The young (probably 13 or 14) Jim Hawkins is the narrator of the adventure that is told in Treasure Island. It is his feelings, perceptions, and emotional responses that the reader responds to and views the story through. Jim Hawkins is the typical young boy, who through no fault of his own, becomes involved in the ultimate adventure, especially for a boy of his age. Through this process, Jim transforms from someone who is merely an onlooker, to an active participant who determines his own fate by courageous, and often very risky, actions. Although it is not due to his bravery or any special skills, it is he and not the older, more experienced men on the journey who uncover the pirates plan for mutiny, find Ben Gunn and enlist him in their cause, and steal the Hispanolia and return it to the captain.
Jim thinks on his feet and by the end of the book has matured into a capable, competent boy. It is in his triumph over Israel Hands on the Hispanolia that his physically maturation is complete, and likewise, his decision not to run away from Long John Silver when urged by Dr. Livesey that his moral maturation is complete. Jim returns home to write the story and is haunted by Long John Silver and his parrot in his dreams long after his return from Treasure Island.
Jim's mother. The only female in the book makes her only brief appearance at the beginning of Treasure Island. Her character is most revealed in the actions that she takes in order to assure that she gets what is her due from Billy Bones treasure. By being able to go back and return to the inn in the face of grave danger, she sets an example that Jim follows later in the book.
Billy Bones is the first pirate that Jim meets in the book - his appearance (ragged, scarred, ponytail, and a cut on his check) signals the end of tranquil at the inn. Despite his drinking (especially rum) and singing a song that is clearly a pirate tune, his seeking out the Admiral Benbow inn is a sign that he does not want to be captured. Although Billy Bones demonstrates this dubious behavior, Jim is not afraid of him and even enjoys the excitement that the seaman brings to the otherwise isolated island. In return, Billy Bones is kind to the young boy. Billy Bones is a precursor to one side of Long John Silver's personality, the kind, gentle, parental side that is present when he aligns with the "good" men. Although he is blustery, beneath it all he is good-hearted. Jim is genuinely sad when he passes away at the end of the first part of the book, from a stroke.
From the moment that Dr. Livesey appears in Treasure Island, he is depicted as an arbitrator who is fair, intelligent, fearless, and well-organized. As he becomes involved in the treasure hunt, he also shows consideration and kindness to Jim, thus, becoming one of many surrogate parental figures to Jim in the course of the novel. Dr. Livesey is also a narrator of the novel (although only for a few chapters). These chapters are not nearly as colorful or as emotionally charged as the chapters that are narrated by the younger Jim. His descriptions further his characterizations as a scientist, who is most concerned with curing the sick (he repeatedly mentions the malaria present in the swamps). Dr. Livesy is also extremely concerned with fairness to all, as his concern about the pirates that they had to leave behind demonstrates.
A companion of Billy Bones, his arrival at the Admiral Benbow inn marks the beginning of violence at the inn and the notification to Bones that other pirates know of his whereabouts. Although he and Billy Bones are friendly, their meeting ends in a fight where Billy Bones is injured.
Pew is another character who arrives at the Admiral Benbow in order to try and ambush Billy Bones and find the treasure map. Pew is described vividly, at first as a blind old man who "rat-tap-tap" with his stick but, deceptively, also an evil, mean adversary who is willing to use physically prowess in order to cower those around him. Pew foreshadows another side of Long John Silver, the side that is physically challenged but capable of extreme violence. At the end of part I, Pew is trampled by a horse because his friends abandon him.
Squire Trealwney is the figure in the book who finacially underwrites and initiates the treasure hunt. Although he appears to be on top of things, he often makes mistakes and his hiring of Long John Silver and the mutineers tops the list of misjudgments and miscalculations which lead to the downfall of the journey. He is very naïve and trusting, and, thus, is constantly being duped. His best quality is his ability to shoot straight - throughout the novel, he is given the jobs that require the best shot because of his famous aim.
The commander of the Hispanolia is the antithesis of the squire, he is perceptive, smart, and scared of the dangers that lie before the journey, an attitude that proves correct. He demands obedience from those who serve under him and is in conflict with both Jim, who shows a rebellious nature against the authority figure, and the squire, whose authority he does not respect.
The Squire's servant, he accompanies the crew on the island but is one of the first "good" men to die, as the group attempts to take the stockade.
Long John Silver
Long John Silver is an old sailor cook, the leader of the pirates, and one of Jim's friends. This dynamic character has only one leg, and is usually accompanied by his parrot, Captain Flint, who hollers "Pieces of Eight, Pieces of Eight." Many critics claims that Long John Silver is the novel's real hero, and not Jim Hawkins or Flint's treasure. Evidently, Robert Louis Stevenson agreed with this assessment, as he initially entitled this novel, "The Sea Cook." Throughout the novel, Long John Silver clearly possesses a dual personality (thus, many critics also view Long John Silver as a precursor to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). It is thought that Silver combines two pirate characters that appear before Silver makes his appearance in this novel. First is Billy Bones, the blustering buccaneer who is basically good hearted and kind to Jim, and the blind beggar Pew, a deformed, apparently harmless but who is in fact very strong and extremely cool. At times, Silver shows extreme kindness and a paternal liking for the young narrator. At other times, however, Silver, although deformed like Pew, shows extreme brutality and cruelness in killing other sailors.
Robert Louis Stevenson paints this character much more vividly than any of the "good" or "bad" characters and Long John Silver is not "good" or "bad" but rather a composite of both. Because of his openness about his greediness and mercileness, his pursuit of the gold seems more justified than the greediness and evilness of the "good" characters. This character is based on the Stevenson's friend, the poet W.E. Henly, who lost one of his feet. Of all the characters painted in Treasure Island, Long John Silver is the most vivid, most remembered, and most picturesque.
Israel Hands is a member of the "bad" pirates and shows a clearly evil' side, as someone who is crafty and cunning in all that he does. His philosophy is that of "live or die," someone who kills in order to not be killed. On the Hisapnolia, he too shows a side that is lively and parental to Jim - Jim almost forgets to be wary of the character because he has too much enjoyment beaching the schooner. Israel Hands is the first person that Jim actually kills, something that he feels no remorse for.
Ben Gunn provides comic relief in the island, a breath of fresh air in a very tense part of the book. A member of Flint's original crew, Ben Gunn was marooned on the island for three years and forced to survive on his own. He stumbled upon Flint's treasure and buried it, thus saving it from the pirates that try to kill Silver and Jim. He is nice to both Jim and the rest of Jim's group, and provides the means for escape. Although the pirates characterize him as stupid, he shows his agility and smartness in surviving the island. He returns with the rest of them, although spends his part of the treasure in only three weeks.
Treasure Island Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Treasure Island is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Dr. Livesay has his own weaknesses. He is greedy for the treasure and, in his own way, uses others to get at it. He thinks of himself as above reproach and ethical while wanting the same things as the pirates he so admonishes.