Kidnapped | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Kidnapped | Chapter 3 : I Make Acquaintance of My Uncle | Summary



The old man from the window invites David inside and reveals that he—Ebenezer Balfour—is David's uncle, his father's brother. Reading the letter of introduction, Ebenezer shares his dinner of porridge and ale with David, then takes him up to a dark bedroom for the night. In the morning they share another meal of porridge and ale, and Ebenezer says that he plans to go into town. Ebenezer wants to lock David out of the house while he's gone, but David won't allow it, so Ebenezer chooses to stay home.


When David finally meets Ebenezer, he is shocked to learn that the man is his uncle, a much closer relation than he had expected. This scene reflects the lack of preparation that David has for the world he has unknowingly entered. His father left a sealed letter of introduction that David presents to his uncle, but his father leaves nothing that informs David of the truth about his life. David enters the house at a disadvantage to his uncle, thanks to his lack of knowledge about his inheritance and the untrustworthy character of his uncle. This oversight by David's father is the cause of all the challenges that David must face throughout the novel. In the novel, however, David's ignorance is cast as the brash naiveté of youth, causing David to approach the situation without much forethought or planning.

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