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by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. There are three women in Kidnapped: Jennet Clouson (Ebenezer's angry tenant), Mrs. Stewart (James Stewart's wife), and the maid who helps Alan and Davie across the bay into Queensferry. Why are there so few? How would Kidnapped be different if Alan were Alanna instead? Why might Stevenson's story for boys have only boys in it?
  2. Davie and Alan are the novel's main characters. Every other character appears in the novel for a handful of chapters at most. How would the novel change if there were only Davie or only Alan? What role does their friendship play in making the novel work?
  3. As Kidnapped's first-person narrator, Davie is unusually opinionated and free with the foreshadowing. What would be the effect of telling Davie's story from the perspective of another character? Or as a third-person novel? What would be some of the benefits and/or drawbacks of this?
  4. The famous American novelist Henry James (who was one of Robert Louis Stevenson's great friends) commented that the character of Alan Breck was a "masterpiece" (source: Iain Galbraith, "Notes." In Kidnapped. Köln, Germany. Könemann Publishers, 1996). What might James mean by this? Do you perceive Alan as a greater or lesser character than the protagonist, Davie Balfour?
  5. In our "Classic Plot Analysis," we track the search for Davie's inheritance, since that storyline both starts and ends the book. Are there other plot trajectories that we could have chosen as the primary plot of the novel? How do these other plots begin and end? Do they center around other characters besides Davie?

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