The Master of Ballantrae Analysis
by Robert Louis Stevenson

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The Master of Ballantrae

(Great Characters in Literature)

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Characters Discussed

James Durie

James Durie, the master of Ballantrae. Reported dead after the Battle of Culloden, he escapes to America, then goes to France, where he makes heavy financial demands on his brother Henry, now the heir to Durrisdeer, over a period of seven years. As Mr. Bally, James returns to Scotland, where he and Henry fight a duel. James apparently is killed, though his body disappears. Severely wounded, he is rescued by smugglers and taken to India, where he makes a fortune and acquires a native servant, Secundra Dass. When James again returns to Durrisdeer, Henry and his family flee to New York but are followed by James. In America, Henry decides to get rid of his evil brother permanently, but Secundra Dass overhears plans for James’s murder and shortly thereafter reports that his master has died. Henry, determined to satisfy himself that James is really dead, comes upon his brother’s grave just as Secundra Dass is exhuming James, who has not died but has been placed in a state of suspended animation by Secundra Dass as a means of tricking Henry. When Henry sees his brother’s eyes flutter open after a week underground, he drops dead of shock. Despite many hours of strenuous effort, Secundra Dass is unable to revive James fully because of the cold temperature; at last, the brothers, deadly enemies, are buried in the same grave.

Henry Durie

Henry Durie, James’s younger brother, who remains at Durrisdeer. After James’s reported death, Henry, now the heir, marries Alison. Plagued almost constantly by his very much alive brother James, Henry finally flees to America with his family, but his relentless brother pursues him. Hated and hating, the two brothers, after a macabre graveside scene, are placed in the same grave in the remote American wilderness.

Lord Durrisdeer

Lord Durrisdeer, the father of James and Henry. A canny Scot, he protects his estate by having one son on each side in the Stuart uprising.

Alison Graeme

Alison Graeme, a wealthy relative betrothed to James. After the report of his death, she marries Henry, though she still loves James. When James returns to Durrisdeer for the first time, Alison seems to prefer his company to that of her husband.

Ephraim Mackellar

Ephraim Mackellar, the factor of Durrisdeer, loyal to Henry. He narrates most of the story.

Colonel Francis Burke

Colonel Francis Burke, who first brings word that James is alive and in France. James demands that money be sent to him.

Captain Teach

Captain Teach, a pirate who captures James and Burke, and whose treasure James steals.

Jacob Chew

Jacob Chew, an Indian trader of New York with whom James makes a wilderness expedition.

Secundra Dass

Secundra Dass, a servant acquired by James in India. He returns to Scotland with James, then accompanies his master to America. Attempting to trick Henry, he places James in a state of suspended animation, then is unable to revive him.

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

As he often does, Stevenson depends on the naive narrator for his plot development. Ephraim Mackellar, of course, knows only what he sees and hears (and, to a degree, what he can deduce from this evidence); so, the reader "sees" the events and the people through the typically sympathetic vision of the loyal old family retainer. Mackellar tries to accept the ungoverned behavior of James, but his fondness for Henry and his admiration for this long-suffering man impel the narrator to take sides (and, he is so fair in his judgments and reports that the reader must agree with him, no matter how "charming" the Master often appears) and to condemn a person to whom he would have been loyal to the...

(The entire section is 908 words.)