It inevitably takes a couple of books before you can start to get into a position where you can start to suggest the themes that drive an author on.
But after a short story collection, including the infamous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it is fair to say that what seems to drive Stevenson on is ideas around the question of personality. In this story it is the idea of the conflict between good and evil that exists in a single person that troubles the lead character Archie Weir.
Brought up by his mother, a god fearing but frightened woman, he rejects the world of his father, a well known ‘hanging judge’ because he views his world as coarse and evil. But with the mother dying Archie has little choice but to live in his father’s shadow.
He does so until he reaches the age of 19 when after starting his legal studies and witnessing the trial and execution under his father’s command of a man that arouses pity in him. He accuses his father publicly of murder and after a confrontation between father and son he aggress to become a landowner on the family estate in Hermiston.
On the one hand he wants to hate his father but whenever he feels a spark of kindness he is torn and he remembers the biblical teachings to honour parents. That source of distress pushed him into a position of complete vulnerability when face on with the hanging judge.