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Treasure Island: The Plot, Characters, and Book Analysis

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Jim Hawkins

He is the book’s main narrator. He is a young boy who starts as timid and mostly insignificant but matures through the course of the novel. He ends up going on a solo adventure, rescuing the ship and saving Long John Silver. He also stands up to Silver, despite their relative ages and him being outnumbered.

Long John Silve

He is the book’s antagonist. He is the ship’s cook and is missing a leg, though is able to skillfully maneuver with his cane. He leads the mutiny against the captain and only cares for himself.

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Dr. Livesey

He is a narrator for a few chapters. He is the ship’s doctor and a judicial official. He is a calm individual who does not act spontaneously.

The Title of the Book

It is Treasure Island. The titular island is a hot-spot for pirate activity. Silver already knows the island well when they arrive. The island itself is described as “grey” and “melancholy”, and the doctor says that it is likely ridden with diseases. If I could change the title of the book, I would name it “A Boy in a Pirate’s World”. This new title shows that it is not just a story of adventure and treasure hunting but that it is truly a coming of age story. In the beginning, Jim is a child and afraid of pirates, running to his mother at the sight of strangers. He later reveals the mutiny to the captain and watches Silver kill an innocent man but still is able to recover. By the end, he laughs in the face of Silver despite overwhelming odds and ends up single-handedly saving the honest members of the crew.

Main Theme

One of the themes is that of Jim’s coming of age. The progression of his maturity is greatly explored throughout the book.

The Plot and Characters

The story starts with Jim Hawkins working at the ‘Admiral Benbow’ Inn. An old pirate arrives at the inn with a large chest. The pirate (Billy Bones) pays Jim to keep his “weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg”. Jim’s father, the owner of the in, falls ill causing Dr. Livesey to come to treat him. Another pirate named Black Dog comes to see Bill, and after a heated conversation, Billy chases Black Dog with a sword. Billy then has a stroke, and his life is saved by Dr. Livesey. Billy tells Jim that they are after his chest. Jim’s Father dies. Later on, a third pirate, a blind yet strong and sinister man named Pew comes again to see Billy. Pew gives him a ‘black spot’, and Billy yells that he has six hours left. This causes Billy to have a second stroke, and he dies.

Jim tells his mother about the pirate’s plan to get the chest, and so they get the key to it off Billy’s corpse. Inside the chest, there are gold coins and papers wrapped in oil-cloth, among other items. They hear a knocking at the door and flee. Jim’s mother faints and they hide under a bridge as Pew and other pirates come and raid the house. They are unable to find what they are looking for and arguing ensues. Police officers come and the men flee, but accidentally run over and kill Pew.

Jim takes the papers to Dr. Livesey, and they discover that it is actually a treasure map belonging to the now-deceased Captain Flint. A friend of Dr. Livesey, Squire Trelawney decides to set sail to the titular island described in the map and find the treasure. Squire Trelawney travels to Bristol, buy a ship, and attempts to find sailors to go along with them. He meets a one-legged man named Long John Silver, who agrees to become the ship’s cook. Silver helps Trelawney to hire the rest of the necessary men, and after a sad farewell to his mother, Jim travels to Bristol. He meets Silver and decides that this was not the one-legged man Billy had feared.

We also meet the captain, Captain Smollett. He expresses that he dislikes the crew and has a bad feeling about the voyage. They set sail and Jim seems in awe of the seafaring world. One day Jim is feeling hungry and so he climbs into an apple barrel to try to get a snack. However, he ends up secretly overhearing a conversation between Silver and other sailors, where they are secretly discussing plans for mutiny. He reveals that a majority of the crew are already disloyal to the captain. Jim tells the captain and Dr. Livesey about the conversation just as they make landfall. The captain allows the men to go ashore so that the ‘honest men’ could reclaim the ship.

Jim decides to secretly go with them, and ventures into the woods on the island. He secretly watches as Silver kills a man for not joining the mutiny. Scared, Jim goes deeper into the woods. He meets a man named Ben Gunn, who says he used to be a pirate but Captain Flint marooned him here. He seems to be insane and says he has survived for three years on the island. The narration is now picked up by Dr. Livesey, who describes how the remaining ‘honest men’ sail to the island and take refuge in an old stockade built by Captain Flint. After a minor exchange of fire hey fly the Union Jack (British flag) above the house and Jim soon reenters.

The pirates take the main ship and fly the Jolly Roger (pirate flag). Silver approaches waving the flag of truce and asks Smollett to give up the map in exchange for safe passage home. The captain refuses, and Silver then launches an attack on the stockade. The battle is a victory for the honest ones, due to their larger resources. The next day, Dr. Livesey goes into the forest to meet Ben Gunn and Jim decides to take Ben’s boat and cut the ship loose. He looks inside and sees several pirates wrestling, and all of them are drunk. He falls asleep on Gunn’s boat.

The next day Jim boards the main ship and finds that the only ones left aboard are the ship’s drunken pilot and a corpse. The pilot is named Israel Hands, and he strikes a deal with Jim that in exchange for alcohol and food, he will help Jim steer the ship back to the stockade. Hands suspiciously ask Jim for wine instead of brandy. Jim watches Hands in secret and sees him grab a long knife and hide it in his jacket. Hands shortly after attacks Jim and Jim pulls a pistol on him. Hands throw his knife at Jim but Jim shoots him. The knife is embedded in Jim’s shoulder but the wound is not very bad and he frees himself quickly. He returns to the stockade but finds that it has been taken over by the pirates.

Silver reveals that Dr. Livesey is happy to be rid of Jim, which saddens him but he is glad that his friends are still alive. Jim tells Silver about how he cut the ship loose and killed Hands. At this point, Silver’s men are unhappy about his leadership. They have a meeting without Silver or Jim and later give Silver a black spot, announcing that Silver has been deposed. Silver laughs at this and blames the mission’s failure on the men. They no longer question his rule. Silver tells Jim that Dr. Livesey willingly gave the pirates the map, the stockade, and would come to give the pirates medical aid every day.

During Livesey’s next visit, he speaks privately with Jim and learns of his adventures and the current whereabouts of the ship. Silver and the pirates begin the treasure hunt, with Silver having Jim on a literal leash. They come across a skeleton that seems to have been laid out as a pointer. Silver says that this was definitely one of Flint’s jokes and they continue. When they near the site, they hear a wailing voice from the trees and believe it to be the ghost of Captain Flint. Silver urges them to push on despite this omen. They get to the spot but find nothing but a large hole, suggesting that the treasure has already been excavated. Silver and Jim band together and Dr. Livesey and Ben Gunn charge at the pirates with their rifles, scaring them away. It is revealed that Ben was the one impersonating Flint earlier and that he had already dug up the treasure. This meant that the map was useless, and so Livesey gave it to the pirates.

Silver is extremely nice to the remaining men, knowing they saved his life. They load the bulk of the treasure onto the ship and marooned the remaining pirates. They stop in South America to gather supplies to return home, where Long John Silver is revealed to have stolen a bag of money and escaped. Finally, Jim returns home and remarks that nothing would “bring [him] back to that accursed island” and that he continues to have nightmares about the events that took place there.

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