Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Fiction Reads: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson is a work of historical fiction and adventure. Set in a backdrop of eighteenth century Scotland, it draws light on the Appin murder that took place in 1752 after the Jacobite uprising. It is a reflection on the history of Scotland of that time and about voyages from Great Britain to America. It slightly sheds light on the slave trade too. It is the story of teenager David Balfour who is the narrator of this story. Having lost his parents, he goes to live with his uncle Ebenezer Balfour whom he has never met before at the House of Shaws in Cramond. A meagre and parsimonious character, he has devious plans in mind for young Balfour. The latter almost encounters doom while running an errand for his uncle by going up to the tower.

Later, Balfour is tricked into sailing on the Covenant which sets sail for America. He witnesses absolute misery, drunkenness of people, cruelty and a cold-blooded murder. He is supposed to be sold as a slave. He sees Ransome, the young cabin boy being killed. He meets Alan Breck (a famous Scottish Jacobite Resistance hero) on a chance encounter when the latter’s boat capsizes in the fog; he is the only member of the crew to be alive. Aboard the Covenant, the captain and some of the crew behave like marauders and decide to kill Breck. Balfour on hearing it confides in Breck and they fight the rest of the crew. Peace at last however it will not be for long.

The Covenant runs aground and Balfour is washed ashore on the Isle of Erraid. Breck reunites with Balfour and soon after, both of them are on the run due to the murder of Red Fox (Colin Roy). It is a time of murder, conspiracy and espionage. During this journey, they experience several adventures. First of all, the descriptions in this story are hard to miss. The language has a lot of gusto along with a feel of the humane. It was published in 1886 in the Young Folks magazine. It is said that Stevenson was influenced by both the Appin murder and the life of James Annesley, an heir to the title of Anglesey. He was kidnapped after the death of his father and he was sold as an indentured labourer at Delaware in the States by the orders of his uncle. He returned after thirteen years to fight a legal battle.

It is no wonder that Kidnapped with its unsurpassable adventurous plot and style of language has remained a favourite. It is simply unique and marvellous.

(Article by Kabita Sonowal)

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