The Imp in the Bottle


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Then, one day, he meets the beautiful Kokua, and after a shockingly short conversation, Keawe asks Kokua to marry him. Everything seems to have worked out perfectly for Keawe. He returns home from his meeting with Kokua feeling desperately happy, but then, relaxing at home, he discovers something terrible.

There is only one explanation for this change, and this is that he has leprosy. Now infected with the disease, Keawe realises that he cannot marry Kokua. He struggles with this realisation for a while, before he comes up with a solution: he needs to retrieve the bottle imp and wish away his illness. This means that he cannot sell it on again, because there is no lower price.

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The Bottle Imp

Keawe is the last owner and, as a result, he will spend an eternity in hell. The rest of the story is one of pure sacrifice. Keawe and Kokua fight over who should suffer the price of the imp and desperately seek a solution. The Victorian Period was a time of exploration. With the invention of steam power, ships were able to take people further and further abroad at a much faster speed. The world had suddenly become much larger as new regions were being mapped out and made known to the British public.

A rise in industrial trade also meant that different cultures were constantly coming into contact with one another.


  • The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson.
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Yet with new discoveries and cultural relationships, there also came new fears. Perhaps the most famous example of this is Count Dracula, the Transylvanian aristocrat who decides to move to England.

Plot Overview

By giving a voice to a Hawaiian sailor, Stevenson normalises cultural differences, allowing his readers to understand foreign practices. In some respects, this may suggest that Stevenson is likening the demonic bottle imp to global trade; like the imp, it may, at first seem wonderful, but there is always a price to pay. As for the knick-knacks, they were extraordinary fine; chiming clocks and musical boxes, little men with nodding heads, books filled with pictures, weapons of price from all quarters of the world, and the most elegant puzzles to entertain the leisure of a solitary man.


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There are constant dualities in this story, such as good and evil, love and war, and greed and restraint. This was the wooing of Keawe; things had gone quickly; but so an arrow goes, and the ball of a rifle swifter still, and yet both may strike the target. It all comes down to that ultimate, repeated question: is it worth it?

Are your deepest desires worth selling your soul? Is an eternity spent in hell worth it, if you can have one perfect life? Although its characters are few, they are well developed, and I found it easy to relate to Keawe.

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Thank you so much for reading this review. Like Liked by 1 person. Like Like. I wonder Emily, did you find a moral message in the story? For instance — Be careful what you wish for. I enjoyed reading your review. Thank you! It was published again in Stevenson's collection of short stories Island Nights' Entertainment.

The paradox of The Bottle Imp / Boing Boing

The story concerns a Hawaiian who comes into possession of a magical bottle that makes all wishes come true but at a terrible cost. A silent movie based on "The Bottle Imp" was released by Paramount Pictures in but the film has now been lost. The story centers around a bottle in which an imp, a little demon, lives. The imp grants every wish of the person who owns the bottle but anybody who still has the bottle at the time of his or her death is cursed to eternal punishment in Hell. In order to avoid the curse, the owner of the bottle has to sell it at a loss.

The bottle must be paid for in coins, not in paper money or by check. It cannot be thrown away or given away for free.

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The bottle's original owner, a legendary Asian king, paid a vast fortune for it many centuries ago but at the beginning of the story its price has already been reduced to eighty dollars. The main character in the story is a Hawaiian named Keawe. As a sailor, Keawe visits San Francisco where he buys the bottle from a sad old man. Keawe tests the bottle's power by immediately wishing for his money back.

Robert Louis Stevenson's "Thrawn Janet"

His next wish is for a mansion. When he returns to Hawaii, Keawe finds that his wish has been granted but at a price. His uncle and cousins have died in a boating accident and Keawe has inherited his uncle's money and land. Keawe builds his mansion and sells the bottle. Keawe meets and falls in love with a woman named Kokua but soon afterwards discovers that he has leprosy.

In order to wish his disease away, he decides to seek out the bottle again.

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