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The Moral Problematic as a Recurring Theme in Robert Louis Stevenson's Novels: The Master of Ballantrae and Kidnapped

September 2011

This dissertation examines the theme of morality in Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Master of Ballantrae" and "Kidnapped", focusing mainly on the former novel. After a brief discussion of Stevenson's historical interests and of the the sources gathered by him for the writing of his Scottish novels, I proceed to an investigation of the main narrator of "The Master of Ballantrae", the unreliable Mackellar. I argue that Mackellar can be regarded as a dogmatic moralist whose ethical standards are first questioned, and then subverted by the character of James Durie. Subsequently, I analyze the main narrator of "Kidnapped", the seventeen-year-old David Balfour, and I claim that similarly to Mackellar, David also holds strict moral standards that gradually dissolve after he experiences significant historical and social events that contribute to his individual growth. I then conclude the dissertation by evidencing Stevenson's preoccupation with moral issues, which transpires both from his letters and prose, and by claiming that he disregarded a decontextualized morality based on prejudices and religious dogmatism.


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