Redgauntlet (Sir Walter Scott)

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I am going to be using the format recommended by Susan Bauer in this review.

Grammar Stage Inquiry: The What

What is the most important event in the book, in which the character(s) change? The most important event is when Darsie decides to leave the stability of Joshua Geddes’s house and join with the blind fiddler.  Darsie does that because he isn’t very smart (none of Sir Walter Scott’s heroes are smart).

Logic Stage Inquiry [The Why and How]

Is this novel fable or chronicle? This is a chronicle.  Sir Walter Scott invented the genre of historical fiction.

What does the central character(s) want? He wants action and adventure. He isn’t very smart.

What is standing in their way? For the first part of the novel, his friends.  Granted, they have no power to stop him, but they are warning him of where his Quixotic dreams will take him.

What strategies does the character(s) use to overcome their difficulties? While Darsie doesn’t suffer from common sense, he isn’t stupid, either.  He’s able to think quickly on his feet and adapt to new situations.

Who is telling the story? The first part of the novel is a series of letters written between the protagonist, Darsie Latimer, and his friend Alan Fairford. Admittedly, it’s not the most engaging beginning. It makes some demands of the reader, given the lack of dialogue, yet it does provide a character sketch for the two gentlemen. The back and forth between the two men’s letters becomes really amusing after a while.  Fairford grants that Latimer may have had “adventures,” but he thinks he embellished the whole thing, and comes close to insulting the man.

The background knowledge of the novel suggests that Redgauntlet is some sort of Byronic satanic figure.  Scott develops this tension in a very skilled way.

Beginning and Ending:  What draws you in? What is the resolution in the end?  What is the logical exhaustion, which demonstrates a philosophy about human nature?  Sir Walter Scott’s skill as a narrator is on full display.  He takes a very dangerous and unwieldy approach by introducing the plot through letter writing.  Yet in the letter writing he uses the possible Redgauntlet character to tie both Darsie’s and Fairford’s adventures together.  I won’t say more so as not to give away anything.

The ending is about as perfectly “exhausted” as one can expect in a story. The philosophy in this work, as in many of Scott’s works, is that the heroic age ended a generation ago.

III.  Rhetorical Stage of Inquiry [The So What?]

Do you sympathize with the characters?  Which one(s), and why? I sympathize with both Fairford and Darsie, for I have been both men.  And Darsie is funny at times: One of Walter Scott’s heroes has to take up residence with a Quaker, and here is how he describes the blessing before the meal: “We settled to your breakfast after a blessing, or rather an extempore prayer, which the Spirit moved Joshua to prolong rather more than I felt altogether agreeable.”

After Darsie is captured and doesn’t know where he is, he tries to ferret out his location from the serving wench.  The wench is the archetypal dumb blonde and parries all of his rather skillful questions with feigned (or perhaps real) idiocy.

Did the writer’s times affect him? Scott’s characters in this story aren’t as affected by the Jacobite cause as others.  They are not tempted by the Bonnie Prince nor do they seek to overthrow the Crown. Quite opposite.

Is there an argument in this book?  Alan Fairford is often at pains to show Darsie that courage isn’t simply fighting bravely in battle.  There is a “civil courage” that is “courage enough to do what is right, and to spurn what is wrong–courage enough to defend a righteous cause with hand and purse, and to take the part of the poor man against his oppressor, without fear of the consequences to himself” (Scott 47).

Do you agree?  Is this work true about the human experience? Very true. We all know those who want to “overthrow the gubmn’t,” but what stops them isn’t fear or arms, but apathy in their comrades.



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