by Robert Louis Stevenson
Kidnapped Theme of Contrasting Regions
The Lowlands are the southeastern part of Scotland, and they are (as you might expect) low. We mean that literally: they're relatively flat, whereas the Highlands in the northwest are mountainous. Even though it's all Scotland, you might be forgiven for thinking that the Lowlands and the Highlands are entirely different countries after reading Kidnapped. As we say in our section on "Characterization," Stevenson sets up a clear set of oppositions between the religion, politics, and even clothing that's popular in the two regions. But what really distinguishes Stevenson's Highlands is their rugged, barren, deserted landscape. On the run with Alan, Davie finds a whole series of forests, nooks, and crannies that hide not only Alan and Davie, but other Highland clan folk on the run from England's soldiers. The impression is one of the Highlands as a highly secret place, only available to Davie (and us) thanks to the grace of Alan Breck Stewart.
Questions About Contrasting Regions
- When do you start noticing Stevenson using the word "Highland" to describe the setting of Davie's adventures? What kinds of adjectives does he associate with the Highlands?
- It is relatively easy to find descriptions of the Highlands in Kidnapped (see, for example, Chapter 15, "The Lad With the Silver Button: Through the Isle of Mull"). But what about the Lowlands? Are the Lowlands merely the opposite of the Highlands? What distinguishes a Lowlander from a Highlander?
- What are the politics of the Highlands? Of the Lowlands? What can we tell about the politics from the novel?
Chew on This
Davie's surprise at the generosity of the Highlanders he first meets on the island of Mull suggests that he expected them to be miserly and mean.
Davie only defines the Lowlands in relation to the Highlands. For example, he describes his speech to Cluny Macpherson on the subject of cards as "[smacking] somewhat of the Covenanter" and "little in [its] place among wild Highland Jacobites" (23.26).