R.L. Stevenson's 'Most Grim and Gloomy Tale': The Ebb-Tide as Deconstruction of Colonial Adventure Narrative
Di Frances, Christy Danelle
MetadataShow full item record
Although Edinburgh-born author Robert Louis Stevenson is best known as a writer of nineteenth-century popular adventures, his work to a great extent challenges prevailing adventure ideology of the Victorian era. This paper focuses on Stevenson's complexification of the villain trope in The Ebb-Tide, a South Seas novella published only a few months before his death in 1894. In the text, Stevenson blatantly disregards or dismantles typical colonial presentations of a simplistic villain personified through such topoi as the 'demonic male', the violent-but-beautiful female savage, or the vaguely formidable Other - all of which frequently populate adventure's exotic realm in nineteenth-century fiction. Rather than relying upon these culturally codified depictions, in The Ebb-Tide Stevenson presents villainy as embodied by a dangerous amalgamation of ordinary vice and extraordinary evil that traverses those national and ethnic boundaries that colonialism so often sought to demarcate and solidify. The portrayal of villainy within this text culminates in a nightmarish atmosphere which, in Stevenson's fiction, inevitably results from the unchecked workings of personal transgressions combined with a larger and more powerful indicator of evil. In so doing, the author succeeds in creating a dark narrative latent with culturally relevant commentary which, in turn, contributes to his broader re-navigation of an ethically-charged aesthetics of adventure for a modern audience.