David refused but he did buy ale for them both. They sat in the inn's lobby eating and drinking.
David thought it would be good to make friends with the landlord and so asked him if he knew Ebenezer's lawyer, Mr. Rankeillor. The landlord replied that he was a good man and asked if David was a relation to old Ebenezer. David denied that he was and mentioned Ebenezer's bad reputation. From talking with the landlord, David learned what he had hoped and guessed, that his father has been the eldest son and that the property at the Shaws was now legally his. David started imagining the life he could lead. He noticed Hoseason down by the pier and then heard his uncle calling for him so met the pair in the street. The Captain addressed the young man, telling him how well his uncle had spoke of him. He invited David to board the ship for a drink. Hesitant, David told the Captain that he and his uncle had an appointment with a lawyer. The Captain remarked that Rankeillor's place was close to the ship and then whispered in David's ear that the old man was working mischief. He suggested the boy come aboard so they could talk. Feeling he had found an ally, David agreed and the Captain took him by the arm. They took a small boat out to the ship and in the excitement and noise of the moment, David could not hear what Hoseason was saying. As they approached the ship, Hoseason thrust himself and David on board and started pointing out the sights on the ship. Suddenly, David noticed that his uncle was not on board. Hoseason told him that was the point. Breaking away, David ran to the edge to see his uncle in the boat paddling back to the shore. David yelled, help! Murder! Hands drew him back to the ship and he was knocked unconscious.
One of the greatest points that many critics bring into their analysis of Kidnapped and which they feel is highly significant in Stevenson's writing life, is the theme of the duality of the self. Stevenson loved to explore the duality of the Scottish character, generally consisting of rationalism as embodied by the conservative, Whig Lowlander versus and/or in sync with the romanticism as embodied by the radical, Jacobite Highlander. By viewing Scotland as a body enlivened by these dueling philosophies and characterizations, Stevenson observed that the country had, at once, two distinct personalities as well as two halves to a very important whole, the Scotsman. History did not necessarily agree with his theories since the two cultures often looked at each other with disdain. The Jacobite rebellion of 1745 was far from dead. However, Stevenson recognized a human duality which played with a conservatism and a romanticism, often battling to find a balance between the two. Thus Scotland was not only a country divided and united by a battling duality but so was the Scotsman, as identified by Stevenson.
Largely, David symbolizes the typical Lowlander persona -- logical and mercantile. He can reason his way through a situation and can employ rationale to problem solving. However, in this chapter, we observe David fantasizing the wealth of property he has gained with the Shaws and the kind of life he will be able to lead. He then cuts back to reality, noting that he does not remember exactly how it happened, but his eye alighted on Hoseason. Tossing about in his daydreams, he does not realize the type of future he is heading toward when he leaves his dreams and heads toward Ebenezer and Hoseason. This split thought process symbolizes the duality of self. David is drawn to fantastical imaginings but later understands that the fantasy led in no way to an immediate reality.
Moreover, though David shows good reasoning powers, he makes three major mistakes of judgment during the chapter. He allows his uncle to convince him to go into town before he has heard his uncle's story. He is overcome by heat and a desire to see the ocean so he does not oversee the conversation between Hoseason and Ebenezer. And, he is persuaded by Hoseason to board the ship. These mistakes highlight the fallibility of youth, reason, and fantasy which is why Stevenson would likely say it is integral for humanity to possess and use all three characteristics.
Chapter 7 Summary:
Awash with sickness, David awoke in a hole of overwhelming darkness. He was being thrashed about in a rocking motion and was bruised all over his body. He soon realized that he lay in the underbelly of the ship, Covenant. Furious at his uncle and at his own foolishness, his senses overcame him. When he awoke, David was met with the same confusion, pain, and tossing he had first experienced. In his desperation, he hoped the boat would meet destruction, setting him free from his prison even if in death.
Lost between sorrow, sickness, and sleep, David finally encountered another human when a man with a lantern woke him. The man tried to give him some meat but David could not eat it and so he fixed brandy and water. Then, the man washed his head wound. The next time he came, David lay with a giddiness spread through his body which was hard to bear. The man entered with the Captain and addressed Hoseason with reproach regarding the boy's condition. Hoseason seemed unconcerned, refused to have the boy moved, and turned to climb back to the deck. The other man, identified as Mr. Riach, retorted that if Hoseason wanted to be a paid murderer then he would have nothing to do with it. Outraged at this claim, Hoseason bid him do as he pleased. Riach, a bit drunk, defiantly cut David from his shackles and brought him to a bunk in the forecastle.
Here, daylight shone in and other men were often present. David was joyous. He was forbidden to go on deck but did reclaim his health, thanks to Riach, and was visited by many of the men of the ship. Some would bring medicine or food, one would sit and tell of his wife and children, and many of them returned David's money which had been stolen upon his kidnapping. They were far from the beasts David had at first imagined. David was also able to spend some time with young Ransome who proved to be as tainted a boy as he had seemed on land. He could not believe the stories David would tell him of good parents and happy times on land, believing instead the sea fables he had heard from sailors. Riach would sometimes give him drink which only made him more foolish and shamed many of the sailors. The Covenant moved steadily toward the Carolinas where David's uncle had given him to be sold into slavery. David's only hope was a conversation he had with Riach while Riach was drunk (he was unkind when sober). After hearing David's story, Riach promised to help him write a letter to Campbell and Rankeillor in hope of getting help.
David awakes in the underbelly of a ship, an indirect literary allusion to the Biblical story of Jonah who is swallowed by a whale in the Book of Jonah. It is possible to make this connection since Stevenson was brought up in a highly religious, Presbyterian environment and because the Bible was one of the gifts given to David by Minister Campbell and thus may be expected to enter into the core of the story at some point. But, is David being punished? What has he done wrong?
It is not that David has done something wrong to deserve this treatment. Instead, David is being taught a lesson on survival and the self. He is stripped of his identity and property, reduced to one who is being sold as a slave. The dark cavity that he finds himself in thus is also a metaphor for the womb. Like Jonah is reborn when he is spewed from the great fish, David is reduced to a weak, quasi-fetal state before rebirth. The state David finds himself in after being kidnapped is one of the largest obstacles along his journey to manhood and threatens to reverse his growth and independence.
Once David is revived by Mr. Riach, David is happy to be placed in the forecastle because there is daylight, symbolizing a higher knowledge of the self as opposed to the overwhelming darkness and ignorance he faced below, and human contact. Through contact with the crew, David learns that the men are not the primitive animals he had once thought they were. He learns that one should not judge another man on his appearance. Critics have pointed out that many of David's obstacles appear impossible to overcome at first but then, upon a closer look, are quite manageable. We experienced this type of brightening when David climbed the unfinished tower at the Shaws and we will see it often in the following chapters. Without David needing to act in any manner, he is taken out of the darkness. The ship's crew is rather helpful to him and Riach even offers to help David write to the people who can help him Mr. Rankeillor and Mr. Campbell. His rite of passage continues, spewing him into a completely new environment which becomes manageable once he gains the knowledge to see it in a truthful light.
Chapter 8 Summary:
One night at midnight a man came down from his deck duty to the forecastle, whispering that he had finally done it. David and the others knew at once that he was referring to Mr. Shuan and poor Ransome. Moments later Hoseason came into the forecastle commanding that David run to the round-house as he and Ransome were to change jobs. Seamen entered carrying Ransome's limp and pale body and David quickly ran past and across the the deck to the round-house. Mr. Shuan sat at the table staring blankly as David and then the Captain entered. Shuan was the other officer below Hoseason besides Riach and was naturally kind except when drinking, which was common. Riach entered with a look that said that Ransome was dead.
They stood staring at Shuan until Shuan reached for the bottle of liquor on the table. Riach intercepted the bottle, yelling that he had done enough damage, and threw it over the side of the boat. Shuan stood up as if to murder him as well but Hoseason stepped between them, demanding to know if Shuan realized he had killed the boy. Shuan sat down, exclaiming that Ransome had brought him a dirty container. Hoseason led the man to a bunk and bade him to lie down and sleep. Riach cried that Hoseason should have done something earlier to which Hoseason replied that Riach must never speak of the murder on land but must say that Ransome had fallen overboard. He then chastised Riach for throwing away a good bottle of liquor and asked David to retrieve another for them.
After this night, David continuously served meals for the three men. He slept in the round-house on a cold, hard bed where he was constantly interrupted. Still, the work was not difficult and he was often fed quite well. He rather appreciated working more than thinking because it gave him less time to be discouraged about his upcoming future.
Ransome's death is by far the largest event of the ninth chapter. From the beginning, Ransome was a tragic figure of Stevenson's since he was a boy who was constantly tortured by the life he had been forced to lead. He did not know what it was like to live normally or have parents to care for him. Many times, Riach and others would give him liquor, causing him to act more foolish and embarrassing the crew members, who could not help but see the tragedy inherent in the boy's existence. Furthermore, Ransome's life is arrested in its development by death. He thus would never become anything else besides the foolish, unfortunate boy. David notes that Ransome's ghost remained over Shuan, Hoseason, Riach, and David himself for a long while. The tragedy, the death of the innocent, had occurred long before Ransome's death and would thus continue to haunt the ship members who had so ceremoniously spoiled the child.
We noted earlier that Ransome was the only child figure encountered in Kidnapped and thus could serve as a figure of comparison for the childhood that David was growing away from. His early death can be looked at in two distinct ways. In David's process of maturation, he has been reborn into a new stage of development when he comes out of the darkness on the ship. Ransome's death, though violent, could then be understood as a metaphor for the death of David's childhood. Due to the cruelty of his uncle, David has been violently and quickly torn from the last roots of innocence, and torn from the life which is rightfully his.
The second way of regarding Ransome's death would be to see it as a step in the strengthening of David's resolve. He finds himself very helpless on the ship which is why he feels so discouraged. The ship moves toward the Carolinas steadily and he cannot stop its progress, or so he thinks. By having to replace Ransome in the round-house, David is allowed to interact more with the three officials of the ship. He fills a subservient role however, serving the men at every meal. Yet the first-hand experience he gains by watching the scene directly after Ransome dies allows an anger to rise inside of David. The death foreshadows the rebellion which David will participate in. Without the impetus of Ransome's death, it is doubtful David would have had the courage to side with Alan Breck.
Chapter 9 Summary:
A week of terrible weather passed where the boat made few strides forward and more than a few backwards. Finally the officers decided to follow the winds further south. Here they met dense fog and swelling waves. Seamen had to listen day and night for breakers so as to not collide with the land. One night, as David served Hoseason and Riach their supper, the ship struck another boat. The boat's crew sunk to the bottom except for one man who had sat as a passenger on the boat. He was a small man dressed in very fine clothes. Beneath his great coat, pistols and a large sword were revealed. He spoke prettily to the Captain who expressed his sympathy toward the sunken boat. The conversation soon progressed to religion as the Captain implied to the man that he could tell from his French coat that he was a Jacobite, and thus not loyal to King George. The Captain and the rest of the sailors were Protestant. The stranger asked if he could be dropped in France, which was his original destination, for which he would highly reward the Captain. Hoseason refused, sending David to retrieve food for the stranger. When David returned, the man had revealed a belt of guineas and was trying to make a deal with the Captain. The stranger repeated to Hoseason that the money was not his but was the property of his chieftain. He offered Hoseason thirty guineas if he was let off seaside and sixty if dropped at Linnhe Loch. The stranger explained that betraying him to the red coats would result in no money for Hoseason. The money was part of a rent which King George was looking for from the stranger's chieftain. Consequently, the Captain agreed on sixty guineas. Once Hoseason left, David asked if the exciting fellow was a Jacobite. The stranger stipulated that David was a Whig. He then sent David to Hoseason for the key to the liquor cabinet.
When David neared, he overheard the three officers planning to mug the man of his belt of gold. David was enraged but entered to ask for the key. The men saw their chance and told David to get the pistols in the round-house for them so that the stranger would not be suspicious. He agreed but rushed back to the man to tell him of the Captain's murderous intentions. David did not wish to witness another murder. The stranger, who called himself Alan Breck Stewart, was startled by the news. He and David prepared for the ambush by checking entrances to the round-house and preparing weapons. David had little experience and so Alan placed him in his bunk to watch the back door.
Weather is generally symbolic in novels, allowing the reader to gain a sense of the changes in plot from the way in which the weather is described. In this case, the chapter begins by illustrating great storms which toss the boat to such an extent that the officers decide to change course and move away from their destination. Once this is accomplished, the crew is met with fog so great that they are forced to listen to the sea at all times simply in order to avoid hitting the land. In other words, the men aboard the ship are blind as to what is to come that they are forced to rely solely on their ears. A disaster is clearly foreshadowed because of the extent of the blindness and the uneasiness established by the highly inclimate weather. However, although the weather is foreboding, David mentions that "danger [was] in the air, and [he] was excited." A sense of change, a turning of the tide, is "in the air" highlighting for the reader that something new is soon to be introduced. Alan Breck Stewart's arrival is the great event which occurs.
Critics, including Donald McFarlan, have remarked that neither David nor Alan are complete characters on their own. Instead, each fulfills half of a whole person, one complementing the other. After recently witnessing the death of David's childhood, Alan is born onto the ship. These events provide David with the courage to attack the injustices he has witnessed aboard the ship. Alone, he experienced very little active power, following whatever orders he was given. For instance, after Ransome's death, he scurries to the round-house when ordered to by Hoseason. However, within pages of Alan joining the ship, David has decided to turn against the crew and aid a man whom he has just met. The two men are two poles coming together and forming a stronger man. Without David, Alan would not have known about the Captain's plans to kill him. Thematically, Stevenson illustrates the duality of self in the unity of these two halves.
Religion is an interesting topic looked at in this chapter. For the first time, the Protestant characters meet a character of conflicting faith and loyalty. The irony enjoined in the characters of Hoseason and the crew becomes glaringly apparent. Hoseason tells Alan, "I am a true-blue Protestant and I thank God for it." Further, David tells the reader, "It was the first word of any religion I had heard from him, but I learnt afterwards he was a great churchgoer while on shore." And yet, Hoseason is the same man who witnessed the killing of small boy but did not reprimand the murderer. He agreed to kidnap David for a sum and sell him into slavery. The hypocrisy is great but Stevenson does little to criticize. Instead, he characterizes the irony and hypocrisy which is often embodied in religion and allows the reader to draw his own conclusions. We know David to be of this faith too and we have very little criticism for him. Furthermore, we will come to observe that within the constructs that Hoseason has set for himself, he often follows his rules to the letter. In terms of of the faith he follows, he is logical and rational, fulfilling the established traits of the typical Scottish lowlander.
Chapter 10 Summary:
The Captain and officers had grown tired of waiting for David and so Hoseason presently entered the round-house. Alan drew his sword. The Captain was surprised, mentioning how disappointed he was in David, but soon left. Alan alerted David that the ambush of men might come at any minute. David sat waiting, not sure whether he was scared or angry, until he heard the noise of a weapon falling to the deck above. Alan armed himself and gave David a handful of pistols to use. Suddenly the men entered the room, led by Mr. Shuan who attacked Alan directly. Alan gave him a killing blow. Men rushed past David to try to push the door in, forcing David to shoot a pistol for the first time in his life. His first shot injured one man, possibly the Captain. The next two shots were fired wide but scared the group of men back onto the deck. The men ducked back in momentarily to pull Shuan on deck, though he was already dead.
Alan looked victorious but told David to expect more attacks. David became fearful now that he had witnessed the killing. He heard voices on deck made up of a leader barking out orders and subordinates accepting them. He warned Alan that the men were planning another assault. Alan responded that this news was good because otherwise they would have to wait up all night. Soon the men descended upon them again. David heard their noise only near Alan until someone softly dropped on the roof above him. As a man thundered down through the skylight with cutlass in hand, David drew his pistol against the man's back. The man froze and dropped his cutlass but David was too much in a panic to pull the trigger. The man then swung around and grabbed David which forced him to shoot his pistol straight into the man. Another man pushed through the skylight and met with David's angry pistol.
Just then, Alan screamed out and David turned to see him surrounded by a group of men. He thought they would certainly be beaten but Alan killed three more of the men and injured most of the others, who ran back onto the deck. Alan and David were victorious! Alan was so ecstatic that he hugged and professed his love for David and then created a poetic song in Gaelic which detailed his glorious victory. David, overcome by exhaustion and fear, burst into tears. Alan let him sleep first and kept the first three hour watch. He then woke David who kept the next watch until morning. Rain began and the wind quieted so that David could hear that the men on deck. They did very little, ignoring even the tiller. The sound of birds informed David that they were near land.
Expanding on the theme of duality, chapter X further explores the personalities of David and Alan, Lowlander and Highlander respectively. Where Stevenson is concerned, the idea of morality is an interesting one to broach because it is not a cut and dry issue. He did not believe that the Lowlander had morals and that the Highlander did not. He was more invested in the moral system of the Lowlander and the Lowlander's loyalty to it, yet we have observed how he shows that hypocrisy can surface in a religious Lowlander, as in the case of Hoseason. Statements that Stevenson made has led critics to believe that he felt that Highlanders have morals which they stick very closely to, but that these morals are themselves questionable. Alan will exhibit these characteristics in the following chapters, but we begin to see major differences between Alan and David in this chapter.
Alan is proud of his fighting capabilities. He knows that the battle with the ship's men will be tough but has confidence that he and David can succeed. He shows fear very rarely. For instance, after most of the men have fled, Alan turns nonchalantly to the four men lying on the floor and passes his sword through each of them. He is unaffected. Afterward, Stevenson compares Alan to an excited child. The simile creates a character little different from a child. Alan acts on emotion and passion, characteristic of his romanticism, and celebrates after his victory. The song he composes is an elaborate commemoration of the gallant job of killing he has committed. David reasonably notes that Alan has ungraciously given him no credit in the song but excuses the mistake because of artistry. He comments, "So that, altogether, I did my fair share both of the killing and the wounding, and might have claimed a place in Alan's verses. But poetshave to think upon their rhymes; and in good prose talk Alan always did me more than justice." The song and David's reaction to the song are representative of the two men.
As for David, he is quite in shock at the events. He freezes when he draws his pistol on a man, unable to shoot until the man grabs him. After he has shot two men, he stares blankly and only returns to the scene when he hears Alan scream. Interestingly, following the battle, David is also compared to a child. The parallelism of the similes allows for a stronger contrast of the two characters. The text states, "There was that tightness on my chest that I could hardly breathe; the thought of the two men I had shot sat upon me like a nightmare; and all of a sudden, and before I had a guess what was coming, I began to sob and cry like any child." David is overcome by fear and disgust at the events that he has participated in and how close to death he likely came. He is reduced to the emotional reaction of a child because of the traumatic event and because he cannot rationally condone violent behavior in most cases. He has been brought up in a strictly religious household, and unlike Alan, situations such as these are rarely acceptable to him. The two men represent contrasting sides to a Scottish demeanor as well as the two battling halves within the Scotsman, and Stevenson himself.
Kidnapped Essays and Related Content
- Kidnapped: Major Themes
- Kidnapped: E-Text
- Kidnapped: Questions
- Kidnapped: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Robert Louis Stevenson: Biography
- Kidnapped Summary
- About Kidnapped
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-5
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 6-10
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-15
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16-20
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 21-25
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 26-30
- Related Links on Kidnapped
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources