Places Discussed

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*Scottish Highlands

*Scottish Highlands. Mountainous area of northern Scotland that was home to the historical Rob Roy. The Highlands are the romantic setting for Scottish clan life in the novel. Several of Walter Scott’s works deal with the Scottish Highlands, but Rob Roy treats this area with special fullness and complexity. On one hand, the Highlands are beautiful, sublime, poetic, and impressive. On the other hand, they are dark, dangerous, primitive, and lawless. The Scottish clans of the Highlands are brave, daring, resourceful, and, at their best, heroic. They have a strong sense of honor and absolute loyalty to clan leaders like Rob Roy, but their way of life is often violent, disorderly, fearsome, and unproductive. For Scott, both the virtues and the vices of the Highlanders are closely associated with their country and its combination of wild sublimity and desolate barrenness. Scott’s descriptions of the Scottish Highlands in this novel are among the book’s greatest beauties, and such a scene as the horrific death of Morris and such characters as Rob Roy and Helen MacGregor seem to grow directly out of the soil of the Highlands. In broadly symbolic terms, Scott sees the Scottish Highlands as representing a romantic but doomed culture which belongs to the past. The poetry, feudalism, heroism, and concepts of honor associated with the Highlands must give way to the mercantile and rational values represented by Glasgow and London.

Osbaldistone Hall

Osbaldistone Hall. Northumbrian country mansion of Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone and his six sons. Osbaldistone Hall is called “cub castle” by its neighbors and is a large, antiquated country place dedicated mainly to eating, drinking, hunting, and the generally rustic and rude behavior of Sir Hildebrand and his sons. In broad terms, Osbaldistone Hall is the novel’s symbol of the old-fashioned English country squire’s way of life, which in the novel has become decadent, wasteful, and notably unintelligent. Like the Scottish Highlands, Osbaldistone Hall represents an antiquated way of life that must give way to modernity and mercantilism. Osbaldistone Hall is also used in the novel to lend atmosphere to the characters of Rashleigh Osbaldistone and Diana Vernon and to the mysteries that surround them. In this respect, the Gothic antiquity and the secret rooms, doors, and passages of Osbaldistone Hall provide the perfect setting for the villainies and machinations of Rashleigh and the secret fears and hopes of Diana.


*Glasgow. Mercantile metropolis of western Scotland and the home of Nicol Jarvie, perhaps the novel’s greatest character. Generally speaking, Glasgow functions in Rob Roy as a Scottish symbol for the modern, mercantile, rational world represented by London. Glasgow is a city of law, learning, order, and business. Nicol Jarvie, who is virtually Glasgow incarnate, is both a magistrate and a merchant. Like Glasgow itself, Jarvie stands for practicality, reason, mercantilism, and civil order. The world of Glasgow and Nicol Jarvie may seem a bit prosaic, but it is the world of the future, and in its natural opposition to the wild irregularities and colorful violence of the Scottish Highlands, it will be victorious. Scott also describes Glasgow Cathedral with great power and in doing so creates both a memorable symbol for Scottish Presbyterianism and an effective setting for one of the novel’s most thrilling and frightening moments, the whispered warning to Frank Osbaldistone that he is in danger in Glasgow.


*London. Capital of Great Britain that is the home of the great commercial house of Osbaldistone and Tresham. Although Scott never really describes London in the novel, it is symbolically one of the most important places in the novel. London is where the...

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novel begins and where it ends. ThroughoutRob Roy, the values of poetry, romance, heroism, and feudalism are opposed to the London values of commercialism and rationality. At the beginning of the novel, Frank Osbaldistone leaves London because he rejects what London represents. At the end of the book, Frank has returned to his father’s London firm, and the values of London are triumphant.


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Anderson, James. Sir Walter Scott and History. Edinburgh: Edina, 1981. Presents Scott as an innovator in the historical novel who possessed the ability to delve into the embers of the Jacobite and Scottish/English conflicts of the eighteenth century.

Beiderwell, Bruce John. Power and Punishment in Scott’s Novels. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992. Foucauldian approach that examines Scott’s representations of the shifting structures of state power and punishment. Argues that Scott’s Rob Roy represents the (mis)uses of power and his ambivalence about paradigms of punishment and state discipline.

Ferris, Ina. The Achievement of Literary Authority: Gender, History, and the Waverley Novels. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991. Revisionist history that argues how the Waverley novels inscribe masculinist rhetoric and authority within the then female-dominated genre of the historical novel. Also discusses how the feminine voice remained in Scott’s writings. Illuminates the role of gender in the novel and accounts for Diana as a strong character.

Murray, W. H. Rob Roy MacGregor: His Life and Times. Glasgow, Scotland: R. Drew Publishers, 1982. Excellent biography of the historical figure Robert MacGregor and his part in the confusing and constantly shifting loyalties and political currents that existed in Scotland of the early eighteenth century. Portrays MacGregor as a Scottish Robin Hood.

Sutherland, John. The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1995. Authoritative biography on Scott. Useful in gaining insights into how his life and identity as a Scotsman helped shape such heroes as Rob Roy.


Critical Essays