Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

A suspenseful tale of intrigue in the South Seas, THE BEACH OF FALESA is distinguished, among Robert Louis Stevenson’s works of fiction, for its realism. It pictures unregenerate human nature—the natives with their superstition and gullibility; the traders with their crudeness, treachery, and degradation; the missionaries with their misguided zeal. A memorable feature of the story is the characterization of Wiltshire, a rough, uneducated man, something of a braggart, but withal a man of courage and rudimentary decency.

The apparently casual first-person narrative of THE BEACH OF FALESA is written in the flawless, graceful prose of which Stevenson was a master. The colloquialisms that Wiltshire uses are just enough to suggest his character and degree of education (or lack of education), but the descriptions and action are the artful work of one of the finest prose craftsmen in the English language.

The story presents the hypocrisy of Europeans opposed to the simplicity and honesty of the islanders. From the tale’s beginning with the fake “marriages,” Stevenson establishes this conflict. At the same time, the question of morality and religion (in the person of the missionaries) is raised. The story is compact but dense and rich, suggesting much more than appears on the surface.

Wiltshire’s reaction to Uma’s story dramatically illustrates the kind of man he is; perhaps even he does not realize how...

(The entire section is 415 words.)