Five things I learn about Robert Louis Stevenson from his short stories

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I was biding farewell to Robert Louis Stevenson as I closed the final page of ‘The Treasure of Franchard’, the last piece of his popular short stories anthology a few weeks ago.  Thanks to ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, ‘The Merry Men’, ‘Will O The Mill’, ‘Markheim’, ‘Thrawn Janet, ‘Olalla’ and ‘The Treasure of Franchard’, I gather these following ideas about this beloved Scottish author:

  1. Philosophical and reflective

Reading Robert Louis Stevenson can be a hard task. His works invite me to reflect so much, even when he writes something funny. It’s like watching Adam Sandler’s dark comedy, the kind of laugh that tears my heart because something serious and ironic is in it, too. ‘Will O The Mill’ proves me this. This tells a story about Will, a very generous and kind-hearted person, who spends his lifetime staying in the same place until the day he dies. For me, Will is the type of person who is very close to all of us, the sort of a good-boy-next-door, the man whom you would like to make friends with. He is so nice that he doesn’t fight for the girl that he loves when another man approaches her. His story is very touching, a kind of calm, sombre one that leaves very impressive mark in my reading list.

  1. You reap what you sow

Although wrapped in cheerful tone, ‘The Merry Men’ teaches me a lot of life lessons, each and every thing that I throw will come back to me in abundant ways. Gordon Darnaway, the uncle of Charles Darnaway, is the perfect example of this. From the very beginning of the short story, it prompts me to think how can this old man is very serious about his life. He seems distant and takes everything so heavy. After I read on the part where he murders now I understand that he probably reaps what he sows. He feels uneasy because of the crimes he does before. His life seems unpleasant because he runs away from his guilty for so long. The last scene where he is seen jumping off the sea makes my heart breaks. So ironic for his life.

  1. Oh, the Gothic style

‘Olalla’ brings me back all about Gothic things, the stuff that I learn during my university years. The mysterious, horror, thrilling tones are strongly felt in the story. Although some of key questions remain unanswered, the short story successfully keeps me going completing it. Robert Louis Stevenson is really good at presenting the Gothic idea in it although does not executing it all as smooth as I expect.

  1. ‘Markheim’ proves his work can be unsatisfying

From ‘Markheim’ I learn that even a master like Robert Louis Stevenson can produce deficient writing. I can feel his writing misses a number of scenes. Disorganized. The last scene when Markheim indicates he will surrender himself to the police after a thoughtful conversation with a man doesn’t make any senses to me.

  1. ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ remains his exceptionally masterpiece

‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ is by far his brilliant work, which completely sticks in my heart in different ways despite the fact ‘Of Mice and Men’ is my most favorite book and ‘Wuthering Heights’ is the best novel I have read so far. ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ stands out from the crowd not only because of it tells about someone’s split personality but also because of his very, very subtle language with huge focus on details. This story runs really delicate that if you don’t pay enough attention, big things will slip away.

Thank you Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson!

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Thoughts on ‘The Merry Men”

As previous post states clearly what the short story is all about, I’d like to just share what I feel reading it. No analysis whatsoever.

Reading ‘The Merry Men’ is like watching a dark comedy and I think the main actor is not Charles Danaway but his uncle, Gordon Darnaway. This old man keeps a lot of secrets that makes him that weird, guarded, serious, hardly smiles. At the beginning of the story, I thought Gordon Darnaway seems so hard on himself because of the harshness of life to make ends meet.

After I finish reading the story, I realize he has so much inside of him that contributes much to what he is. I guess this remains mystery to Charles Darnaway, too, until the sinking of an unknown boat opens up all the riddles.

From the first page of the story until the scene where Charles, Rorie and Gordon are in the hill watching the ill-fated boat sinking down, swallowed by the Merry Men, all I feel is seriousness. Probably this is also because of the difficult, detailed language that R0bert Louis Stevenson applies.

My favorite scene is when Charles comes across a grave when he is about to go deep underwater. What shocks me even more is he unintentionally touches the hands of a dead body under the water. The description of this fragment is so smooth that it startles me when reading it.

What I really mean as dark comedy is when uncle Gordon escapes from the home after he knows the negro man is in it. It’s comical to watch the negro man chases after Gordon until they become uncontrollable. At this, the scene seems funny but when they both plunge into the sea, I know the story is about a tragedy.

As much as I am sad about the fate of Gordon, I can totally understand the deep message behind it: that you take responsibility on things that you do. In this case, Gordon ‘deserves’ the punishment because he murders a marine man. That’s how he pay his sins.

 

 

Summary of ‘The Merry Men’ by Robert Louis Stevenson

Large winter waves crash against cliffs at Butt of Lewis, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

After his graduation from Edinburgh University, Charles Darnaway visits his uncle living in Aros, Scotland. Deep in his mind, he wants to seek for treasures hidden beneath the Spanish ship, ‘Espirito Santo’, plus proposing his cousin, Mary Ellen, to marry him.

His uncle, Gordon Darnaway has been tested by the adversity of life that he becomes stiff, hardly smiles and becomes serious person. From his uncle, Charles knows about the miseries regarding the wave and the sea nearby the place they live. The story of the Merry Men gets more emphasis for it refers to breakers that roar around rocks and make extensive noise like shrieking laughter.

On the day Charles gets to the place, his uncle looks flat. Something about the sea and the past bothers him. Charles tries to persuade Marry to not only marry him but also leaves the house. But Marry can’t leave his father.

Charles tries his luck. He goes down the sea, wishing he can find treasures that will enrich him. Much to his surprise, his discoveries are instead graveyard, remains of shipwrecks and human bodies!

On the way back home, he spots a group of strangers rowing the boat on sea. While he tells about this to his uncle, Charles is surprised to learn Gordon’s panic. Gordon realizes the stranger Charles just sees is the marine whom he kills yet he comes back alive.

Upon this, Gordon leaves home carrying wine. He gets drunk while standing on the edge of a cliff. His eyes watch the ill-fated boat. Charles and Rorie seek for his whereabouts. They can’t do anything to make Gordon coming back home or help the ship. Not long after that, the Merry Men are back in action. “Their laughter” swallows the ship, leaving no remains of it and Charles, Rorie and Gordon can just stand still.

After this incident, Gordon looks frightened until Charles learns that his uncle is sinful for murdering the marine man. After Charles utters his disappointment on his uncle wrongdoing, suddenly a black man is visible. Gordon gets even more terrified. He flees, so does Rorie. While Charles tries to speak to him whose language seems so alien. Charles brings him back home though.

Mary and Charles feeds him and provides him a shelter. On the other hand, Gordon still escapes. He doesn’t want to return home as long as the black man is still in the house, so Charles thinks. Rorie brings Gordon meal but the old man doesn’t want to leave his place. Mary is very sad finding her father behaves like this.

Until one day, Charles wishes to let the black man go. When he meets Gordon, the latter runs away then is chased by the black man. Gordon is unstoppable. He thinks the black man is the ghost of the marine man whom he murders before. They chase one after another until they jump off the cliff then the Merry Men engulf them all.

The picture is taken from this.

Understanding the works of Robert Louis Stevenson is always a huge task

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Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson are hard to digest not because they carry metaphors or symbols but really, his writing technique is so exquisite. My brains always works at its hardest trying to catch the meaning of his words.

The challenge lies on how he makes his writing so full of details, even small objects are unmissed. My experience reading his short story ‘The Merry Men’ proves this. His story is just a few pages but it takes a relatively long time to get it all done. Not only because this short story marks my first experience reading stories about sea and storms and the like, but also because his descriptions are very thorough. I have to slow the reading process down so that my brain can work better to shape imaginations as exactly as described in the short story.

Another thing that adds to this complexity is the insertion of Scottish language in the story. Oh God. When it comes to dialect or local language, my head starts feeling so dizzy. This reminds me a lot when reading ‘Wuthering Heights’ a few weeks ago and some books about American-African novels back at the university. To tell you the truth, I skipped all parts when Emily Bronte presents the dialect in her most enduring novel. I couldn’t stand it. Luckily, the local language in ‘The Merry Men’ is much more understandable and I can comprehend almost all sentences spoken by Gordon Danaway and his servant, Rorie.

His ‘Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and My. Hyde’ is also one of the most difficult books I have ever read so far for it is so smoothly crafted that the transition between the two opposite traits of the same person is barely detected. The language remains polite, the description is full of details, as always. A smooth criminal, as the late Micheal Jackson says.

This is what makes the thin book remains a challenge for me even after two times reading. May be my English proficiency is still poor that I need to read it for the third time, LOL. All in all, though, this Scottish author is one of the best writers and storytellers that I have ever known. When I decide reading his stories that mean I am up for a challenge, a huge one.

The picture is taken from this.