Study Guide

Kidnapped Revenge

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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One of the problems with a system of local governance based on family loyalty is that, if someone offends your family, you have a personal responsibility to get revenge. Look where that gets Alan and James Stewart in Kidnapped: the two of them shoot their mouths off all over Scotland, talking about how much they resent Colin Roy for taking taxes from their clan chief's estate. Then once Colin Roy is shot, they of course become the prime suspects. And the cycle of violence continues. Davie and Alan can't rely on the impartiality of a Highland court if they go on trial for Colin Roy's murder. The trial would be held in Inveraray, stronghold of the Campbell family, where they would be certain to be convicted out of vengeance for Colin Roy's death.

Questions About Revenge

  1. For which characters does revenge seem particularly important? Why?
  2. The court system is supposed to make personal revenge impossible. But Alan fears being tried in Inveraray by "fifteen Campbells in a jury-box" (18.33). How does the clan system interfere with more impartial systems of government? Are there other examples in the novel of interference in governance or public life?
  3. Alan and James talk a good game about wanting revenge on Red Fox, but when he is actually murdered, they panic. How much of a difference do you find between what characters in Kidnapped say they believe and what they actually do?

Chew on This

The clan system is incompatible with the whole idea of a jury by one's peers, because a courtroom full of representatives from one family cannot be unbiased.

Davie's choice not to prosecute Ebenezer publicly for kidnapping him demonstrates his concern for his family name over his need for revenge.

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