Literary Qualities

While Treasure Island benefits from being told mostly in the voice of the bright and observant young Jim Hawkins, it suffers from the fact that parts of the story-matters that could not be known to Jim-have to be told by a different character. Kidnapped, on the other hand, is told as a memoir, so that the text benefits from the consistency of one voice and the perspective of a distance in time. David, in the telling, can recognize things he could not know at the time of the action.

The vivid personality traits in nearly all the characters add realistic complexity and humor to the story. Captain Hoseason, for instance, participates in the brutal kidnapping of David, but whenever his ship passes a certain point of land, he has a gun salute fired in honor of his aged mother, who lives there. Also, the hard-hearted captain never swears. Other characters abuse the language but prove much kinder than Hoseason, such as Mr. Riach, the mate who tends to David’s injuries and treats his illness. One mate is unmanageable when he drinks; another cannot be trusted when he is not drinking. Stevenson effectively weaves these quirky characteristics into the action-filled plot. Stevenson also carefully mixes Scottish terms into the dialogue in a believable fashion, but never to the point of sacrificing clarity or slowing down the action.

Character causes incident, and incident reveals character throughout Kidnapped. When, for example, Alan and David take cover from the soldiers in the Maclaren house, Alan encounters Robert Oig Macgregor, a member of a hostile clan. As the two prepare to duel to the death, their host, Duncan Maclaren, cleverly turns the duel into a contest over who is the better bagpiper. This incident reveals Alan’s honorable nature, for he admits that his enemy, Macgregor, is a better piper. The characterization of this proud little man establishes the fact that although he might kill an enemy, he would not lie to him.

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