Style and Technique

As the theme of the story utilizes the clear contrast of good and evil that is characteristic of a fairy story, so are the plot devices and the style reminiscent of this genre. Keawe, motivated initially by Kokua’s beauty, falls in love at first sight; after they succeed in disposing of the bottle, they live “happily ever after”—and Stevenson narrowly misses ending the story with this venerable cliche. Of the plot devices borrowed from the fairy-tale tradition, the most significant is the bottle imp himself, who can grant any wish but who nevertheless is a sinister presence. No attempt is made to explain this bottle by any rational means or to treat it as a symbol: It is simply magic.

Stevenson’s descriptions deliberately emulate the lack of specificity and the unreality of a fairy story: When Keawe builds his house, “a garden bloomed about that house with every hue of flowers,” and Kokua is “so fashioned, from the hair upon her head to the nails upon her toes, that none could see her without joy.” The tone of the dialogue is more conventional than real: Keawe declares that in his beautiful house his wish is “to live there without care and to make merry with my friends and relatives.” Studied inversions of word order (“great was their joy that night”) and occasional use of exclamations such as “behold!” give the style a deliberately archaic flavor.