Kidnapped | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Kidnapped | Chapter 14 : The Islet | Summary



David pulls himself ashore on an islet, separated from the mainland by a creek—or an inlet of the sea—that he finds he cannot cross. David lives on a diet of raw shellfish that often makes him violently ill, but he survives for days, watching for ships and seeing the smoke of houses across the inlet. On the third day, David spots a coble—a small boat—close enough that they hear him when he shouts. They do not, however, stop to help him. On the next day, the boat is back, and the two men communicate in a mixture of Scottish and English that makes David understand that the inlet is easy to cross when the tide goes out. David crosses the inlet, embarrassed at his ignorance, and lands on the mainland.


Although David has learned a great deal about the trustworthiness of men during his adventures, he still has a lot to learn about survival. His days on the islet show that his life in his small inland hometown was sheltered from the difficulties of the wild. David is a gentleman who has not needed to know about the movement of the tides or which shellfish might make him sick. He is at the mercy of the wilderness and only survives thanks to the kindness of two highlanders who go out of their way to return and tell him that he can cross at low tide. His lack of understanding of the wilderness as well as his difficulty understanding their Gaelic language categorizes David as a foreigner within his own country. Together, these foreshadow the challenges he will face as he tries to cross the highlands and return to Queen's Ferry to claim his inheritance.

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