Kidnapped | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Kidnapped | Chapter 8 : The Roundhouse | Summary



One night, the sailors carry Ransome into the sailors's quarters past David, and the captain instructs David to move his belongings to the roundhouse—the officers's quarters—where Ransome had slept. Ransome, he learns, has been beaten to death by Mr. Shuan, but the captain intends to cover it up and say the boy fell overboard. David is now responsible for Ransome's duties, which include serving at meals and bringing "a dram"—a drink of alcohol—to the officers. Mr. Riach now refuses to discuss David's story about his kidnapping, and the captain will not even listen to his complaints about the injustice his uncle has done to him.


Although David tried to help Ransome, he is unable to prevent Mr. Shuan's violent treatment and eventual murder of the boy. Ransome is depicted as an innocent. Although he does bad things, he has been drawn into those actions by the poor example of the men with whom he lives. Ransome had no experience of the good childhood and Christian upbringing that David had, so he is unable to even comprehend what his life should be like. David understands this and tries to reshape Ransome according to the principle he has been taught, hoping to save the boy from a life modeled on criminals. In David's eyes Mr. Shuan's murder of the innocent Ransome condemns the man as evil, and the captain's insistence that the murder be covered up as an accidental drowning condemns him as well. Only Mr. Riach, who throws the bottle of alcohol overboard—blaming drunkenness for Mr. Shuan's crime—maintains some redeeming qualities. The murder of Ransome and the lack of punishment for the murderer transform David's opinion of the men aboard the ship. He now views them as evil and as murderers, which allows him to fight and kill them in later chapters without feeling any guilt.

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