Treasure Island-Scribner's-1911

Treasure Island

Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of "buccaneers and buried gold". First published as a book on May 23, 1883, it was originally serialized in the children's magazine Young Folks between 1881–82 under the title Treasure Island or, the mutiny of the Hispaniola with Stevenson adopting the pseudonym Captain George North. With Jim Hawkins as the main character in the story.

Traditionally considered a coming-of-age story, Treasure Island is an adventure tale known for its atmosphere, characters and action, and also as a wry commentary on the ambiguity of morality — as seen in Long John Silver — unusual for children's literature now and then. It is one of the most frequently dramatized of all novels. The influence of Treasure Island on popular perceptions of pirates is enormous, including treasure maps marked with an "X", schooners, the Black Spot, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen carrying parrots on their shoulders.

Plot summaryEdit

The novel is divided into 6 parts and 34 chapters: Jim Hawkins is the narrator of all except for chapters 16-18, which are narrated by Doctor Livesey. The novel opens in the seaside village of Black Hill Cove in south-west England (to Stevenson, in his letters and in the related fictional play Admiral Guinea, near Barnstaple, Devon) in the mid-18th century. The narrator, James "Jim" Hawkins, is the young son of the owners of the Admiral Benbow Inn. An old drunken seaman named Billy Bones becomes a long-term lodger at the inn, only paying for about the first week of his stay. Jim quickly realizes that Bones is in hiding, and that he particularly dreads meeting an unidentified seafaring man with one leg. Some months later, Bones is visited by a mysterious sailor named Black Dog. Their meeting turns violent, Black Dog flees and Bones suffers a stroke. While Jim cares for him, Bones confesses that he was once the mate of the late notorious pirate, Captain Flint, and that his old crewmates want Bones' sea chest. Some time later, another of Bones' crew mates, a blind man named Pew, appears at the inn and forces Jim to lead him to Bones. Pew gives Bones a paper. After Pew leaves, Bones opens the paper to discover it is marked with the Black Spot, a pirate summons, with the warning that he has until ten o'clock to meet their demands. Bones drops dead of apoplexy (in this context, a stroke) on the spot. Jim and his mother open Bones' sea chest to collect the amount due to them for Bones' room and board, but before they can count out the money that they are owed, they hear pirates approaching the inn and are forced to flee and hide, Jim taking with him a mysterious oilskin packet from the chest. The pirates, led by Pew, find the sea chest and the money, but are frustrated that there is no sign of "Flint's fist". Customs men approach and the pirates escape to their vessel (all except for Pew, who is accidentally run down and killed by the agents' horses).

p. 27-8: "...{Pew} made another dash, now utterly bewildered, right under the nearest of the coming horses. The rider tried to save him, but in vain. Down went Pew with a cry that rang high into the night; and the four hoofs trampled and spurned him and passed by. He fell on his side, then gently collapsed upon his face, and moved no more." —Stevenson, R.L.

Jim takes the mysterious oilskin packet to Dr. Livesey, as he is a "gentleman and a magistrate", and he, Squire Trelawney and Jim Hawkins examine it together, finding it contains a logbook detailing the treasure looted during Captain Flint's career, and a detailed map of an island with the location of Flint's treasure marked on it. Squire Trelawney immediately plans to commission a sailing vessel to hunt for the treasure, with the help of Dr. Livesey and Jim. Livesey warns Trelawney to be silent about their objective. Going to Bristol docks, Trelawney buys a schooner named the Hispaniola, hires a captain, Alexander Smollett to command her, and retains Long John Silver, a former sea cook and now the owner of the dock-side "Spy-Glass" tavern, to run the galley. Silver helps Trelawney to hire the rest of his crew. When Jim arrives in Bristol and visits Silver at the Spy-Glass, his suspicions are aroused: Silver is missing a leg, like the man Bones warned Jim about, and Black Dog is sitting in the tavern. Black Dog runs away at the sight of Jim, and Silver denies all knowledge of the fugitive so convincingly that he wins Jim's trust. Despite Captain Smollett's misgivings about the mission and Silver's hand-picked crew, the Hispaniola sets sail for the Caribbean.

As they near their destination, Jim crawls into the ship's near-empty apple barrel to get an apple. While inside, he overhears Silver talking secretly with some of the crewmen. Silver admits that he was Captain Flint's quartermaster, that several others of the crew were also once Flint's men, and that he is recruiting more men from the crew to his own side. After Flint's treasure is recovered, Silver intends to murder the Hispaniola's officers, and keep the loot for himself and his men. When the pirates have returned to their berths, Jim warns Smollett, Trelawney and Livesey of the impending mutiny. On reaching Treasure Island, the majority of Silver's men go ashore immediately. Although Jim is not yet aware of this, Silver's men have demanded they seize the treasure immediately, discarding Silver's own more careful plan to postpone any open mutiny or violence until after the treasure is safely aboard. Jim lands with Silver's men, but runs away from them almost as soon as he is ashore. Hiding in the woods, Jim sees Silver murder Tom, a crewman loyal to Smollett. Running for his life, he encounters Ben Gunn, another ex-crewman of Flint's who has been marooned for three years on the island, but who treats Jim kindly.

Meanwhile, Trelawney, Livesey and their loyal crewmen surprise and overpower the few pirates left aboard the Hispaniola. They row ashore and move into an abandoned, fortified stockade where they are joined by Jim Hawkins, who has left Ben Gunn behind. Silver approaches under a flag of truce and tries to negotiate Smollett's surrender; Smollett rebuffs him utterly, and Silver flies into a rage, promising to attack the stockade. "Them that die'll be the lucky ones," he famously threatens as he storms off. The pirates assault the stockade, but in a furious battle with losses on both sides, they are driven off. During the night Jim sneaks out, takes Ben Gunn's coracle and approaches the Hispaniola under cover of darkness. He cuts the ship's anchor rope, setting her adrift and out of reach of the pirates on shore. After daybreak, he manages to approach the schooner and board her. Of the two pirates left aboard, only one is still alive: the coxswain, Israel Hands, who has murdered his comrade in a drunken brawl and been badly wounded in the process. Hands agrees to help Jim helm the ship to a safe beach in exchange for medical treatment and brandy, but once the ship is approaching the beach Hands tries to murder Jim. Jim escapes by climbing the rigging, and when Hands tries to skewer him with a thrown dagger, Jim reflexively shoots Hands dead. Having beached the Hispaniola securely, Jim returns to the stockade under cover of night and sneaks back inside. Because of the darkness, he does not realize until too late that the stockade is now occupied by the pirates, and he is captured. Silver, whose always-shaky command has become more tenuous than ever, seizes on Jim as a hostage, refusing his men's demands to kill him or torture him for information. Silver's rivals in the pirate crew, led by George Merry, give Silver the Black Spot and move to depose him as captain. Silver answers his opponents eloquently, rebuking them for defacing a page from the Bible to create the Black Spot and revealing that he has obtained the treasure map from Dr. Livesey, thus restoring the crew's confidence. The following day, the pirates search for the treasure. They are shadowed by Ben Gunn, who makes ghostly sounds to dissuade them from continuing, but Silver forges ahead and locates where Flint's treasure is buried. The pirates discover that the cache has been rifled and the treasure is gone.

The enraged pirates turn on Silver and Jim, but Ben Gunn, Dr. Livesey and Abraham Gray attack the pirates, killing two and dispersing the rest. Silver surrenders to Dr. Livesey, promising to return to his duty. They go to Ben Gunn's cave where Gunn has had the treasure hidden for some months. The treasure is divided amongst Trelawney and his loyal men, including Jim and Ben Gunn, and they return to England, leaving the surviving pirates marooned on the island. Silver, through the help of the fearful Ben Gunn, escapes with a small part of the treasure, three or four hundred guineas. Remembering Silver, Jim reflects that "I dare say he met his old Negress [wife], and perhaps still lives in comfort with her and Captain Flint [his parrot]. It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small."


Treasure Island contains numerous references to fictional past events, gradually revealed throughout, that shed light upon the events of the main plot.

These refer to the pirate Captain J. Flint, "the bloodthirstiest buccaneer that ever lived", who is dead before "Treasure Island" begins. Flint was captain of the Walrus, with a long career chiefly in the West Indies and along the coasts of the southern American colonies. His crew included a number of characters who also appear in the main story: Flint's first mate, William (Billy) Bones; his quartermaster John Silver; his gunner Israel Hands; and among his other sailors: George Merry, Tom Morgan, Pew, "Black Dog" and Allardyce (who becomes Flint's "pointer" toward the treasure). Many other former members of Flint's crew were on the Hispaniola, though it is not always possible to identify which were Flint's men and which later agreed to join the mutiny — such as the boatswain Job Anderson and a mutineer "John", killed at the rifled treasure cache. Flint and his crew were successful, ruthless, feared ("the roughest crew afloat") and rich, provided they could keep their hands on the money they stole. The bulk of the treasure Flint made by his piracy — £700,000 worth of gold, silver bars and a cache of armaments — was buried on a remote Caribbean island. Flint brought the treasure ashore from the Walrus with six of his sailors, and built a stockade on the island for defence. When they had buried the treasure, Flint returned to the Walrus alone -—having murdered the other six. A map to the location of the treasure he kept to himself until his dying moments.

The whereabouts of Flint's money and his crew are obscure immediately thereafter, but they ended up in the town of Savannah, Province of Georgia. Flint was ill, and his sickness was not helped by his immoderate consumption of rum. On his sickbed, he sang the sea shanty "Fifteen Men" and ceaselessly called for more rum, with his face turning blue. His last living words were "Darby M'Graw! Darby M'Graw!", and then, following some profanity, "Fetch aft the rum, Darby!" Just before he died, he passed on the treasure map to the mate of the Walrus, Billy Bones (or so Bones always maintained). After Flint's death, the crew split up, most of them returning to England. They disposed of their shares of the unburied treasure diversely. John Silver held on to £2,000, putting it away safe in banks, and became a waterfront tavern keeper in Bristol, England. Pew spent £1,200 in a single year and for the next two years afterwards begged and starved. Ben Gunn returned to the treasure island with crew mates to try to find the treasure without the map, and as his efforts failed, he was marooned on the island and left. Bones, knowing himself to be a marked man for his possession of the map, looked for refuge in a remote part of England. His travels took him to the rural West Country seaside village of Black Hill Cove and the inn of the 'Admiral Benbow'.

Main charactersEdit

  • Billy Bones- The old seaman who stays at the Admiral Benbow inn. He is a pirate who has acquired the map that shows the location of Captain Flint's treasure.
  • Jim Hawkins - The principal narrator of the story. He gets involved in the adventure because his parents own the Admiral Benbow inn where Billy Bones stays. Jim is a young boy (13–14 years old), and after his father's death he begins to make his own way in the world. He is recruited as cabin boy on the Hispaniola, and through his curiosity and courage, he plays a crucial role in the eventual defeat of the pirates: he retrieves the map of Treasure Island from Billy Bones; he becomes aware of Silver's plot and informs the ship's officers of the mutiny; and he meets Ben Gunn, which leads him to Ben's boat, which enables him to reboard and recapture the Hispaniola, killing Israel Hands in self-defense.
  • Dr. Livesey - The family physician who treats Jim Hawkins's dying father and also attends to Billy Bones. As the ship's doctor, he treats the wounded pirates, even though they are his enemies. Dr. Livesey is no stranger to violence, having in the past served the Duke of Cumberland and been wounded in battle.
  • Long John Silver - A one-legged pirate who was quartermaster to the notorious Captain Flint. He is a very cunning, amoral man who puts on a friendly, helpful exterior while all the time planning treachery. Initially he was liked by Jim because he performs his duties as cook on the Hispaniola and he appears to be a model member of the crew. However, he soon reveals his ruthless, violent side, and once the buccaneers are on the island he murders one of the crew, as Jim watches.
  • Captain Smollett - The captain of the Hispaniola. At the beginning of the voyage he makes his misgivings known to Trelawney, who dislikes him. But Smollett is soon proved correct in his judgments and Trelawney is forced to change his opinion. As a captain, Smollett excels in his tasks, and prove his determinateness when the mutiny begins. He frequently takes charge of the situation and efficiently marshals the men for the defense of the loghouse. After he is wounded he takes no further part in the action.
  • Squire Trelawney - He is a rich landowner who finances the entire expedition. He buys the Hispaniola and selects a crew, but he cannot keep a secret and everyone seems to get to know about the nature of the mission. The squire is a well-traveled man and the best shot amongst the crew. He also shows effective leadership qualities and keeps a cool head throughout the adventure.
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