Treasure Island Summary and Analysis
By crossing a swamp, Jim believes he has escaped from Silver and thus can relax and enjoy exploring the mysterious island. This carefree attitude, however, is quickly impinged on, as he hears birds circling overhead that signal that the pirates are nearby. By hiding in a oak tree, he overhears Long John Silver, who is angrily conversing with another man. Frightened, Jim realizes that even though he is scared, he should try to get closer in order to overhear what is happening amongst the pirates. When he gets close enough to hear, he realizes that Silver is trying to persuade a man named Tom to join the pirates. Their conversation, however, is interrupted by an angry cry in the distance and then a scream, something that Jim recognizes is a death cry. Alan, another honest sailor, has been killed by the pirates because he will not convert to their cause. Tom starts to walk away, but Silver reacts very angrily, throwing a tree branch at him which makes him fall to the ground. The one-legged Silver, devoid of his crutch, is still able to swiftly move to Tom and stick him with a knife not once, but twice.
Because of the recently-witnessed violence, Jim feels dizzy and like fainting. Finally, Jim comes to his sense and realizes that if he does not escape, he will be the next person that is dead. Silently, Jim crawls into an open space and runs as fast as he can, not paying any attention to where he is going. While he is still escaping, he realizes that there is no possible way to return to the boats because if he does he will certainly be killed. He is in a dilemma, however, because he also realizes that if he doesn't return the pirates will realize that he knows their secret. The chapter ends with Jim's facing a "fresh alarm" with a "thumping heart."
The description of the island's plant life is particularly incredible, and makes the island leap out of the pages and into the readers imagination, especially as Jim is running through the island, desperate to escape the clutches of the pirates. The behavior of the birds, the swamps, thickets, and the open sandy area, enables the reader to have a vivid mental picture of the geography and setting of the island. Another great description in this chapter is of the murder of Alan. Because Jim does not witness this murder, he is forced to describe the murder through primarily sounds, including the yell of the victim, the rustle of birds, the boom of the surf, and finally, silence. Everything else is left to both the imagination of the reader and of the young narrator.
The major thematic moment of this chapter comes when Long John Silver murders the innocent Tom. The awareness of young Jim that despite the absolute cold-blondness and ruthlessness of the crime that nothing else in nature has changed sets about two major thematic points. First, the amoralistic aspect of this book. Stevenson himself claimed that this book has no moral lessons and this is one of the ways that he makes this prediction come to life in the pages. The fact that nature is mute in the face of this monstrous evil symbolizes the fact that nature does not judge Long John Silver's actions, they were merely necessary in order to ensure that their cause wins out.
The second thematic moment that comes from his point is that it continues the maturation of the narrator, young Jim Hawkins. From the beginning of the novel, we watch a young boy cry at the death of a pirate who dies from natural causes, a stroke. Because of the constant nature of death in this novel, this time, when he witnesses his first cold-blooded murder, Jim does not cry nor make any sound, he just sits in silence. Although he does faint afterwards, it is clear that he has made great strides since the death of his father and Billy Bones.
Still terrified from this recent-witness of the murders, Jim catches sight of a dark, shaggy creature and doesn't know if it is a human or an animal. Jim decides that he is more afraid of the creature than of the pirates, and so begins to make his way back to the general directions of the boats. Unfortunately, when he goes to make his retreat, the creature runs and catches up with him. Soon, Jim realizes that he is actually a man and for some reason, that makes him feel a bit better. Realizing that he can protect himself with his pistol, he walks towards the man who falls to his knees before Jim.
Jim soon discovers that the man, who is dressed in rags, name is Ben Gunn and that he has been alone on the island for three years, marooned by fellow pirates to live or die. A Christian (he makes very clear), Gunn is extremely excited to see another human being and touches Jim and looks at him with pleasure. Finally, he proclaims to Jim that he is extremely rich.
Jim explains to Gunn that Flint is dead, and then also tells the strange an the predicament that the honest men on the ship is, facing mutineers led by the dreaded Long John Silver. Scheming, Ben asks that if Jim thinks that the squire will give him a thousand pounds and passage back to civilization if he agrees to help them. Excited, Jim reports that all men who participate will receive a share of the treasure and they will most certainly need men on the return journey.
Satisfied with this assurance, Gunn tells the young narrator that he was aboard Flint's ship along with Billy Bones and Long John Silver, and was with them when they buried the treasure. Later, on a different pirate ship, Gunn convinced those with him to land on the deserted island and search for Flint's treasure. After only 12 days, the men quit and left Gunn stranded, with only a musket, spade, and pickaxe.
Luckily, Gunn tells Jim that he has built a boat and that they could use it in order to try and get to the Hispanolia after dark. Unfortunately, the roar of a cannon interrupts their conversation, and perceptively, Jim realizes that the fight between the honest men and the pirates has begun. Gunn and Jim head towards the shore, while Gunn shows Jim how to stay beneath the cover of the trees. On the way towards the shore, they pass a cemetery, where Flint has buried his victims. At the conclusion of the chapter, Jim hears some gun shots and then sees that a British flag has been raised on land.
The humor by Ben Gunn provides comic relief in the middle of the novel, a much needed break from the stressful situation of the young Jim Hawkins dealing with the pirates, and the many deaths and cunning behavior that has been witnessed by the narrator. By using spellings that are incorrect (for example, cemetery for cemetery or chapling for chaplin), Stevenson has Gunn mispronounce words, which makes him a less-serious aspect of the novel. Another example is having the strange man fall down at the sight of Jim, or making comments (when talking about his Christian background), that he could recite his catechism so fast that you "couldn't tell one word from another," making fun of some priests who would do the same thing.
Once again, the description of the island in this chapter is one of the highlights of the book. The particularity of Stevenson's description has caused many critics to claim that it is one of the "significant contributions" to the desert island' myth that has haunted English literature since the publication of Robinson Crusoe in 1719. It has the ideals of all desert islands: remote, mysterious, isolated from human contact. Treasure Island, like William Golding Lord of the Flies, John Fowles' The Magus, or H.G. Well's The Island of Doctor Moreau, has the ability to place the characters in a setting where they can be seen in isolation, and thus explore their inner strength. The effect is to focus the reader's attention on to a limited number of individuals confined within a finite geographical area (the island, the inn, or the boat) and all extraneous influences are removed. Thus, when reading the book, the characters are suspended in space and time and the reader can peer into another world.
Continuing another theme of the novel, Ben Gunn again can be viewed as a surrogate father for Jim Hawkins. He rescues him from the unknown of the island and provides direction, all the time, however, the limitation of this father figure is that he is a practical joker. In this case, however, this is precisely the behavior that Jim needs, someone to make him laugh and forget the horrific events that he has witnessed on the island.
In a break from the rest of the novel, this chapter (along with others that followed) is narrated by Dr. Livesey. The timeframe of this chapter is the same as the previous chapter, narrated by Jim. He begins his narration by explaining that, although the good men on board wanted to attack the pirates, they could not because Jim was on shore and they could not leave them behind. Instead, the two men, Livesey and Hunter, decide to take a boat to shore and go to a place that is around the bend, and consequently, out of the guards' sight.
Exploring the island, Dr. Livesey discovers a stockade, a group of logs that would hold a great number of people (about 40, according to Dr. Livesy). More significantly, whoever controls the house would control the entire island, because of it's vantage on a hill. Another significant advantage of the house is that there is a source of freshwater, of which their is a shortage on the island. While on the island, he (like Jim) hears the death of Alan, and he supposes that Jim has been killed.
After their expedition, Hunter and Livesey return to the Hispanolia, and Livesy tells the captain of his newly formulated plan. Redruth, one of the good men, guards the gallery between the cabin and the forecastle, where the six mutineers are standing. Hunter is assigned to man the boat and Livesey and Joyce fill the boat with supplies, food, and medicine. Meanwhile, on deck, the captain warns Israel Hands, the leader of the mutineers on ship, that he or the squire will kill anyone on the shore. By tricking the pirates, he corners them into the bottom of the ship where they stay. Finally, Livesey, Hunter and Joyce return to the shore and stow their supplies in the log cabin. Unfortunately, the pirate guards on shore spot them and one disappears, presumably to warn the others. Leaving Joyce to guard the stockade, Livesey and Hunter return to the ship for another load. They feel safer in the second trip because they have muskets, which will shoot at a longer range than the pistols, the only ammunition that the pirates have. Finally, all six of them leave the ship and the squire and the doctor drop the rest of the arms and ammunition that they cannot transport into the water. Smollett also brings Abraham Gray, whom they believe to be a good man, and Gray agrees. The captain and Gray are the last men on board and the men finally leave for shore.
The major difference between this chapter and the previous ones is the shift in narration, from Jim Hawkins to the Dr. Livesey. This shift was necessary in order to ensure that a first-hand account can be told of the events that Jim was not a witness to, because he was on land. Within the narration, there are certain clues that that Jim is no longer the narrator, including comments about places that might be likely breeding places for disease and comments concerning his time in the military.
It is also interesting to contrast the two different narration techniques. First, Jim's technique allows the reader to gain much more insight into the feelings and emotions that he feels, a typical aspect given his young age. Livesy, whose account is very factual and contains plenty of detail, does not let the reader into what he is thinking or feeling, on the other hand. A good example of this is Livesey response when he believes that Jim has been killed. The only thing that he does is report that "Jim Hawkins is dead," and then simply moves on.
In the trend of the theme, at this point in the novel, the reader believes that the "good guys" are winning, that is, that the good is triumphing over evil like it should. The "honest men" have been able to decipher the despicable men's plan, Jim was able to escape from the clutches of Long John Silver, and the men were able to gather control of the fort and escape with the supplies. This, however, seems too easy to the reader and the reader realizes that the good has not triumphed in the war over evil, they have merely won a series of small battles.
Unfortunately, the men have a very difficult journey ahead of them and struggle returning to land because the small boat was overloaded and it was going against the tide. Even more dangerous, the current pushed them to come ashore precisely between Silver's two boats. Added to these problems, the captain spots the biggest dilemma of all: Silver's men are removing the tarp from the cannon and they realize they did not destroy the ammunition of the cannon.
Trelawney, who claims he is the best shot in the boat, attempts to pick off Hands, but the man moves just as he shoots and another mutineer is wounded. The men barely make it to shore, when their boat is swamped and they are forced to abandon their supplies and all but two of the muskets. As the squire's men race to dry land, they hear voices of the pirates coming closer and fear that Joyce and Hunter, the men who have been left behind in the stockade, will not be able to hold it from the pirates without any support.
This chapter continues Stevenson's fast-paced trend. Throughout the whole chapter, there is not much time for content as the "good guys" face one challenge after another. Again, at the end, Stevenson makes the book more suspenseful, providing one of the greatest page turners in the history of literature, by ending the chapter at a point where the reader is forced to continue reading the book in order to be assured of what happens next.
Again, this chapter fits into the thematic narrative mould as seeing the book Treasure Island in the mode of a romantic quest. Throughout all the evil, the basic drive that keeps both the pirates fighting and the "good guys" from simply turning around is the search for a treasure. The "quest" is only heightened by the fact that there is resistance in the way - otherwise there would be no quest or excitement in the opposition.
The character of Mr. Trelawney and Dr. Livesy are further developed in this chapter, as the two are forced to demonstrate skills in order to save the day. Dr. Livesy proves to be a methodical, science-centered man whose approach to the situation before them helps save the crew and takes them to safety. Unfortunately, there were too many obstacles in his way. Mr. Trelawney is a man who is a "sure shot," and although to this point has not proved helpful in the treasure expedition, he assures that there was a reason besides gold that he set out on this quest through his heroics in this chapter.
Picking up directly where the last chapter left off, the squire's men race desperately for the stockade and encounter six pirates just before they get to their destination. In the ensuing shoot out, one of the pirates gets shot and dies before the rest run off. Before they leave, the pirates shoot Redruth, the squire's gamekeeper, who dies after he is carried into the log house. The squire, finally overcome with grief and fear, breaks down crying. To signal their victory, the captain runs one British flag from the roof and covers Redruth with another, consoling the squire.
The next matter of business is to find out when someone would find them. The squire informs the group that no one will come for months, and the captain then tells the group that the food rations are sparse. During this conversation, the cannon continues to blast, sending shot after shot at the blockade but causing no real damage. Trelwaney suggests taking down the flag because it seems to be a target for the enemy but captain insists on leaving it up, claiming it shows the enemy their courage, resolve, and fighting spirit. After the tide went out, the captain sends Gray and Hunter to try to recover any of the lost supplies, but the supplies were already taken by Silver's men. The pirates now are fully armed.
Just as the captain writes in his log and tries to speculate on Jim's fate, Jim appears at the stockade, hailing the men and gaining entrance.
The theme of death once again permiates upon this chapter. This time, however, the death is not suppressed as it has been previously, but instead the squire, at least, actually mourns. Part of this is due to the narrator shift, because the reader is no longer experiencing this from the vantage of a young boy. Another reason might be that the death this time is of someone innocent to the action, not a villain but merely an assistant to one of the "good guys." His death seems more innocent than the death of Pew or the other pirates, even the sailors that died in the previous chapter.
The class system of 18th and 19th century England is readily apparent in this chapter. When Redruth is lying on his death bed, even at this point the narrator speaks in a condescending tone, portraying him in a classic stereotype of the faithful, uncomplaining old servant whose sole desire in life is to serve his master. More surprisingly, even Redruth himself maintains his place, even while he is dying. Adding insult to injury, the captain tells the squire that he shouldn't mourn for the man, because he was merely doing his job. Also, in listing the men who remain, the captain does not indicate their names, but rather their status on the ship. This attitude, common in the time the novel is set and was written, might seem odd and discriminatory to the modern audience.
Again, one of the things that make this chapter so rich is the descriptions of the sights and sounds of the island. Critics often question where Stevenson was able to garner the immense amount of detail on the island. Although he had not yet made his own expedition to the West Indies (where the retired, later in his life), Stevenson used much of the details of the scenery from his memories of California, where he was married to his wife. Together with literary sources and the own imagination, the result is an extraordinary exercise in precision. The fact that the island doesn't exist is almost a disappointment and something that the reader must suspend himself from in order to enjoy the book.
The next chapter is again narrated by Jim Hawkins. It begins with Ben Gunn pointing out to the young boy that the British flag is clearly a signal of where his friends are because the pirates would never fly a British flag, but instead a Jolly Roger. After pointing Jim in the right direction, he declines to join him but instead will be available at any time to discuss plans with the doctor or the squire. He concludes his speech to Jim by saying that if the pirates camp on the island, it is "likely that their wives will become windows." When the island starts becoming under attack by the cannons, Jim heads by a circuitous route towards the stockade, the area being hardest hit. Near the shore, just after sunset, Jim observes the Hispaniola flying the Jolly Roger and hears the last of the cannon fire. On the land, he sees a large fire in the distance. Some of the pirates are destroying the boat near the stockade while other pirates are rowing a different boat to the Hispanolia. From their loud voices and actions, Jim is almost positive that these men have been heavily drinking.
Finally, Jim makes his way to the fort and finds his friends there. Surprised, they are extremely happy to see him and he tells his side of the story to the men at the fort. After they here the story, the captain differentiates the men into watches, as well as assigning someone to collect firewood and dig a grave. The doctor is assigned cooking and Jim is stationed as a sentry at the door. After Jim and Livesy discuss the situation surrounding Ben Gunn, they decide that the only item that they could afford to give the pirate is a piece of cheese in Livesey's snuff box.
The next task that the men accomplish is burying Redruth, after which they eat pork for supper. As they are eating, they realize that because of the shortage of food supplies they will not be able to withstand a long siege by the pirates. Because of this limitation, they realize that they need to kill off any pirate that they can and hope that eventually the pirates will either surrender or simply leave. By their count, fifteen of the nineteen pirates remain, but one is seriously wounded. Their only hope is that, according to the information that Jim provided, the mutineers are drinking heavily, and according to Dr. Livesey, they are camped in a swamp where it is easy to contract malaria without any medicine.
When Jim wakes up, he hears someone call "Flag of truce" and learns that Long John Silver himself desires to enter the stockade.
One of the most brilliant parts of this book is the way the narration plays out and the information that Robert Louis Stevenson provides his readers. In this chapter, the narration switches back to Jim which makes the reader only privy to a certain amount of information, the information that Jim sees. While much is going on in the pirate ship (including the questioning of Long John Silver), it adds to the realism and suspense of the story for the reader only to know one side because that is all that Jim or the other men on the island would know.
Again, this chapter shows the theme of Stevenson's use of moral ambiguity. In the book, although there are "good" and "bad" sides it is not if as if you are choosing between the sides based on their morality - both are after the same prize, using the same methods of deceit, etc. in order to obtain it. Choosing a moral side in Treasure Island is more like choosing between two baseball teams based on their morality: it is pointless.
At this point, as the captain is delegating responsibilities, it is interesting to note the significance of the captain's name, Smollett. This name was by no chance arbitrary, as it appears to be based on a real-life person, Thomas Smollett. Thomas Smollett was a Scottish writer who could have been predicted to attract Stevenson's interest. Having joined the navy at an early age, he rose to become surgeons' mate, sailed the Spanish Main and, as a young man of twenty, took part in an expedition against the Spaniards in the West Indies in 1741. He was probably, figuratively speaking of course, a contemporary of Long John Silver, because of the information his pirate provided . This name, therefore, is of someone who is really interested in pirates and would have been someone who Robert Louis Stevenson would have been intrigued by.
At the beginning of the chapter, two pirates are waving a flag of truce outside the stockade. Cautiously, the captain inquires of what the pirates want. The man who accompanies Silver says "Cap'n Silver" wants to make terms, and Smollett claims he has not heard of "Cap'n Silver." Consequently, Silver explains that after Smollett's "desertion" the men elected Silver captain and he wants Smollett's assurance that he will not be harmed if he enters the stockade. Not happily, the captain agrees to his request.
Despite his one leg, Long John Silver (who is dressed in his finest attire, a blue coat trimmed with his brass-buttons and a laced hat) aptly maneuvers over the fence and proceeds up the sandy hill. There, however, he experiences much more trouble as his crutch sinks into the sand and he struggles to move. When he finally gets to the top, the captain refuses to let him in to the house, instead, the two negotiate outside. He greets Jim, who has left his post out of curiosity, and Jim discerns from his conversation with Silver that Ben Gunn has killed one of the pirates in the middle of the night.
Silver opens the negotiations by saying that he thinks that the pirates should be given the treasure map. In return, he will divide the supplies and take them on the ship and put them at the nearest port, or tell the next ship he sees to come and get them. Smollett, disgusted with Silver's proposal, makes a counter-proposal, claiming that if the pirates come to him unarmed, he will put them in shackles and give them a fair trial. Adding insult to injury, Smollett points out that the pirates are powerless - they don't have the map and they are also on the wrong side of the island, "on a lee shore," the side that is away from the direction in which the wind blows. In conclusion, he orders Silver to leave.
As he leaves, no one will give Silver a hand up. Furious, Silver crawls along the sand until he can grasp the porch and then hoist himself up. Retaliating, he spits in the spring water and promises that he will destroy them within an hour, those who die will be the lucky ones. He then departs, but not without extreme difficulty.
Once again in this chapter the focus is one of the themes of the book: the all-important quest. Notice, that even in the peril circumstances that both Silver and Smollett find themselves and their men in, the most important thing is finding the treasure. While some might simply give up or try to negotiate the best terms in order to ensure the safety of their lives, in the quest paradox that this book is placed in. The goal, and the reader's interest, is not merely about survival - it is also about finding the treasure.
Another notable feature of this chapter is the emphasis of the setting as an influence on the plot. At the beginning of the chapter, Stevenson uses descriptions to paint the scene graphically and to point out that the setting influenced the plot, since the unhealthy island swamp may cause illness among the pirates. This same theme comes into play as Long John Silver struggles to get up, and down, the sandy hill. The setting serves to further entice Long John Silver's anger, which will eventually cause a change in the plot because the leader of the mutineers will demand that they attack in retaliation for the supposed rudeness of Smollett's men.
A great deal more about the two sides of Silver's personality are also revealed in this chapter. As Silver first appears, dressed in his finery, he is strong, athletic, cheerful, and confident. He chats pleasantly with Jim, displaying his father-like tendencies again, as well as being a generally pleasing individual, the "Billy Bones" side of his personality. This attitude, however, is ephemeral. In the end, Long John Silver is in a frenzy of anger, and he seems vicious, vindictive, cruel, and unscrupulous, at the same time, however, his physical limitations rend him weak and powerless, the "Blind Pew" aspect of his personality.
Treasure Island Essays and Related Content
- Treasure Island: Essays
- Treasure Island: E-Text
- Treasure Island: Questions
- Treasure Island: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Robert Louis Stevenson: Biography
- Treasure Island Summary
- About Treasure Island
- Character List
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-6
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7-13
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 14-20
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 21-27
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 28-34
- Related Links on Treasure Island
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources