“Under which king, Benvolio? Speak or die!”
Edward Waverly might not be the most complex character, and it seems too cheap to say he is “relatable” because of his flaws. Rather, it might be the case that his youth and zeal for romance make him someone we can at least understand. We’ve many of us longed for heroic (if necessarily doomed) causes. And yet Walter Scott never ridicules him. In fact, he paints him in a compelling light.
Edward Waverly, raised on horseback riding and romance novels, joins the military and does a tour in Scotland, and then falls in with Highlanders while on furlough. Through it all he meets several women, one complicated, one noble, and must navigate the political machinations of the Pretender, rival clans, and the English Army.
This book has all the strengths and weaknesses of a Scott novel. There is skilled poetry, intrigue, and complex (and sometimes hilarious) characters. Unfortunately, like many Scott novels, there is a lot of “filler” and it has the feel of being episodic.
Could we call the Waverly novels “Wisdom Literature?” Perhaps. Scott often writes in the 2nd person and makes poignant remarks about the human character.
Further, while Scott ridiculed Presbyterians and Covenanters, he didn’t pull cheap shots. It’s like Flannery O’Connor’s fundamentalist protestants. They are actually quite fun to watch.
The story is interesting, however, and this is definitely one of Scott’s finest.