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MonkeyNotes Study Guide for Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson-Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

CHAPTER 1: I Set off upon my Journey to the House of Shaws

Summary

The novel opens with David Balfour's narration of his adventures. On a June morning in 1751, after the death of his father, David leaves the place of his birth to go in search of fortune. The minister of Essendean, Mr. Campbell, comes forward to bid him good-bye. He also hands over to David a letter written by his father, Alexander Balfour; the letter is addressed to Alexander's brother, Ebenezer, asking him to look after David.

The clergyman asks the boy to go to Cramond, near Edinburgh, to meet his uncle and deliver the letter. He also advises the boy to adjust to the ways of his uncle and to follow the rules of his household. He then gives David the money left behind by his father and three gifts from himself and his wife. The first gift is a shilling, the second a Bible, and the third a yellow paper containing the remedy for sickness and injury (water prepared with lily of the valley). Accepting the gifts, David bids good-bye to Mr. Campbell and leaves for his new home.

Notes

Stevenson begins the novel by making the readers aware of the past, present, and future of his protagonist, David Balfour. David has recently become an orphan upon the death of his father, Alexander. According to his father's instructions, David has sold the family home and is now on his way to the House of Shaws near Edinburgh to meet his uncle. Before his death, David's father has written a letter of explanation to his brother. David is excited about his journey and looks forward to the future with hope and expectation, totally unaware of the harsh realities of the unknown world.


Stevenson brings out the difference between aged wisdom and youthful ignorance through the contrast of Mr. Campbell and David. Mr. Campbell, who is kind and wise, is sad to part from the boy and gives him good counsel. He warns David to act according to the wishes of the master of the house at Cramond. He also gives the boy three symbolic gifts representing the material, the moral, and the earthly. The shilling denotes the value of money that the boy must learn as a responsible youth; the Bible is a reminder to remember God; and the yellow paper with red ink provides quick, natural remedies to cure ailments.

Through his gestures, Mr. Campbell proves he has a good heart and a sound mind. David, on the other hand, is a symbol of youthful innocence. He has no idea what is in store for him, but he is full of enthusiasm to explore a new world. Knowing the cruelty that exists in the world, Mr. Campbell bids farewell to David with a heavy heart; the boy, however, is delighted to leave the quiet countryside of Essendean. Before he departs, David opens the parcel from Mr. Campbell with curiosity and is amused by its contents. Mr. Campbell's thoughtful presents seem trivial to him, for he is too naïve to understand the depth of their meaning; instead, he laughs at the old man's simplicity.

When David leaves Essendean, he leaves behind his carefree life and sweet memories. He also leaves the security of home to travel to a strange land and to live in the midst of strangers. As he walks towards Edinburgh, he feels the burden of responsibility on his shoulders.

Chapter 2: I Come to my Journey's End

Summary

Around noon on the second day, David reaches Edinburgh. Standing on top of a hill, he inhales the beauty of the place and feels happy to be a part of a new and exciting environment. Walking along, he meets a shepherd from whom he gets the directions to Cramond. Later, he inquires about the House of Shaws from the neighbors. The people react angrily to the mention of his uncle's name, making David apprehensive. His enthusiasm is further dampened when a woman named Jennet Clouston curses the House of Shaws and its inhabitants.

David reaches the house at sunset and knocks at the door. When he gets no response, he starts kicking and pounding on the door and calling out to his uncle, Mr. Balfour. A man with a tall nightcap on his head and a gun in his hand peeps through the window. When the boy introduces himself as David Balfour and mentions the letter, he is given permission to enter the house.

Notes

Stevenson evokes the essence of the Scottish countryside through the use of local dialect and the uninhibited expression of the characters' speech. He shows the village gentry as simple men voicing their frank opinions. The beauty of the surrounding countryside is also brought alive, and it provides a contrast to the gloomy and dilapidated House of the Shaws.

David gets his first taste of reality as he approaches the house of his uncle. With hopeful dreams, he has imagined the House of Shaws to be a paradise. His excitement is curbed, however, when he hears the neighbors' negative comments about the place. Then he catches sight of the old house with broken windows, out of which bats come flying. The whole place looks haunted and creates an eerie atmosphere; fear takes hold of David's heart. He sadly remembers his own house in Essendean with its warm hearth and welcoming doors; the House of Shaws is a total contrast. When David knocks on the door, no one answers at first. After he pounds loudly and calls for his uncle, a weird-looking man appears; he has a commanding voice and carries a gun. The mystery surrounding the old house heightens with the entry of this stranger.

Stevenson develops the contrast between appearance and reality in this chapter. David has dreamed of the House of Shaws and pictured it as a paradise. His vision of his uncle, his estate, and his own prospects is drastically altered when he confronts the harsh reality of the House of Shaws. Additionally, the title of this second chapter, "I come to my Journey's End" is itself ironic and points out the contrast between appearance and reality. David thinks his journey is over and that he has arrived at his permanent new home; the truth is that the young boy is at the beginning of his journey and has far to go before he reaches its end.

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