Kidnapped Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-15

Chapter 11 Summary:

When morning came, David and Alan breakfasted. Alan told David to expect more fighting especially since the men had no access to their liquor, as the round-house contained it all. In their location, David and Alan were able to share some of the best food and drink on the boat. As a gift of gratitude, Alan gave David one of the silver buttons on his coat. David was more thankful when he watched Alan meticulously brush his jacket, giving special care to the loose threads from the button. The vanity of Alan's speech also impressed and humored David. It was difficult at times not to smile at his claims.

Soon, Mr. Riach contacted the men hoping to arrange a parley with the Captain. David leaned out of the broken skylight to speak with Riach, learning that the rest of the ship's men refused to form any sort of further attacks even if the Captain and Riach wanted it. Riach said they meant no treachery and were more scared of Alan than anything. The parley was agreed to and the Captain and Alan met to speak at one of the windows. Hoseason attempted to make Alan agree to be dropped off in Glasgow. Hoseason's first official was dead and the ship was very difficult to maneuver without him. Alan refused, demanding to be let off in his own land so he would not to meet any red coated Whigs. The Captain then tried to convince Alan that the shore was too difficult to navigate in Alan's part of Scotland. Consequently, Alan suggested a large stretch of shore which would be suitable.

Hoseason asked for money. Alan agreed to his old proposition of thirty guineas if he was dropped sea side and sixty if he was dropped in Linnhe Loch. The Captain desired the sixty guineas if he brought Alan to the near spot of Ardnamurchan. Alan again refused, repeating his offer. He also refused to help the ship's men steer the ship, as the Captain requested, and gave the Captain the responsibility of avoiding ships loyal to King George. With an exchange of brandy for buckets of water, the deal was done. The Captain and Riach were able to drink again and David and Alan could clean the blood off their floor.


The silver button that Alan gives David is the fifth gift he has received from a friend since leaving home, and all have been symbolic. The first four were from Minister Campbell in Essendean. Ironically, the fifth is from a man who detests anyone with the last name Campbell as the Stewarts are arch enemies of the Campbells in the Highlands. The reader must wonder why the Minister is given a Highland surname when he seems to be a very respected Lowlander. In fact, when David first meets Uncle Ebenezer, he tells the old man that he has many friends by the name of Campbell in order to seem less reliant on his uncle's graciousness.

Thus David first aligns himself with the Campbells but then befriends one who is an archenemy of the clan. Critics feel that Stevenson did not want readers to think that the duality between the Highlander and Lowlander sensibility was too simplistic or easily delineated. David accepts gifts from the Minister and from Alan and respects the gifts from both.

The button is a synecdoche for Alan as it stands for the attention and care which Alan gives to his appearance and to his belongings. More extensively, the button represents the pride which Alan feels for his heritage and his people. His appearance and the upkeep of his belongings are the symbols of the Stewart clan which Alan shows to Scotland, England, and France. David remarks, "For all [the bragging Alan did], when I saw what care he took to pluck out the threads where the button had been cut away, I put a higher value on his gift." Due to the mercantile system of thought in the Lowlands, David is not quick to realize the emotional value the silver button contains for Alan until he observes Alan's attempt to smooth the wound its removal has left in his coat. By giving David a piece of his coat, Alan has shared with David a piece of himself and his heritage. A bond between them has been forged symbolically.

Chapter 12 Summary:

Soon, the breeze blew off the rain and the sun came out. The ship's course was decided by Hoseason who feared that the boat may be too large to navigate between the smaller isles. Thus, they drove south hoping to come up to Linnhe Loch around the southern coast of the Isle of Mull. Alan and David sat pleasantly in the round-house with doors open so the breeze could blow right through. They smoked pipes and told their stories to each other. David hoped to hear about Alan in order to know what to expect from the Scotland he would soon land upon.

Alan was a good listener of David's story until he heard David mention the minister, Mr. Campbell. The name alerted a hatred in Alan who explained that the Campbell family was his worst enemy. He claimed the family had cheated, tricked, and robbed his clan for years, doing the greatest harm after the Jacobite defeat in 1746. Alan spoke also of his father. His father was the first man, Alan claimed proudly, to tip the King's porter. Yet, his generosity left Alan poor which is why he joined the English army. However, at the battle at Preston Pans, he deserted his army and joined the Jacobites. David realized that his desertion was punishable by death. David could not understand why a man who had deserted the English army and worked for the French King would reenter Scotland. Alan explained that he missed his land, family, and friends. Also, he needed to recruit men to serve the King of France. Journeying back into Appin was not very difficult. He could hide with friends or in the heather because the English could not cover all of the Highlands. Moreover, the Highlands were considered pacified five years after the defeat.

However, Alan explained that King George demanded rent from the Highlands he had conquered in 1746, an endeavor which was aided by Colin Campbell who was put in charge of the area. The clan chief, Ardshiel, had to flee to France where the people of Appin continued to send him a rent in addition to giving the rent King George demanded. David thought this noble, pleasing Alan. He helped transport the rent from one side of the English Channel to the other, pointing to his belt of gold. Alan further exclaimed how the man referred to as the Red Fox, Colin Campbell, decided to take less rent in order to starve Ardshiel. Here David added that if the Red Fox took less rent than the government must have a hand in the process. But Alan seemed angered so David changed the subject. In addition to these great stories, David learned that his friend was a talented piper, poet, fencer, and angler. Moreover, Alan was a man who liked to pick quarrels, though he rarely fought with David because of their time together in the round-house.


Near the beginning of this chapter, Stevenson writes, "And here I must explain; and the reader would do well to look at a map." The author is working to establish that the story is based in factual events and geography. As opposed to Treasure Island where Stevenson creates a fictitious surrounding, Kidnapped exhibits more validity since he grounds the adventures in landmarks that any reader can find on the map that he has provided in the book. By beginning the chapter with such a solid geographical foothold, Stevenson effectively adds a greater veracity to the stories which are to follow. As the brig is navigated through the tricky waters around the Isle of Canna and so forth, David learns a brief history of Alan's part in the Rebellion of 1746 and the role in Scotland which he and his clan play presently. The bad weather clears, and during the storytelling, the sun and a slight breeze delight David and Alan. The stage is set therefore by the weather and the factual information for Alan's story.

Characteristic of David, his reason for wanting to hear Alan's story is based in a rational and practical desire to prepare himself for the Scottish Highlands. As he mentions, "In those days, so close on the back of the great rebellion, it was needful a man should know what he was doing when he went upon the heather." Heather is a metonym for the wild Highlands, representing the rough and savage character of the land and people themselves. David wanted to prepare for the savage life he worried that he may encounter.

David is impressed by the pride and honor with which Alan gives his story. He is not only proud to talk about his chief and the two taxes that he helps transport but gives a story about his father being the first to tip the King's porter. This detail is rather inconsequential but Alan does not work on a basis of logic. He simply wants David to know what a great man his father was. Yet, note that during the Rebellion, Alan first fought on the side of King George before he deserted to the Jacobite side at the battle of Preston Pans. The reason why he first fought on the Hanoverian side is never given, but we do learn that Alan was not originally loyal to the Jacobite cause. Stevenson is thus able to provide a greater complexity to Alan's character and to illustrate that one cannot know everything about a Scotsman by knowing that he is a Highlander or Lowlander. This extends the mixing of sensibilities which was established by describing Hoseason as a strictly religious Presbyterian.

Chapter 13 Summary:

Late one night, Hoseason pleaded with Alan to steer the ship. Alan and David could tell that the Captain was earnestly worried about navigating his ship through the upcoming waters. Alan took the reins but found the sea to be ordinary. Suddenly, a fountain of water spurted high and the Captain demanded to know what had caused it. Alan recognized that the fountain was caused by water breaking on a reef. He was glad the fountain had alerted them. Hoseason agreed but pointed to the fountains spurting up all around the ship. Sure enough, many reefs became visible. Safe navigation seemed nearly impossible. Alan remembered that the Torran Rocks stretched for a mile along these parts. David noticed that Alan was white with fear but Hoseason and Riach remained calm. David respected them greatly at this time.

Alan remembered that there may be clearer waters near the land. Mr. Riach watched the sea from aloft and alerted Alan where to move the ship to avoid danger. He yelled down that the waters did seem calmer near land. The Captain declared that Alan had been correct after all and that he would remember this when they were settling their dues. Hoseason cared more about the ship, David observed, than he had about Ransome. Riach screamed to the men on deck to move the ship just as the tide hit the ship sharply. The boat spun like a top, throwing Riach onto the deck. David was stunned and confused. When he came to, he joined the seamen trying to repair the skiff. Injured crewmen came on deck to lend a hand as well. The Captain stood motionless, in shock. Alan told David that the land they neared was home to his hated Campbells.

One of the wounded man took over watch of the sea and suddenly shouted to the men to hang on. A great swell came and David was pushed into the sea. He sank below the water and rose to the surface many times. After being tossed about for a long while, David came to in calmer water, holding onto a spar. He was far from the ship and finally decided he was closer to the land. With his little swimming experience, he did not reach the shore for over an hour. The desolation of the isle struck him almost as much as his fatigue.


In this chapter, the reader observes the men under extraordinary circumstances and watches as they try to work together. Although the men have battled against each other and although Alan is a Jacobite and the others are Protestant followers of King George, the circumstances require a team effort. Again, Stevenson is highlighting that a Scotsman, as a human being, contains qualities of both the Highlander and the Lowlander. In times when one must function successfully, one must draw from each side of his humanity. Similarly, David and Alan are most successful along their journey when they are able to take advantage of each man's best qualities. Still, we will note in "The Quarrel" chapter, how far and difficult the gap is to bridge. In Chapter XIII, therefore, the men attempt to save the boat through a concerted effort, but the power of nature is simply too strong to submit to this unity. The theme of man versus nature will be further explored as we progress.

As we have discussed previously, David's adventures are symbolically a rite of passage in his move toward adulthood. We were instantly clued into this theme when the book began with David's departure from home after the death of his parents. After David's journey to his uncle's home, his next major journey takes place on the ship, the Covenant. He is meant to be sold as a slave when the ship reaches America, but with David's good luck, the ship never leaves the waters surrounding Scotland. Life on board the ship, slowly and progressively becomes clearer to David. As he nears each obstacle, the obstacle becomes clearer and dissolves, symbolizing the challenges along the rite of passage to adulthood which one must overcome.

David and Alan have successfully fended off the ship's crew and gained control of the brig. To symbolize the peace, the sun comes out. However, soon the normal waters begin spurting up in fountains, identifying that reefs lie around the ship. David is not ready for this obstacle. He does very little to help, is mostly tossed around, and finally is thrown completely overboard and washes away. Metaphorically, David has a good deal of work still to do. The reefs are a wake up call, separating David from the ship, which had been a womb of sorts and given him new confidence, and reducing him to a state where he must rely solely on himself and nature.

Chapter 14 Summary:

It was past midnight when David walked around the island. He took of his shoes and paced back and forth, afraid that if he sat he might freeze. With the beginning of dawn, he decided to trek to the top of the nearby hill, hoping to see a ship. From the top, he could not see the Covenant nor any other sail in the distance. Discouraged, David started walking east along the southern coast. He found no signs of civilization. It began to rain. His clothing, wet from his swim, remained wet and caused him to feel more miserable. He walked along until he came to a creek which was too deep to cross. He followed the creek until it narrowed and then grew wide again. David tried crossing at the narrowest spot but found it was impossible. Colder, he ran back to the shore to find the spar he had left. Unable to discover the spar, he waded into the sea only to view the spar twenty feet further out then he could reach. Greatly dismayed, David threw himself on the sand and wept. His stomach growled with hunger but David knew little of what was safe to eat. He caught a few snails and limpets. His first meal made him terribly sick but the second, made up of the same elements, restored him.

It rained all day and through the second. David traveled to the other side of the island but found no homes or people. He chose to set up a resting spot where he could view the neighboring islands of Iona and Ross. It soothed his heart to see signs of civilization. From this spot he also hoped to view boats passing which he might hail. On the third day, David noticed that his pocket had ripped, allowing his money to drop out. From the fifty pounds he left Queensferry with, he retained little over three pounds.

By midday, the sun finally came out and helped to refresh David's spirits. With the sky clear, David noticed a ship passing, headed for Iona. Exuberantly, he shouted to the ship. The ship's men could hear him but only laughed and continued to Iona. For only the second time, David wept. The next time he ate the island shellfish, he fell terribly ill. Yet when the illness passed, he was drier and better able to sleep. The next day, the ship from the previous day miraculously returned. David ran down to the shore to hear them speaking in Gaelic and laughing. He finally caught the English word "tide" and came to realize that the island was connected to land when the tides went out. He ran to the creek he had found earlier. It was much smaller. David waded across to the main island and was saved from his own folly.


David's experience on the islet where he lives for nearly four days without knowing that he is connected to the main island during low tide is a classic example of the dissolution of an obstacle after David approaches it or haggles with it. The reader thinks that David is stranded on a deserted island, tortuously within sight of habitation but without the means to reach that habitation. He traverses the entire islet to no avail, is made seriously ill by the diet of snails and limpets, loses most of the money he began with, and watches the very clothes on his body rot because of the incessant moisture. He is truly miserable on the desolate spot.

The isle is again symbolic of the reduction of the self. Man is stripped entirely of the material objects, such as the money and clothing, which made him recognize his humanity until he can come to terms with the very essence of self. At first, David resists the self-reliance, constantly looking over his shoulder out of fear or hope. The text states, "I had become in no way used to the horrid solitude of the isle, but still looked around me on all sides (like a man that was hunted) between fear and hope that I might see some human creature coming." Yet, David is forced to rely on his own direction and survival skills.

However, suddenly, a boat comes into play which finally tells David that the islet was merely an illusion. In fact, the islet is connected with the main islands David had been staring longingly at the entire time. He was never separated or deserted at all, but connected to humanity all along. However, David did not know that. Growing into adulthood is often about learning the ways to navigate life and deciphering the best processes of decision making. What had first seemed like an impossible task often dissolves into one quite manageable. The illusion of impossibility fades and understanding evolves. In much the same manner, David cannot at first understand the men from the ship which returns to save him. They are speaking Gaelic and choppy Scottish and so David has difficulty deciphering their meaning. Soon enough, however, he catches a word or two and can piece together the puzzle.The impossible becomes possible and David is able to save himself.

Chapter 15 Summary:

David walked in the direction he thought he had seen the rooftops. He came upon a small residence where an old man sat out front. With the man's limited English, David learned that his ship's crew had landed safely and had passed through that very house the previous night. He asked if a man wearing fancier clothes was among the group and the man confirmed this. The man inquired if David was the boy with the silver button. David answered and the man delivered a message from Alan. David was requested to find Alan in his own country, Torosay. The generous man invited David in for the night, making him punch and feeding him extremely well. David slept well and was much revived.

He started off late the next morning toward Torosay, noting the dress of the impoverished Highlanders reflected the edict of the 1746 defeat whereby their traditional dress was prohibited. He asked some of the natives directions to Torosay but received a flood of Gaelic in response. When night fell, David reached a small house but was refused entrance until he offered money for his stay. The house owner took five shillings, began speaking Scottish, and agreed to lead him to Torosay in the morning. David slept anxiously but found the man willing to lead him the next day. Five miles later they stopped at wealthier man's house to change the shillings. The man invited them to a meal with his family and served a strong punch for drink. David's guide was incapacitated after the punch and refused to continue. David appealed to the host but he refused to allow his guests to leave after punch. The next morning, David's guide was slow to start as he began drinking again. Finally they traveled a few miles but then the man stopped, saying his English had left him, and demanded more money. David compromised and gave him two shillings but the man soon stopped again and demanded more. When David refused, the man took out a knife but David was able to knock the man down and strip him of his knife and shoes.

He thus continued alone until meeting a blind man who professed that he knew the country so well that he could lead David. Unbeknownst to the blind man, David noticed a pistol hanging from the man's clothes. David doubted that the man was a catechist like he claimed. As they walked, David noticed that the man trying to knock him over. When David would not succumb to his tricks, the old man wandered off cursing. Happy to be alone, David continued until he reached an inn. The innkeeper told him how the blind man he had met was suspected as a highway robber. David ate and drank well again and went to sleep pleased with his progress.


Ironically, although David is quite relieved to find civilization on the Isle of Mull, the men he meets are largely villainous and dangerous. David has returned to walking along a path toward a destination as we found him at the beginning of the story when he sets out for his uncle's home. As this mode was his start, we can assume that he is now back on track along his rite of passage toward adulthood, moving from the Garden of Eden to the land of knowledge, symbolically speaking. He meets several obstacles along the way during the passage in this chapter and must learn how to deal with each without getting swindled. The chapter has a cyclical pattern, beginning with David walking alone, pleased to be back on track, and ending in the same manner. In the interim, David comes into contact with five different, challenging Highlanders whom he must judge. Cyclically, the man David meets at the beginning of the chapter and the man David is aided by at the end are both kind and helpful. The three men sandwiched in between cause the problems.

Luckily, the first house which David comes to on the Isle of Mull has been visited by the Covenant's crew and Alan. Furthermore, Alan has left a message for David and has given the man at the house a means by which he can trust to whom he is communicating. He identifies that David is "the lad with the silver button." We have already discussed how the button is a synecdoche for Alan - it is a piece of him and stands for his body and character. In a very Biblical sense, one could possibly say that the button represents the Eucharist, where a churchgoer may receive the blood and body of Christ. David has received from Alan's body and is now in search of him, following his path and the messages he has left behind. Furthermore, David has been reduced from a man with a name and past to a man identified by the button he is carrying. The button serves as a vessel for receiving the messages Alan has left behind and allows David a destination to seek. Otherwise, he would not know where to go or for whom to look. David only has purpose and direction through the button and the ticket it gives him. He does not make decisions on his own.

The three men David meets up with in the middle of the chapter try to swindle and trick him but he catches on rather quickly. The blind man is the most interesting. He claims to be a catechist, but yet has a pistol hanging out of his pocket and constantly tries to knock David over so that he can rob him. David however sees the pistol and notices the man's tricks and so is not manipulated by him. The pistol is symbolic of the manner in which David is able to see past the tricks and obstacles he is affronted with. His instincts toward the blind man are correct, just as the path he follows is straight and will lead him to Alan.