Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson: Summary & Characters Video

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  • 0:01 Kidnapped by Robert…
  • 0:22 Major Characters
  • 1:09 Plot Summary: Before the Boat
  • 2:23 Plot Summary: On the Boat
  • 3:41 Plot Summary: After the Boat
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

'Kidnapped' by Robert Louis Stevenson has it all: murder, intrigue, crime, danger, blackmail. This lesson is about the story of the amazingly unlucky David Balfour who is on a quest to claim his destiny.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped was written by Robert Louis Stevenson and published in 1886. It was an almost instant hit among young boys, and why not? This novel embodies the very things that many such audience members would find most interesting: shipwrecks, crime, suspense, danger, adventure…even murder.

Major Characters

The novel's major characters include David (Davie) Balfour of Shaws who is seventeen years old and unsure of his place in the world. Davie is young, trusting, and seeking guidance after the death of his father. Kidnapped is the story of Davie's struggle to claim his inheritance and find his place in the world.

Alan Breck Stewart who is a loyal Scotsman who helps Davie claim his rightful place in the world. A wanted man, Alan is on the run when he ends up on the boat with Davie, a move that changes both their destinies.

Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws, who is Davie's uncle and an all-around bad guy. He wants to keep what is Davie's for himself, and to accomplish this he is willing to send his nephew off to death or slavery (he doesn't seem to care which) after the death of Davie's father.

Plot Summary: Before the Boat

The novel opens with Davie Balfour getting a letter. The letter, from his recently-deceased father, tells Davie to head to the house of Shaws. Davie is excited that he'll get to meet a lord and he hopes to find his fortune, or at least get a job, in the Shaw's household. So Davie heads to Edinburgh.

But when Davie arrives at the house of Shaws, all he finds is his uncle Ebenezer Balfour, who is a very unpleasant man. He attempts to kill Davie, though Davie doesn't understand why. However, Davie convinces his uncle to take him to see Mr. Rankeillor, the family lawyer. Davie hopes he will finally understand how he is connected to the house of Shaws.

On the way to the lawyer's office, Ebenezer makes Davie stop and visit the ship Covenant, which Ebenezer has financed, and the ship's captain, Mr. Hoseason. Mr. Hoseason seems happy to meet young Davie, and takes him on a tour of the boat. As he does, Ebenezer gets into the rowboat and goes back ashore, leaving Davie on board the Covenant. It turns out that Ebenezer is planning to have Hoseason sell Davie as a slave to a plantation in America. But by the time Davie understand this, it's too late. The boat has set sail with the addition of one seventeen-year-old future slave.

Plot Summary: On the Boat

While the boat is still off the coast of Scotland and Davie is still trying to figure out what he's going to do, the Covenant runs over a small boat. All the men on the smaller boat die save Alan Breck Stewart, who is trying to escape English soldiers. He carries a belt full of money, which Hoseason wants. Apparently kidnapping and then selling Davie won't be profitable enough, so Hoseason and the first mate plan to murder Alan and steal his money.

Davie, who has no reason to be loyal to the greedy captain, warns Alan of the plan. The two of them fortify a room against the ship's crew. After Davie and Alan fight off the crew, Hoseason agrees to free Alan in Appin, his home, after learning why Alan is wanted. Alan's a Jacobite, who worked against the English in 1745. Good to his word, for once, Hoseason steers for the western coast of Scotland.

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