Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Sir Walter Scott’s best work nearly always treats Scotland’s emergence to nationhood in the eighteenth century, following its union with England in 1707. The contact and struggles between the two allied nations shaped the Scottish identity, as Scotland changed its clannish past for its part in Great Britain. In the cross-cultural contact among the migratory drovers, Scott found a metaphor for the larger assimilation of Scotland into Britain and for the tumult brought on by this process of cultural transition. The friendship of the highland Scot and the English yeoman, like the alliance between the two nations, is a recent and fragile one.

Robin’s contact with English culture on his journeys across the border has diminished his belief in some Scottish superstitions. He seems to be humoring his aunt, for example, when he responds to her prophetic vision of doom by turning his dirk over to Morrison for safekeeping. For him “second sight” has become Scottish superstition. However, he is still profoundly Scottish in his attitudes. His belief in honor to the point of death and his final act of giving his life for the life he has taken embody the traditional code of the Highlands. Similarly, Harry Wakefield is not so chauvinistically English as his countrymen in the inn. His love of boxing and his bumptious eagerness to settle their differences with a brawl represents the traditional attitude of the English yeoman, but his willingness to settle for a...

(The entire section is 459 words.)