Study Guide

Kidnapped Patriotism

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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We've already mentioned the differences between clan loyalty and national loyalty in our "Family" theme. But let's get into these political divisions between the Scottish Highlands and the Lowlands in Kidnapped from a slightly different perspective. Captain Hoseason mentions that he's Protestant, his ship is named the Covenant, and Davie talks Covenanter morals to Cluny Macpherson. But who are the Convenanters? We get into this in our summary of Chapter 5, so for this section, we'll just say that they believed in church government – and also in having a Parliament. So when the English civil war cropped up, led by Puritan Oliver Cromwell, the Covenanters sided with the Parliamentarians against supporters of the English throne.

Supporters of the royal family of Stuart who are against the Parliament eventually go on to become the Jacobites – like Alan Breck Stewart. Each of these groups, the Covenanters and the Jacobites, is looking for a different Scotland. The Covenanters want elections and a national Protestant church. The Jacobites want a hereditary king of Scotland and religious tolerance for Catholics. This is a decisive moment in Scottish history when what it means to be a Scottish patriot – or a member of a Scottish state – is a flexible thing. And as with so many things in this novel, both sides are left complex and inconclusive.

Questions About Patriotism

  1. How many different ideas of what "Scotland" means can you find in this novel? How could Scotland be defined – politically, geographically, culturally...?
  2. What kinds of words does Stevenson use to describe the Jacobites? The Covenanters? Is there any consistency in their descriptions? Why or why not?
  3. What are some of the challenges that might be changing how Scots think about their own country in this novel?
  4. Do the Lowlands and the Highlands seem to be part of the same nation in Kidnapped? What joins them together? What keeps them apart?

Chew on This

Davie and Alan are loyal to fundamentally different Scotlands. Davie's Scotland includes both the Lowlands and the Highlands ("It's all Scotland" (18.32)) while Alan's Scotland is the land of the Appin Stewarts.

In Kidnapped, the constant personal threat of English soldiers hunting for David and Alan underlines the broader historical change of Scotland from an independent kingdom to a land administered by the British Empire.

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