Contrasting Regions Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
I sat me down and stared at the house of Shaws. The more I looked, the pleasanter that country-side appeared; being all set with hawthorn bushes full of flowers; the fields dotted with sheep; a fine flight of rooks in the sky; and every sign of a kind soil and climate; and yet the barrack in the midst of it went sore against my fancy. (2.20)
That "barrack" in the middle would be the ugly, unfinished house of Shaws. But of more interest to us right now is the words Davie is using to describe the Lowland countryside: "kind soil and climate," "bushes full of flowers," loads of little sheep. Sounds pretty delightful, right? Let's remember this when we get to the Highland part of the story.
[An old man living on the island of Mull] then asked me how I had fared, and I told him my tale. A south-country man would certainly have laughed; but this old gentleman (I call him so because of his manners, for his clothes were dropping off his back) heard me all through with nothing but gravity and pity. When I had done, he took me by the hand, led me into his hut (it was no better) and presented me before his wife, as if she had been the Queen and I a duke. (15.10)
Davie is pleasantly surprised reaction to this Highland couple may strike us as a little offensive. What, did he expect them to be savage jerks? Why is it so remarkable that an old man on the island of Mull should be a nice guy?
I not only started late, but I must have wandered nearly half the time. True, I met plenty of people, grubbing in little miserable fields that would not keep a cat, or herding little kine about the bigness of asses. The Highland dress being forbidden by law since the rebellion, and the people condemned to the Lowland habit, which they much disliked, it was strange to see the variety of their array. Some went bare, only for a hanging cloak or great-coat, and carried their trousers on their backs like a useless burthen: some had made an imitation of the tartan with little parti-coloured stripes patched together like an old wife's quilt; others, again, still wore the Highland philabeg, but by putting a few stitches between the legs transformed it into a pair of trousers like a Dutchman's. All those makeshifts were condemned and punished, for the law was harshly applied, in hopes to break up the clan spirit; but in that out-of-the-way, sea-bound isle, there were few to make remarks and fewer to tell tales. (15.14)
Following the Bonnie Prince Charlie uprisings, the English really started trying to break down the Highland clan structure. But these people only bend and twist the rules to make it look like they're obeying. Is Stevenson trying to make a point about the Highland character during this period in history? What kind of tone is he using to describe the people in this passage? Is he being sympathetic? Critical? Disinterested?