Kidnapped | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Kidnapped | Chapter 13 : The Loss of the Brig | Summary

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Summary

Late one night, Captain Hoseason comes to the roundhouse and asks Alan Breck to pilot the brig through a series of reefs and rocks that obstruct the passage of the ship along the coast of Alan's homeland. Seeing the fear on the captain's face, Alan and David are certain it is not a trap. Alan goes out and tells the captain to stay close to the shore, which is successful for the majority of the passage. Toward the end of the passage, near land belonging to the Campbell clan, however, the ship strikes a reef and gets stuck. As David is trying to heave the ship off the rocks, a massive wave strikes him and sweeps him away from the ship. He reaches a place of calm waters and swims the rest of the way to the shore.

Analysis

Captain Hoseason had kept Mr. Shuan on board despite his cruel treatment of Ransome because the man was an excellent navigator and knew the coastlines well. Without him, the brig is in danger of running into rocks, underwater reefs, or sandbars. Alan, who promised to pilot the ship near the coast of his own country, is a poor replacement. Even though Alan is a brave warrior and sneaks in and out of the country by boat, he does not know the coastline and remains afraid of water throughout most of the book.

In the moments when the ship is stuck on the reef and as it capsizes, the men forget that they are enemies. All rush to where they are needed and work together to try to save the ship, and with it, their lives. Criminals, Christians, and outlaws become simply humans: their differences forgotten. In this moment of humanity David's freedom arrives by chance. The wave sweeps him away from the captain and the crew who would likely quickly become his jailers again as soon as they reached the shore. Indeed, Alan later relates (Chapter 18) that once he reached the shore in the skiff with the rest of the men, Captain Hoseason turned against him and tried to steal his money. Alan only escaped thanks to Mr. Riach's intervention.

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