Kidnapped, like much of the best drama, is character driven – it’s the thoughts and feelings, the social world, the relationships between people which provide the mainspring into dramatic action. Today, we begin to investigate the opening characters of the text: Davie Balfour and his Uncle, Ebeneezer Balfour.
Somewhat traditionally, characters in this novel are often perceived (And subsequently represented) as fairly basic archetypes: in this instance, the naive young man and his scheming, evil Uncle. Whilst there may be an element of truth, and therefore usefulness, in keeping these basic ‘character types’ in mind, a more effective way into beginning this work is to understand something of the social and political milieu of 1750’s Scotland. Characters don’t simply exist as a collection of personality traits, they exist in a particular place at a particular time and this is a key determinant in their beliefs.values/morals/concept of the world and subsequently how they behave in their world.
1750’s Scotland represents a completely different landscape of society to our own. Young Davie has been schooled, and likely in the Church of Scotland tradition – a utilitarian world perspective with defined social codes and ethics, ways of being, a vision of Scotland with a strong Union relationship with England, a respect for authority (and the Law). His knowledge of the Jacobite tradition, a Highland way of life and being, is probably non-existent, and limited only to a few historical facts relating to the 15, the 45 and Culloden as being a victory for common sense.
For this is play with two distinct worlds: the highlands (Jacobite, Catholic-leaning, A Clan and Extended Clam Family social structure, local clan laws, subsistence rural lifestyles, a Gaelic language) and in contrast The Lowlands (Unionist, protestant-leaning, Lack of clan structure, The Law as something delivered by the state and distinct from community law, a growing merchant class, a growth of cities, a movement away from subsistence farming into industrialisation, a predominant Scots English language).
1750’s Scotland is a nation divided by these two cultural and political traditions, the change in landscape from Mountains/Glens to valleys and fields as marked the then Highland Line is more than a change of topography or geography, its a change of world view.
Davie Balfour is naive, not so much as a character trait, but naive in his understanding that Scotland is two worlds, which are locked in a bitter battle in the aftermath of military defeat for the Jacobite cause to restore Bonnie Prince Charlie to the Scottish throne. Davie Balfour is naive because he knows little of his country. His journey across Scotland is much more than one through the landscape, its one in which he comes to discover something of the competing ideas about what kind of future Scotland faces.