How does Kidnapped reveal the physical and social geography of Scotland?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Robert Louis Stevenson takes readers on a romp across the terrain of Scotland in Kidnapped as hero David Balfour seeks his destiny after his father's death. He travels on foot across the distance between his home and his Uncle's manor to receive a warm welcome that leads him to climb to his hoped-for but thwarted death before being reverse-shanghaied by a sea captain who is bribed to run off with him. After meeting the dashing Alan Stewart, David treks to fjords and sneaks his way across them, hides out in Highlands get-aways, and sneaks by light of moonshine (unless they oversleep) across rocks and plains as he and Alan, with a bounty price on his head, try (and sometimes fail) to stay one night ahead of the British Redcoats who take it in earnest that Alan fought in a rebellion against the King of England. Through all the travels, tales and adventures, Stevenson spreads the geography of Scotland out before readers as David and Alan cover Scotland's terrain from Highland to Lowland to ocean fjord.

As David leaves the safety and comfort of home in Essendean among the Campbells, who love and respect him as a son, at the outset of his adventure to seek his Uncle in a distant part of Scotland, Stevenson begins a journey through the social landscape of Scotland. There is a great contrast made between the social groups of the Lowland Camapbells, who are English loyalists upholding the House of Hanover on the throne, and the Highlanders, who are sympathizers with the dethroned House of Stuard. In addition, the Campbell's social order is modest and work-a-day while the Balfour social order, to which David believes he is traveling, is one of gentlefolk and manors and estates for villagers to cater to while the Highland Stewarts are rough and ready mountain folk who can play a Scottish pipe and dance a Scottish jig as well as they can fight against the House of Hanover. Stevenson's tour of the cultures of Scotland reveals the social, economic, cultural, political and religious differences of the varying quarters.

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