Dissertation: Pavilion on the Links This Short Story

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Pavilion on the Links

This short story has received some very positive critical responses and is considered one of the best short stories that Stevenson wrote. He was recognized as the master of this genre and as one critic notes, Stevenson was a "...master of the short story proper."

The story is in essence a tale of intrigue and mystery, as well as a romantic tale. The plot of the story involves, among others, a criminal banker and his daughter, two very different characters who are in love with the daughter, Italian secret societies, fraud and murder. The often dark and sinister gothic atmosphere of the story adds to the sense of mystery.

As is the case with many of his other stories and novels, one of Stevenson's central themes is the duality that exists in human nature. Many of his novels like the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde explores the opposites in human nature and the battle between good and evil that exists in human existence. This theme as well as others will be explored in the following analysis of the Pavilion on the Links.

2.2. Summary

This short story was first published in 1886 and is often referred to novella rather than a short story. This story is described in one study as a "….tale of Sicilian vengeance and English love that is full of haunting mystery and the deadly fear of unknown assassins… "

The following is a brief outline of the plot and sequence of the main events in the story.

The story begins when the narrator, Frank Cassilis, befriends a strange and troubled young man, R. Northmour of Graden Easter in Scotland, while they are at college together. This leads to the two spending time together on Graden Easter in Scotland. They stay in the pavilion adjacent to the mansion house of Graden and spend four months in the pavilion together before Northmour's bad temper forces the narrator to leave.

Cassilis returns to the area nine years later and he camps out near the pavilion. A number of mysterious events begin to unfold during his stay. Responding to signs of lights in the windows of the pavilion he assumes that Northmour has returned and he wants to surprise him. However, what is occurring is much more mysterious and unusual. When he enters the house he finds that the rooms have been prepared for quests. This deepens the mystery as Northmour is averse to company and socializing.

The mystery is partially resolved when people begin arriving from a schooner in the bay. The narrator observes them from a hiding place and sees that it is an old, tall man, a young woman and Northmour who are staying at the house. However when he greets Northmour he is attacked by his friend who wounds him slightly with a knife. This deepens the mystery and increases the sense of intrigue and danger that is central to the story. The woman has a direct affect on the narrator and he feels intensely attracted to her. They meet when he stops her from entering the dangerous quicksand in the area. He knows instinctively that this is the woman whom he will marry

When they meet again she warns him that his life is in danger -- but not from Northmour. She reveals the situation that she and her father are in. She is Clara Huddlestone. Her father, Bernard Huddlestone, is a banker who has fraudulently misappropriated a large sum of money and is fleeing the law as well as certain creditors who are after both the money and his life. Huddlestone is in fact being pursued by a sinister Italian political society to whom he owes a great deal of money. He has turned for help to Northmour who was courting his daughter at the time. Northmour has taken them aboard his schooner in order to hide them in the deserted pavilion. He does this mainly because he has been promised the hand of Clara for his assistance.

Cassilis encounters the Italians who are after Huddleston. The sense of danger and intrigue is further increased when Cassilis discovers the footprints of a stranger who has perished in the quicksand near the pavilion. From his hat that remains it is clear that the stranger was one of the Italians and he realizes that they are in danger of being attacked.

The plot continues and the tension and intrigue increases. The story is made even more tense by the complicated rivalry and jealousy between the two men, Cassilis and Northmour, for the hand of Clara. The theme of duality or the contrasting aspects in people, which is also to be found in many of Stevenson's works, is also evident in the way that Northmour shows different and often conflicting sides of his character. Although he is misanthropic and violent he is also to a great extent a gentleman and refuses to leave the others and save his own life. Cassilis and Northmour become friends again in the face of the danger from the Italians. But this does not decrease the romantic tension and Northmour says that he will take Clara as his bride after the danger is past.

However, it is possible as well that they will all perish in the pavilion. The attack from the Italians eventually takes place. The Italians make it clear that they will spare the lives of the others if they receive Bernard Huddlestone. Huddleston pleads with them to protect him and this compromise is refused by Northmour. The Italians then set the house on fire. Huddlestone leaves the pavilion first and is shot by the Italians. Carla, Northmour and Cassilis escape the pavilion and reach the camp in the Hemlock Den. Northmour attacks Cassilis. However, Northmour suddenly changes his attitude and helps Cassilis to revive Clara. He then leaves on his schooner. The last we hear of him is that he is killed years later while fighting for the Italians.

2.3. Main Themes

2.3.1. Duality and Identity

A central theme in many of Stevenson's books and stories is the issue of duality. This refers to the opposing tendencies or conflicting personality traits that can be found within the same person. For example, the same individual can be both cruel and kind and good and evil can coexist within the same person. This is a theme that seems to have fascinated Stevenson as is evident from his many books that deal with this duality in human nature. An obvious example is the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where we have two very opposing forces within the same person. This theme also leads to the question of identity. If there are different and conflicting personality traits within the same person, what does this mean in terms of a single and cohesive identity - or is identity more flexible and fluid that is generally thought. This question could also be applied to Markheim.

We encounter this sense of duality and opposites in human beings throughout the Pavilion on the Links. When Cassilis first sees his wife-to be, Clara, he describes her as follows.

She was extremely pale; but in the light of the lantern her face was so marred by strong and changing shadows, that she might equally well have been as ugly as sin or as beautiful as I afterwards found her to be.

We can interpret this as follows: human nature can be beautiful and ugly, moral or immoral, good or evil. It is very difficult at first glance to determine the identity and nature of another human being. This also implies the view that we find in this and many others stories that human nature and human identity is extremely complex and that, in fact, there may be completely different and opposing tendencies within the same human being

This sense of the duality of human nature is especially the case with regard to the character of Northmour. As Cassilis observes, "My wife and I, a man and a woman, have often agreed to wonder how a person could be, at the same time, so handsome and so repulsive as Northmour."

In other words, he seems to have at least two identities. On the one hand he can be gentlemanly and honorable and on the other hand violent and aggressive in his actions and thoughts.

We can also briefly refer to other works to support this view. As one critic of Stevenson's works states; "Stevenson shows this in quotes such as 'man is not truly one, but truly two'. Thus, all human beings have a 'dual nature', and in each of us rages a constant battle between the two halves for preeminence."

This sense of duality in human beings is described as "…the hallmark of Stevenson's body of work - most blatantly expressed in Jekyll and Hyde, but present also in Kidnapped and the Master of Ballantrae."

One can understand this as a view of human nature which shows a deep… [END OF PREVIEW]

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