Kidnapped Summary and Analysis
Chapter 26 Summary:
In less than a month, David was pronounced well again and he and Alan prepared for their journey. In Alan's eyes, the hunt for them had likely slackened. They would be nearing the Forth, a river just south of the border between the Highlands and the Lowlands. If they went directly over the bridge, Alan hoped, they could possibly pass unnoticed. The less obvious routes would be watched more. Thus they set out toward Stirling Bridge. They followed Alan Water until it flowed into the Forth and then hid close to Sterling Castle. David pressed for crossly the bridge directly but Alan was wary. There seemed to be no guard but Alan advised that they lay low. Later that night they watched a small woman waddle across the bridge. She went unbothered until suddenly a guard, likely awakened, stopped her. They had no chance to get across with the guard awake. Alan crawled further away from the bridge and David, forced to follow, saw his meeting with Mr. Rankeillor further postponed.
When they reached a road, they began arguing over the next step. David thought it best to find a way to cross the river, whereas Alan figured they had a better chance crossing the sea in a boat. David argued they did not have the money. Alan persisted that he would find a way. They walked all through the night until reaching the town of Limekilns. In the morning, they bought cheese and bread. After they had left, Alan asked David about the lass who had served them. Alan was glad that David found her pretty and devised a plan to make her feel sorry for David so that she would help them get a boat. David did not want to trick her but finally agreed. Alan told the girl how ill David was and how much they needed to cross the river because they were in trouble. The girl felt very sorry for David but was not convinced to help until David told her how he wanted to see Mr. Rankeillor. He also mentioned that he was loyal to King George. With these two references, the lass decided he was a good person and agreed to help.
She told them to hide down by the water. The men left for that spot and were only troubled during the day by a piper who saw them and asked too many questions. Finally, late at night, they noticed a boat coming toward them, rowed by the lass herself. She had trusted no one else, but waited until her father was asleep and took them across the river. She would accept no thank you, but dropped them off on the opposite shore and paddled quickly back.
The bridge which crosses the Forth, just below the dividing line between the Highlands and Lowlands, is very symbolic. Technically, as Alan tells David, they cross the dividing line before they reach the bridge, returning David to his own territory. However, David does not feel different because he and Alan are still on the run from the law and their scenario has not changed. The bridge is the obstacle which stands between David and freedom - the freedom to be a non-hunted man and the freedom to pursue his rightful wealth. Queensferry and Mr. Rankeillor stand on the opposite shore, metonyms for David inheritance. The bridge symbolizes the path back into civilization for David, a civilization which recognizes innocence and which would follow the law in order to help him against his Uncle Ebenezer.
Moreover, the bridge represents the very gap between Alan and David because it stands between David's Lowland home and his Highland adventures. And just as the quarrel that David and Alan have is not resolved, the bridge is never crossed by David and Alan. They can never cross the bridge because the gap between David and Alan is unbridgeable. Taking the metaphor even further, Stevenson is alleging that the very gap within the soul is also unbridgeable. David is trying to set foot on his own land, his own identity, in order to reconnect with himself. Yet, Alan resists, symbolically, because of the differences between himself and the land on the other side of the bridge. The danger of his own culture keeps him on his land until he perform one more act symbolic of his character, and this is the manipulation of the pretty lass.
We see that David has changed little when he finally nears the end of his journey. He is not making the decisions, he is embarrassed by Alan's illustrative romanticism, and he strictly stands by the conservative stances with which he was instilled. This static progress along his rite of passage is shown in his attitude toward the pretty lass. He feels the need to interfere in Alan's conversation with her in order to add that he will be meeting Rankeillor, whom he deems a respectable Lowlander, and that he is loyal to King George. In effect, his interjection does help to persuade the lass, but note that David feels the need to overtly confirm his identification with the stereotypical characteristics of the Lowland people. He has not grown past these definitions nor has he accepted into his sensibility the awareness of the Highlands which he has acquired. The righteousness which led him in his actions at the Shaws at the beginning of the book will cyclically, and statically, return him to it.
Chapter 27 Summary:
The next day, they decided that Alan would fend for himself during the day and, at night, wait in the fields until David whistled a chosen tune. David then proceeded to search for Mr. Rankeillor. Every time he came near asking for directions, however, he was too embarrassed over his clothing and could not. He also realized that he had no proof of his identity or of his travels and wondered whether Rankeillor would even allow him to speak. Yet, if he did not find help, he and Alan would likely be hanged. David wandered in front of a large house with a dog out front. He envied the dog, lazy and carefree. While David was staring, a man exited the house and came toward David. David gathered his nerves and asked the man for directions to Mr. Rankeillor. As luck would have it, the man was Mr. Rankeillor. David asked for an interview and Rankeillor asked for his name. After hearing David's name, Rankeillor looked at David strangely so David explained that he had been many places of which would be best to speak of in privacy.
Rankeillor thought it over and then let David into his home. Inside, Rankeillor asked David to keep his story brief, throwing in a Latin phrase as a test. He was pleased that David understood him. David began by stating that he was the rightful heir to the Shaws. He had trouble continuing so Rankeillor asked him questions about his upbringing and the meetings he had with his uncle Ebenezer and Captain Hoseason. Rankeillor then noted that David's story fit with what details Rankeillor knew. Before telling more, David asked if he could trust Rankeillor, who replied that he could not say until he had heard the story. However, he then continued to explain that Mr. Campbell had visited Rankeillor, looking for David. This brought Rankeillor to visit Ebenezer, who admitted that he had seen David but said he had given him a large sum of money. Ebenezer then claimed David had gone to Europe to continue his studies. Rankeillor and Campbell doubted the story but had no proof until Hoseason returned with stories of David's drowning. Rankeillor broke relations with Ebenezer and Campbell became very concerned.
At this point, David proceeded with the remainder of his story, asking for Rankeillor's word of secrecy. Rankeillor agreed conditionally but when Alan's name came up, told David to use the alias Mr. Thomson. He likely recognized Alan's name in conjunction with the murder of Red Fox. David agreed to the farce and substituted different names for all of the Highlander characters he discussed. After the story was completed, Rankeillor moralized the adventures, mentioning that he did not approve totally of "Mr. Thomson" but understood his companionship with David. David was grateful for Rankeillor's civilized company. However, he was still embarrassed when he looked at his own clothing. Noticing, Rankeillor invited him to dinner, gave him a change of clothes, and allowed him to wash.
Much of this chapter details storytelling which is always interesting within a story because it is self-referential. David tells his story to Mr. Rankeillor. He has also told it over the course of the novel to Mr. Riach and to Alan. Each time, of course, it grows because more of the adventure has taken place and each time the story is told for a different purpose and so likely different aspects are highlighted in the telling. We are never really given the report of the story, only that the story was told. Thus we are told that there was story-telling but never shown, as usually signifies good writing style. Still, the reader does learn of a few points within David's story which he must stress or change, highlighting important issues to analyze.
The greatest change which occurs in this latest version of the story is the changing of Alan's name to an alias, Mr. Thompson. Name changing is always an event which a good reader should pay attention to as it normally is significant. Rankeillor gives Alan a different name in order to avoid being responsible to the law for any crime that Alan has committed. Mr. Thompson is a Lowlander surname, which David comments upon. Rankeillor is smoothing over the separation which was symbolized by the bridge, the gap between Highlander and Lowlander as well as the gap between their representative sensibilities. Thus the alias becomes a metaphor for the attempt to change Highlander qualities into Lowlander ones. Rankeillor feels that Alan will be safer under this alias and it will allow them to communicate. Thus, in effect, the alias allows for a bridge between the Lowlander, Rankeillor, and the Highlander, Alan, which would not have been possible otherwise. Yet, it also shows that communication between the two cultures was only possible if one was made into the other.
Before meeting with Rankeillor, David is embarrassed by his appearance. He stands staring at a dog for a period, admiring its lifestyle. He wishes that he were that dog, lying and relaxing, totally content. David transfers his desires onto the dog directly before Rankeillor arrives. Likely David would not have been standing in front of Rankeillor's house for such a long time if it had not been for the dog. Thus the dog links David back to the civilized Lowlander lifestyle for which he had been wishing. The dog functions as a vehicle for David's desire and need through which David is able to gather the courage to ask the man for directions to Mr. Rankeillor. Yet, although David speaks with Mr. Rankeillor and gains his trust, he does not feel like himself again until he is given a fresh change of clothes. Thus we see again how significant appearances and clothing are within this novel. The clothing is a synecdoche for the type of man David wants to be: a respected, civilized Lowlander.
Chapter 28 Summary:
David felt relieved to see his past likeness return, though he was ashamed to wear borrowed clothes. Mr. Rankeillor brought David back to his cabinet to give him some information on David's father and uncle. He was embarrassed to say that their problems had hinged on a love affair. Remembering his uncle, David thought this odd. However, Rankeillor explained that Ebenezer had been handsome and charming when young. In 1715, Ebenezer had run off with rebels until he was apprehended by David's father, who found him in a ditch. Back home, the two brothers fell in love with the same woman. Ebenezer was confident of winning the girl because of his looks but was mistaken. He sulked and whined to every neighbor he met. David's father was a weak man and finally decided to let Ebenezer have the woman. She, however, did not agree to their decision. Both brothers proposed to her. They bargained and Alexander made one concession after another to the selfish Ebenezer. Finally they agreed that Alexander could have the woman but Ebenezer would take the estate. As a result, David's parents were poor for the rest of their lives.
However, regardless of the brothers' bargaining, the estate did now legally belong to David. Rankeillor knew that Ebenezer would contest this fact and did not think it wise to bring him to court since information about David's connection to Alan could leak out. The kidnapping would aid David's cause but asking the ship's crew to vouch for him could also lead to information about Alan. Rankeillor suggested allowing Ebenezer to stay on the property if David received a large provision. David agreed to be easy on his uncle but also began to think of a plan to trap the old man. They had to show Ebenezer proof of the kidnapping out of court. David related to Rankeillor his plan. Rankeillor was dismayed that he would have to meet Mr. Thomson but liked the plan. They stopped speaking of it for awhile and had dinner but soon returned to the topic. Rankeillor asked David many questions about the plan and then had his clerk, Torrance, record his notes officially. When the clerk left, Rankeillor told and retold David a story about a time when he forgot his glasses and could not recognize Torrance. The clerk soon returned with the documents and the three set off to find Alan.
Rankeillor was frequently greeted by neighbors along the way, illustrating his respected position. When they neared Alan, Rankeillor realized that, ironically, he had forgotten his glasses. David now understood that his earlier story was told to set up the event in which Rankeillor would not be able to incriminate Alan because Rankeillor could not be said to have recognized him. It seemed to David that Rankeillor had seen well enough while being greeted during their walk. David went to Alan alone and whistled. Alan appeared, glad to see David in new clothes and hear of his plan. He easily agreed to help. David called to Rankeillor who apologized to Thomson for not seeing very well and having to hold onto Thomson's arm while they walked. When they arrived at the Shaws, it was late enough that Ebenezer was likely asleep. Alan went to the door to knock as the other three hid nearby and waited.
In this chapter, story telling appears again though not in the form of David's adventures. The story which Rankeillor tells David functions to fill in the details concerning David's uncle and father, which the reader and David were previously ignorant, and provides the basis for David's rights surrounding the Shaws. Though Rankeillor makes a good case for why Ebenezer is miserly, the story does little to explain the extent of his cruelty. It seems that he had always been a haughty, self-involved man whose age and isolation must have evolved into an evil sensibility. Yet, the reader can also view Ebenezer as the most recent product in Stevenson's patterning of the obstacles along David's rite of passage. Ebenezer was most definitely an obstacle to David for many reasons. He stood in the way of David's property, safety, and livelihood. As we discussed earlier, he presents the first possibility of a substitute father figure after David leaves Minister Campbell. Yet, in the face of this expectation, Ebenezer acts cruelly toward the boy. He becomes the first villain along the route and he passes David over to the second villain of the novel, Captain Hoseason. The villains in Kidnapped fit easily into the style of obstacles Stevenson has established. In this novel, very few of the obstacles cannot be overcome.
As analyzed, often when David nears an obstacle, the danger it had presented dissolves. He is involved in the rite of passage toward adulthood in which one gains knowledge of the ways of the world and learns how to deal with the challenges that had previously been insurmountable. With Rankeillor's story, one learns that Ebenezer grew into a miser because of a love affair. He had once been a gallant and approachable young man. Once his exterior is stripped away in this manner, Ebenezer is not less evil, yet he is more understandable. As the critic, Kiely, highlights, "[Ebenezer] creates an illusion of danger until the hero is finally able to see all around it, and then [he] becomes innocuous, almost cooperative with the will of the protagonist." David is not scared of the man and hopes to trick him with a plan that he has created himself. The villain is not villain but rather a pitiable and malleable creature.
Chapter 29 Summary:
Alan knocked loudly for awhile before any movement could be detected but then Ebenezer opened a window. He asked for Alan's business and Alan agreed to sing it. When Alan named David as the subject, Ebenezer at last decided that Alan should come inside. However, Alan refused, desiring to speak in view of his hidden accomplices and Ebenzer was forced to come to the doorstep. He sat on the step, warning Alan that he had a blunderbuss. Alan told the man how he and his friends had come upon the boy on the Isle of Mull and had brought him to a castle thereon. Yet, since his staying was expensive, Alan threatened that Ebenezer would never see David again if he did not pay a ransom. The uncle eagerly said how he had never cared for the boy so would pay nothing. Even after Alan threatened to tell the countryside about the careless uncle, Ebenezer did not budge. Alan mentioned that David could spread the word himself if they let him go. Alan contended that Ebenezer either had reason to pay for David's return or to make sure he never returned. Finally Ebenezer said he was sure they could agree on something.
When Alan asked if Ebenezer wanted David kept or killed, Ebenezer became uncomfortable. He said there was no use killing. Alan then explained that keeping David at the castle would cost more than killing him. Agonized, Ebenezer still preferred to pay for David's keeping since, as he said, he was a "moral" man. Alan demanded to know what Ebenezer had paid Hoseason, thereby revealing that he knew about the kidnapping. Alan told him that he and Hoseason were partners. Ebenezer inquired what Hoseason had told Alan. When Alan declined to answer, Ebenezer said that Hoseason was a liar and that he had only paid him twenty pounds because Hoseason would have made more when he sold David in the Carolinas.
At this, Rankeillor stepped out, followed by David and Torrance. Alan grabbed the blunderbuss and the conspirators took the old, shocked man inside. Rankeillor called for a bottle of wine and teased Alan for telling Ebenezer that he had a king's name. Alan was offended and sat off to the side for a while before joining the celebration. Rankeillor left the party, taking Ebenezer into a chamber to consult. When they returned, Ebenezer had agreed to pay David two-thirds of the yearly income of Shaws. David fell asleep on the kitchen chests, musing over his turn of fortune since the days he spent running for his life.
In the discussion between Alan and Ebenezer, we see another example of why Stevenson rebutted critics who believed they saw a strict dichotomy regarding the duality within the novel. Ebenezer ironically claims that he is a moral man and that is why he decides that he wants David kept at Alan's castle although it will cost him more money than if he had David killed. He has already told Alan that he does not care if he never sees David again or if Alan makes the news of the kidnapping familiar to everyone in Ebenezer's neighborhood. He only decides to listen further to Alan because he is afraid that David would come back and report the kidnapping. He claims that he is a man of principles because he will pay more money to have David kept. The irony is evident as it is in the comment that Alan makes in return to Ebenezer when he tells him, "Ye're unco scrupulous." Ebenzer is likely the least scrupulous character of the book.
Ebenezer also gives in because he is scared of Alan and does not want to come to any harm. Alan is a Highlander with Highlander friends and, as Ebenezer implies, Highlanders are not moral like Ebenezer but are wild and crazed. In Ebenezer's agreement, he states, "and I'm no gaun to begin to pleasure a wild Hielandman." Ebenezer thinks that Alan, as a Highlander, would enjoy killing David. Ebenezer applies the stereotype immediately, which is helpful in getting him to confess. However, the reader knows that Alan is a loyal and righteous man for the most part and that Ebenezer is a dishonest and cruel-hearted man. Because one is a Highlander and one is a Lowlander does not allow for a blanket categorization of the two, but forces one to reconsider stereotyped cultures and to look for the blurring of seemingly obvious binaries. Just as in Stevenson's Strange Case if Mr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and according to Kidnapped's theme of the duality of the self, one can never be sure two distinct personalities are not housed in one man.
Interestingly, the reader does not know what to expect from this chapter because Stevenson tells us nothing about the plan that David forms as he is thinking of it nor when he tells Rankeillor and Alan its details. We are kept in the dark as to what they are going to do. The role of the unsaid in Kidnapped is rather small, though we will remember that had David and Alan been more forthright during the quarrel chapter they likely would not have fought. There is an element of the unsaid. Still, the reader was connected to what David was thinking the entire time he remained silent. The plan is really the first time in the novel where his thoughts and then his speech as well are hidden from the reader. This chapter where Alan springs on Ebenezer the fabricated story of David's capture inside a castle works much better as literature if the reader can experience the trick at the same time Ebenezer does. The element of suspense is high as one wonders how they are going to get Ebenezer to confess to the kidnapping. We watch as Alan acts because of a plan from David, exhibiting a reversal of roles. Thus the unsaid is significant in creating suspense and in symbolizing the increasing maturity and independence of thought within David.
Chapter 30 Summary:
Though the future was looking bright for David, he still wondered what he should do with Alan and what he might do for James of the Glens. He spoke to Rankeillor about these issues the next morning. Rankeillor felt that David was bound to help Mr. Thomson, but doubted that he should endanger himself in the case of James. His testimony to a Highland court would not be given much credence, he reasoned. David had thought of this argument but still believed he should try to help. Rankeillor was impressed by his nobility and urged him to follow his principles. They hurried inside so Rankeillor could write David two letters. One letter was signed to the British Linen Company, a bank, to give David credit. The second letter was for the lawyer, Mr. Balfour of Pilrig, who could represent David to the advocate in the murder case. He figured a respected man of David's namesake would be most effective.
Rankeillor and Torrance left for the ferry while David and Alan started for Edinburgh. As they departed, David noticed Ebenezer watching sullenly from a top window. Walking along, David and Alan had difficulty speaking to each other as they knew they would have to part soon. They tried discussing their plans for the upcoming days. Alan would hide about the country, coming once daily to a singular spot where David or a messenger could find him. David would seek out a lawyer who was an Appin Stewart and who could thus find a ship for Alan's departure. They soon reached a spot looking over the city called Rest-and-be-Thankful.
Both feeling very saddened, they repeated the plan to each other. David then gave Alan the little money he had and they shook hands good-bye. David ran down the hill to Edinburgh, refusing to look back until Alan was out of sight. He was overwhelmed by sadness and loneliness. When David reached the city, the crowd carried him to the door of the lawyer he sought. The narrator then ends the story, alerting the reader that both David and Alan handled what was in store for them well enough.
Characteristically, David feels the need to not only help Alan but also James of the Glens since he knows that neither man was the murderer of Colin Campbell. Without the murder, David would have wanted to help Alan return safely to the Highlands. The duty he feels toward James is honorable because, as Rankeillor explains, any help David could try to give would likely put him in grave danger. David grows in Rankeillor's esteem when he decides to go through with this act. Rankeillor has, in effect, taken over the position of father figure in David's life. David is satisfied that he has made Rankeillor proud by nobly wishing to help James. Rankeillor writes two letters for David, paralleling the last time David would leave a father figure in search of a new adventure. The minister gave David a few gifts, including written instructions. David then took off in search of a new life adventure, or as we have symbolically entitled it, his rite of passage. Here again he leaves the father figure and starts a new adventure -- the journey to help Alan find safety and to help prove James innocent of murder -- with the gifts in hand.
As he leaves the Shaws with Alan, David notices that Ebenezer watches them from an upstairs window. Ebenezer is a metonym for the conquered villain, who was, as we analyzed, more of an illusion of evil than a monster with much substance. He has easily been relegated to the position of "almost cooperative", as detailed by Kiely. Thus, David can start toward Edinburgh with a mind set on his new goals, no longer needing to worry about the old ones. David has symbolically reached the end of his rite of passage. As an adult, he holds the wealth and property of the Shaws. He is the lord and master of an estate. Empowered, he begins this second major journey looking to change the lives of other people, instead of looking to change his own life. In accordance, David leaves his home and goes out toward a new city, as he did at the beginning of the book, except that he is accompanied by a good friend whom he wishes to help.
However, David's position as an adult cannot be fulfilled until he and Alan part, forcing David to be fully independent and responsible. If one applies Stevenson's theme of the duality of the self, David and Alan are the doubling of the soul, dopplegangers. Once Alan leaves, the book abruptly ends. This could be symbolic except that critics say that a friend suggested to Stevenson that he should end the book at this point. Otherwise, he would have been happy to continue writing. Still, it is not too far of a stretch of the imagination to note that Stevenson may have been telling us that the dual halves of Scotland and of the soul can never be completely united. David and Alan have enjoyed each other's company and they will likely see one another again as we are told that their plan was to meet every day or couple of days until David could secure Alan's safe passage. However, metaphorically, the two must go off in different directions at the end of the book in order to show that David has reached adulthood and that the two opposing sides of Scotland and of the soul remain disunited. As the next journey begins, David has matured to some extent but he still seeks the agency and romanticism that Alan has to offer. His separation from this causes David great sadness and loneliness. He is not whole, symbolically, without Alan.
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