First section, chapters 1-3:
According to the preface, what situation does the author find himself in?
Did you find this a good opening? Does it seem closely related to the plot, and if not, does this matter?
What seems the purpose of the opening frame? Does it remind you of other authentication-prefaces you have read? Is a friendship between men an appropriate context for considering the plot's contents?
In what period are the events of the romance set? In chapter one, what opening decisions frame the plot? What are some aspects of the Durrisdeer family drama? What prompts the marriage between Alison and Henry?
Are readers expected to feel equal sympathy with both brothers? In what ways does the narrative support condemnation of James and sympathy for Henry?
What is added to the story by the use of Mackellar as wetness?
What part does James take in the Stuart wars, and what report of him comes home? What function is served by the account of Henry's payment to Jessie Broun?
What is Henry's attitude towards the birth of his daughter Miss Katharine?
What news is brought by Francis Bruke? How do Henry and his wife react to the news that Francis has brought a message from James?
Why is Burke's narrative given at two levels--what he tells the family, and his story to Mackellar? What does the tale of James and Francis's wanderings add to the story? To our knowlege of James's character? (e. g., 62)
According to Francis's account, what thoughts does James seem to have of his family in Scotland? (64) Are these just?
What is added by the use of Francis as narrator, and by Mackellar's pointed refusal to believe him at a certain point? (66) What effect is created by the disparate testimonies?
Wha do you think of Stevenson's portrayal of New York state in the 1740s? Of the Indians? Do you think the presentaiton of pirate ship conditions is reasonably plausible for the time period? Did you find the narrative of the pirate ship and Indian episodes convincing?
What means are used by the narrative to create suspense?
After Burke brings the news that James Durie is still alive, how are matters altered between Henry Durie and his wife? How does Mr. Mackellar account for Henry’s intermittent sharpness to his family (71-72)?
Under what conditions does Henry continue to send money to his brother? What do you think are his motives? What intervention does Mr. Mackellar try, and what are the short term and long term results? How does Mr. Mackellar characterize his own emotions on the subject of romantic passion? (75)
What motivates James to return home? What attitudes does he exhibit towards his brother, Mr. Mackellar, Alison, and his father? What detail about the suitcases does Mr. Mackellar note as he drags them to the house?
What events transpire during James’s visit, and to what does Mr. Mackellar attribute his change of behavior when his father and Alison are present? (85) How do events conspire to make Henry seem apparently rude and thoughtless? Do you find this sequence of events and incidents plausible?
What does Henry discover about his brother’s relationship with the government? What motivates Henry to alienate a piece of the ancestral land? To whom does he feel this might be an injustice? (94) What is the result of the discovery of James’s secret occupation? (97-98)
What opinion does James express concerning Henry’s character? (102) Do you think he may be sincere? What incident prompts their duel? What prevents Mr. Mackellar from stopping the duel? (Do you find this convincing?)
What are important circumstances of the fight? What are Henry’s motives for fighting? How does Mr. Mackellar break the news of James’s supposed death to Alison and the elder Mr. Durie? (108-113)
How do Lord Durrisdeer and Alison respond to the news? What discoveries does Mr. Mackellar make in examining James’ luggage? From the freebooters what later information does he obtain? At this point, do you think the reader feels relief or anxiety?
What are supposedly peculiar features of Henry’s illness? What is the effect of our learning of events through the perspective of Mr. Mackellar? What do you think of the motives and wisdom of Alison’s destruction of James’s letters on behalf of his spying missions?
What motive is given for James’s silence about his dueling wounds? (121) Do you find this convincing?
What interpretation does Henry give when he learns of James’s survival? At this point, in what context do you interpret his relationship with his brother?
What is unexpected about Henry’s reaction to the death of his father? How can you explain this? Do you see evidence for a change in Henry’s character? (135) What were some effects of his absorption in his younger child? (136-37)
What effect is created by the interpolation of “R. L. S.” to edit a portion of Mr. Mackellar’s narrative and to anticipate the future? (137)
What does the reader learn from Francis Burke’s account of his meeting with “the Master of Ballantrae” in India? Do you think Mr. Mackellar’s gloss is likely accurate? Would the omitted material (144) have likely been important? What is the effect of including references to unavailable evidence?
If asked to summarize the chief formal structuring devices of the narrative thus far, what features would you cite?
What important events happen in these last chapters? Coud you have predicted some of them from the account of chapters 1-7?
Can you comment on features of Stevenson's style? Do you admire it? Can you find sample passages which seem especially beautiful, and if so, what kinds of subjects seem to evoke his best wiring? (158, 207, 209, 231-32)
In chapter 8, what effect does James' return have upon the family? Do you think it was necessary for them to have fled to North America? What dream does Mackellar have of his employer's future mental state?
What is James's effect upon Mackellar during the voyage? What do his literary tastes reveal about his character?
What reaction does the reader have to James's desire to win Mackellar's esteem? To Mackellar's irresolute desire to kill James? In their conversations, what does James indicate are the conditons under which he would cease to persecute his brother's family?
What role is given to Secundra Dass? (145) To what extent is he stereotyped as an "other"? Why do you think Stevenson included him?
In your view, is this a well-designed novel? Does the story move rapidly? do the parallel travel accons add or detract from the unity of the book?
What assumptions seem to lie behind this account, and what conclusions (if any) do you think the author expects us to gain from it?
How do Mackellar's reactions to his master's choices affect the readers' opinion of his later actions? Does the reader continue to feel sympathy for Henry until the book's end?
How does the family fare in Albany? What facts come to light at the brothers' public confrontation? (186) Does Henry represent his brother's past with scrupulous accuracy? What is considered shameful about James Durie's occupation as a tailor?
What event precipiates Henry's employment of the services of Captain Harris? What are these services? Why do you think the narrative fails to say more explicitly what they will be?
What is added by the presence of Sir William Johnson? Is the ending improved by the conflation of three narratives? Why can't the narrtaive be told directly as Mackellar's own?
What seems most original or memorable about the ending? What are some unusual features of the double epitaph, and do you believe it sumarizes the book well?
Did the ending sadden you? Did you feel relief?
What effect is added by the horrific aspects of the plot, such as the nightly scalping of a member of the treasure party? What methods does the author use to heighten suspense?
Doe the novel examine character well?
Of Stevenson's works, do you prefer Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or The Master of Ballantrae? Why? Which do you think has the more complex narrative method?
Which aspects of this book seem related to Stevenson's own experience?
Does this novel remind you of any well-known modernist texts--for example, in the mode of narration?
What gives the narrative unity? What seems to be the general effect and meaning of the ending?