What are the elements in The Beach of Falesá by Stevenson that deviate from literary realism, and what might it tell us about the hybrid nature of this work?

Although Stevenson does not always deviate greatly from realism, The Beach of Falesá is primarily a romantic adventure story, as established by the South Pacific setting and Wiltshire’s naïve expectations of success at business and love. The gothic elements pertain to Case’s evil character and magical skills. However, it is ultimately revealed that he is a con man who manipulates others for his own benefit, and his all-too-human greed motivates his rivalry with Wiltshire.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Beach of Falesá, Robert Louis Stevenson doesn't really deviate all that far from literary realism . Although there are many strange, exotic, and unusual elements in the story, most, if not all of them, derive from the charlatan Cade's attempts to convince the island-dwellers that he has...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In The Beach of Falesá, Robert Louis Stevenson doesn't really deviate all that far from literary realism. Although there are many strange, exotic, and unusual elements in the story, most, if not all of them, derive from the charlatan Cade's attempts to convince the island-dwellers that he has demonic powers.

In that sense, any departures from the conventions of literary realism are entirely artificial, in keeping as they are with Cade's shameless conning of the island-dwellers for his own benefit. To be sure, the people who live on the island, even without Cade in their midst, would practice certain customs that Victorians would find somewhat strange and exotic. But the depiction of these customs would, in itself, constitute a kind of literary realism of its own, as it would involve a truthful, unvarnished account of ancient practices in which the island-dwellers have engaged for centuries.

In examining literary realism, it's important to realize that, although it is a concept devised by Western critics and scholars, it is nonetheless equally applicable to the depiction of different societies and cultural traditions. That being the case, one can see The Beach of Falesá as, in its essentials, a work of literary realism, albeit one that incorporates strange elements which illustrate the character of a particularly devious and manipulative con man.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Robert Louis Stevenson does not stray far from realist principles in The Beach of Falesá, but the text also demonstrates many elements of the romantic adventure stories for which the author is most well known. Stevenson sets the tale in a remote Pacific location that his British and American readers would mostly like consider exotic. The main character, Wiltshire, is an innocent with a romantic nature in the sense of desiring to escape from the tedium of ordinary, European life by making a living in the islands. In another sense, he is a romantic in terms of his search for love. His naïveté is confirmed as he unwittingly violates local customs and finds himself tricked by Case.

The author incorporates gothic elements as well, as the character of Case seems so evil that he could be diabolically possessed. The exotic aspects of the adventure are combined with the gothic features in emphasizing Case's mysterious powers in the realm of magic, as he can apparently channel supernatural forces.

As the story develops, however, the author veers back to a realist approach, making Case a more mundane villain. He not only prides himself on tricking and manipulating others, but will not stop short of killing off his rivals. As he sets himself against Wiltshire, a basic man versus man conflict thus undergirds the plot.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on