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by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped Theme of Exploration

Fanny Stevenson wrote that her husband originally sketched the story of Kidnapped to be the tale of a boy "who should travel in Scotland as though it were a foreign country, meeting with various adventures and misadventures along the way" (source). Davie moves through the Highlands almost like an anthropologist, observing the customs of its people and producing a portrait of what he has seen for readers unfamiliar with Scotland. In addition to geographical exploration, Kidnapped is also a novel of personal discovery. The search for an inheritance can symbolize a struggle to figure out who you really are, and to find a place for yourself socially in the world. There's a reason we call Kidnapped a coming-of-age story in our "Genre" section: Davie is definitely exploring Scotland, but he's also examining his own mental and physical resources.

Questions About Exploration

  1. What are some of the things that make Davie's exploration of the Highlands difficult? How do these obstacles contribute to your sense of what the Highlands might be like?
  2. The word "exploration" usually implies active participation in the discovery of something new. But Davie's trip to the Highlands is pretty involuntary: he's shipwrecked and blamed for a murder that sends him on the run. Can he be said to explore the Highlands? How much of Davie's adventure do you think is his own doing?
  3. What other, less tangible things might Davie be exploring besides Scotland? How does exploration fit into coming-of-age stories?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The barrenness of the Highland countryside through which Alan and Davie travel symbolizes the poverty, unfriendliness, and violence of the land's inhabitants.

Davie's successful return to Queensferry to speak to Mr. Rankeillor symbolizes the personal growth he has undergone between his kidnapping and his departure from the Highlands.

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