Treasure Island Summary and Analysis
Captured, Jim sees six men, the six pirates who are left, one of whom is extremely injured. Frightened, and seeing none of his friends, the narrator assumes that they must be dead. Long John Silver sits on the wall, with a pipe, and begins to talk to Jim. Surprisingly to Jim, Long John Silver begins to talk to him in a very friendly manner, saying things such as "I've always liked you" and implying that they would have made a great team. Jim learns from the pirate that his companions have turned against the boy. Although this saddens Jim, he is also very relieved to find out that they are not dead. Silver then asks Jim to join the pirates.
In response to Silver, Jim confidently explains that it is he who has been the downfall of the pirates - through the apple barrel, the cutting the schooner loose and killing the men on board, and bringing the ship to a place that the pirates will never find her. Jim concludes with, "I no more fear you than I fear a fly." He tells the pirates that they may choose whether to kill him or to spare his life, but if they let him live, he will try to help keep them from hanging. When Jim finally finishes his diatribe, none of the pirates move. Thinking that he is dead, Jim tells Silver to tell Dr. Livesy that Jim courageously stood up to the pirates and that Jim thought that Silver was the "best man here."
Some of the pirates begin to speak against Jim, and Morgan springs up and draws his knife in an attempt to kill them, but Long John Silver stops the pirates and says the since he was elected Captain he will protect the boy because "I never seen a better boy." In response, the rest of the pirates leave the house and have a council outside. While they are gone, Silver tells Jim that he decided to save the boy only because he was courageous enough to stand up for the boy. Silver vows to Jim that he will save the boy if he will be a witness and save Silver from hanging when they return to civilization. Jim agrees and the shake on the agreement. Silver then explains that he is actually on Trelawney's side and asks the boy why he thinks Trelwaney gave him the treasure map. Obviously shocked about this development, Silver can tell from the look on Jim's face that the boy has no idea.
The most significant aspect about this chapter is the evolution in Jim's character. It is clear that he is very courageous and able to stand up for himself - the speech that he gave to the pirates is not something that he would have been able to deliver before the adventures on the island. In the theme of Treasure Island as the story of Jim's growing up, this is a significant point: he is only saved because he is able to stand up for himself and offer the pirates a bargain, a very adult-type attitude and thinking.
Throughout the novel, the narrative has a continual shifting of focus, a blurring of identity, which compels the reader to acknowledge the duality of human nature. The device of changing narrators in the middle of the book is one example of the technique, because it enable the reader to observe the same sequence of events from two different perspectives. In this chapter, too, however, Stevenson uses the same technique where the description of the mutineers' stronghold seen from the inside permits a very different perspective than the any of the previous chapters. Stevenson, by using these techniques, invites the reader to view his characters from a variety of different perspective, thus acknowledging that none of his villains are wholly evil and that behavior, which seems reprehensible from one point of view may be justified when viewed from a fresh perspective.
It is interesting to note how Long John Silver acts when Jim begins his verbal abuse against Long John Silver, especially when he concludes with "I no more fear you than I fear a fly." What self-respecting pirate would seriously endure this sort of talk from a mere child. The answer is that of course, none, but Silver really has no self to respect. There is no basic personality from which he may derive strength when challenged or to which the reader may assign responsibility when silver is doing the threatening. As one critic claimed, Silver is like a weed that flourishes in ideal conditions but shrivels without resistance at the first sign of opposition. The point of the story is in the active conflict, as mentioned previously, and in the rest of the book, the active conflict depends upon Long John Silver changing sides and so change sides he does.
When the pirates return to the house, they give Long John Silver "the black spot," a piece of paper they have taken from the Bible. Someone named George Merry tells Silver the rules that the pirates' and decided and instructs him to read the piece of paper that they have handed to him. George insists that Silver should step down and vote with the others to vote for a new captain. Silver, however, explain that the rules allow him to hear and reply to the men's grievances. The pirates have four major problems with Silver. First, he made a "hash of the cruise." Second, he let their enemies out of the stockade. Next, he refused to allow the pirates to attack the enemies when they left and finally, he is protecting Jim Hawkins.
Long John Silver has replies to each of these complaints. First, he says that it was George Merry, Anderson, and Hands who ruined the cruise by upsetting Silver's original plan. Because of this mistake, Silver believes that they are all going to have to be hung when they return. In response to the claim that he is protecting Jim Hawkins, Silver claims that he is holding him prisoner. In reply to point three, he reminds the men that the doctor comes every day to help take care of them and that without him they would die. Additionally, someone will eventually come to the rescue of the squire and his crew and that is there only way off the island. Finally, Jim reminds the men that it was them who begged him to bargain with the enemy because they were starving. In conclusion, Silver brings forth the treasure map and the men become extremely agitated, fingering the map like it was gold itself. Silver resigns, but the men reelect him captain. Silver tosses the black spot to Jim who finds on one side the words "Without are dogs and murderers" and on the other side, simply "deposed."
Taking command once again, Silver instructs George Merry to be the watchmen and the rest of the men lie down to sleep. As Jim falls asleep, he realizes the perilous position that both he and Silver are in, trying to placate the pirates and save their own lives.
An extremely interesting part of the chapter is watching Long John Silver change from the tough pirate to the caring man who takes care of Jim and back again. In showing these two sides, he does not grow or develop between the two sides of his personality, rather he merely jumps between the two different characteristics. Also, this chapter contrast Silver's personality with the personality of the other pirates, who are weak and complaining (for example, it is telling that it was actually these men's fault they had to bargain with the enemy because they were hungry). Silver is extremely persuasive, powerful and confident in stark contrast to the timidity of the men that he commands.
Again, in this chapter the dialogue between the two pirates is incredible. Because of the way Robert Louis Stevenson has written the conversations between them, the reader can actually here them talking and arguing among themselves. Not only does it employ colorful word choice, but there is also an intrinsic amount of rhythm to the words. For example, Silver lashes out at the pirates: "Well, now, look here, I'll answer there four p'ints; one after another I'll answer em. I mad a has o' this cruise, did I? Well no, you all know what I wanted, and you all know if that had been done that we'd a been aboard the Hispaniola this night as ever was, every man of us alive, fit, and full of good plum-duff, and the treasure in the hold of her, by thunder! Well, who crossed me? Who forced my hand, as was the lawful cap'n? Who tipped me the black spot the day we landed and began this dance? Ah, it's a fine dane--I'm with you there --and looks mighty like a hornpipe in the rope's end at Execution Dock by London town, it does."
In this chapter, at one point, the narrator (the old Jim that is writing the book) intercedes and proceeds to say that he is looking at the black spot just as he is writing this book. This action on behalf of Robert Louis Stevenson adds realism to the story, just as the tale is beginning to be a little unbelievable, Stevenson makes us know that not only will the narrator be safe in the end, but also that this actually happened to the young Jim Hawkins.
Early the next morning, Dr. Livesey appears at the stockade in order to take care of those men that are his patients. Long John Silver informs the doctor of Jim's presence and the doctor just nods grimly to Jim and proceeds to his patients, treating them professionally and showing absolutely no fear about being in the midst of the enemy. Finally, the doctor asks to speak alone with Jim, a request that George Merry strongly objects to. Long John Silver, however, silences his fellow pirate and Jim gives him his word that he will not run off. Silver then allows Jim and the doctor to speak, as long as the doctor is outside and Jim is inside. When the doctor leaves, the men accuse Silver of "playing double," sacrificing the groups interests in order to save himself. In order to bluff them, he reminds them that they are searching for the treasure that very day. While the men are silenced by this reasoning, they are clearly not convinced and still view Long John Silver with skepticism.
Once they go outside, Silver tells Jim to move slowly because he is wary that the other pirates might attack them. Silver then puts his own case before the doctor, complete with a trembling voice. He tells how he saved Jim's life, admits that he is afraid of hanging, and asks the doctor to put in a good word for him. After that, he steps out of hearing so Jim and Livesey can talk alone.
At first, Livesey scolds Jim for running off and leaving the group, especially because he did so at a time when the captain was wounded. Jim begins to cry and tells the doctor that he is not afraid to die, he is only afraid of torture. The doctor then tries to persuade Jim to run away, but the boy refuses because he has given his word to Silver and trusts him. Jim then tells the doctor about his adventures, finishing with the good news that the Hispaniola is beached at the North Inlet. Humbly, the doctor says that Jim ahs saved their lives at every point and that somehow they will find a way to save Jim.
At this point, Long John Silver returns to the conversation and the doctor warns Silver that there might be some trouble when the pirates search for the treasure, but Silver says the treasure hunt is the thing that may save his and Jim's life. Finally, the doctor tells Silver that if they all survive and get off of the island he will do what he can to save Silver's life. Livesey also instructs the pirate to keep Jim close to him, and to call if he needs any help. At last, the doctor leaves, going to get help.
Jim's adventure with Israel Hands and his success in saving the Hispanolia, gave him the sufficient stature to enable him to be the hero in a boy's adventure - to serve as the character with which the reader identifies himself as he reads - without removing him too far into the realm of the heroic so that he ceases to be recognizable as an ordinary boy. The major thing to remember is that his good fortune is due as much to luck as to skill. That is evident, even to the other characters, in this chapter as Dr. Livesey tells him, "There is a kind of fate in this. Every step, it's you that saves our life." Jim has courage and resourcefulness, but it is not these qualities alone that enable him to save himself and his friends. He has a kind of beginner's luck.
Why would Stevenson deliberately keep Jim from achieving too impressive a heroic stature? The obvious reason is that he is to stand for the boy reader and must not therefore move too far above the reader's conceivable accomplishment. Another reason, however, is that he must not compete in picturesque bravado with Long John Silver no in calm adult competence with dr. Livesey. He is the ordinary boy thrown into the midst of adventure by pure chance and acquitting himself very creditably.
In the course of the story he develops from a purely passive character into an experienced and resourceful campaigner. This development takes place under the readers' eyes, and the reader can see it as natural and inevitable under the circumstances. With his outwitting of Israel Hands in the previous chapter, Jim achieves his full stature as a man of action, just as in his refusal to go back on his word and escape from Silver and his men with Dr. Livesey in this chapter, he achieves his full moral stature.
After Dr. Livesey leaves, Long John Silver tells Jim that he observed Dr. Livesey encouraging Jim to try to leave and that the boy's refusal gave him much hope for the future. Silver tells Jim that they must save themselves by sticking close together. In order to restore the men's confidence in Silver, Silver discloses to the pirates that Jim is a valuable hostage because Silver gleaned news from Jim's conversation with the doctor that the doctor and his companions have the ship, once the mutineers have the treasure, therefore, they will be able to take the treasure away from the island and find the ship. Jim is worried though, because of Silver' duplicity he is not sure what to believe. Jim is also worried of why his companions deserted the stockade, why they let Silver have the treasure map, and why the doctor warned of trouble on the treasure hunt.
As the pirates begin their treasure hunt, the whole party heads toward the tall tree on the shoulder of Spyglass hill, which is the landmark cited in Flint's note on the back of the treasure map. As the men journey, Jim and Silver trail slightly behind, with Jim sometimes giving the one-legged man a hand so he does not fall. Suddenly, the man who is ahead of the rest of the group cries aloud and everyone runs toward him. They find a human skeleton lying at the foot of a tall pine tree in a perfectly straight, unnatural position, his feet pointing in one direction and his hands, raised over his head, the opposite direction. Silver believes that he man's body has been placed that way to serve as a compass, and, after checking their own compasses, they believe this to be correct. After closer examination, Silver believes that the skeleton is one of the pirates that Flint killed, someone they recognize as Allardyce. They notice that although most of the clothing has rotted away, none of the possessions that may have been in the man's pockets are lying around. The men feel haunted by the spirit of cold-blooded Captain Flint and walk closely together as they head toward the treasure.
In even contemporary reviews of the book, such as the Saturday Review, critics observed "Long John, called Barbecue, is incomparably the best of all. He, and not Jim Hawkins nor Flint's treasure, is Mr. Stevenson's real hero." In a lot of ways, this is precisely true. It is Long John Silver's colorful personality, his pirate dress and peculiar walk that people remember from this book, not the young hero Jim. In this chapter particularly, the manner in which Robert Louis Stevenson describes the actions of Silver trying to walk both lines makes him very agreeable to the reader. He is the real hero of the book.
Also, in this chapter, you again see the best father figure of the book in action, Long John Silver. As Long John Silver makes special protection to take care of the younger Jim, it is like he is a father taking care of a son. The special bond between the two characters is reinforced by their taking care of each other at a time in both of their lives when they need someone else.
The other aspect of the characters that is clear in this book is the recklessness of the pirates. At the beginning of the chapter, Stevenson contrasts the pirates attitudes, who clearly are carefree and care only about the present. This attitude is in sharp contrast to Jim's companion's attitude, who clearly plan for the future. Yet another sign of the pirates careless attitude is that both the man with malaria and the man with the wounded head comes with the rest on the treasure hunt, despite the fact that they should clearly be resting.
Finally, the buccaneers reach the top of the steep plateau, the men sit down and look at the view. As the men whisper about Captain Flint's exploits, they suddenly hear a voice singing his favorite song:
Fifteen men on the dead man's chest
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Terrified, the pirates turn pale. But as suddenly as the voice began, it brakes off. Only slowly, Long John Silver tells the rest of the group that the voice is not a ghost and that his voice seems familiar. Suddenly, the voice wails again, this time saying "Darby M'graw! Darby M'Graw! Fetch aft the rum, Darby!" Realizing that these were Flint's last words, the rest of the pirates are even more terrified. Still undaunted, Silver rallies the men, claiming that he is not afraid of Flint, alive or dead, and all he want is the treasure. Although the men still fear that Flint's spirit is haunting them, Silver points out that the voice had an echo and a ghost's voice would not have an echo. Silver finally recognizes the voice as Ben Gunn's and the men lose their fear. Merry says, "Nobody minds Ben Gunn, dead or alive."
The men start off again, and as they near the tree under which the treasure has been buried, the men become very excited but when they finally get near the spot of the buried treasure, they suddenly stop. In front of them is a very large hole, dug some item ago, which contains the shaft of a broken pick and parts of packing-cases, on which the name of Flint's ship, Walrus, is branded. The treasure was gone!
At the beginning of the chapter, the men describe the view of the island, including the Cape of Woods in front of them, Skeleton Island behind them, Spy-glass above them - and the sea in different directions. This description is important to the entire chapter because it increases the sense of isolation and highlights the fact that Jim and the men are trapped on an island, in the sea. There is no escape for these men. They must fight it out to the end. The mood of solitude is enhanced by the fact that the only sounds on the island are the men's whispering voices and the distant sound of the surf.
It is interesting that these men do not respect Ben Gunn at all. As soon as they here that it is his voice, they are no longer extremely frightened and instead treat him like a buffoon. Ben Gunn, however, is much smarter and more resourceful than any of his former comrades give him credit. He was able to not only survive on the island for three years, but was also smart enough to both move the treasure and help the "good" guys eventually triumph.
In this chapter, you also clearly experience the dual personality of Long John Silver. The mere thought of the treasure brings out his "evil" side as he yells at Jim Hawkins and tries to make both men move quickly to the treasure. This is in sharp contrast to the loving, father like attitude that he has taken towards Jim in the previous few chapters. Once again, Jim's father has abandoned him.
Naturally, the pirates are stunned by the lack of the fortune. The first to recover is Long John Silver, who hands Jim a pistol and moves so that the hole is between the five seaman and Jim and himself. Silver now behaves in a friendly manner toward Jim, a stark change from his early antagonistic behavior. The seaman jump into the pit and dig with their fingers, searching frantically for any gold at all. In a frenzy, George Merry screams at Silver and accuses him of knowing all along that the treasure was gone from the spot on the map.
Bravely, Silver faces the five remaining men and as Merry prepares to lead a charge against him , there are three musket-shots from the thicket. Merry tumbles, wounded, into the pit, another man falls down dead, and the three left alive turn and run. Silver shoots and kills Merry, just as the doctor, Gray, and Ben Gunn appear. The doctor urges everyone to chase the seamen and head them off from the boats.
The doctor proceeds to explain the events that Silver and Jim do not know. Two months before the Hispaniola appeared, Ben Gun already had the treasure safely stored away in a cave. He had come upon the skeleton, rifled the positions, found and dug up the treasure, and carried it to his cave. After the doctor heard Gunn's story, Livesy allowed Silver to have the treasure map and the stockade - the rest of the party moved to the cave to guard the treasure. That morning, the doctor realized that Jim would be in great peril when the pirates discovered that the treasure was missing. Livesey desperately ran back to the cave to get Gray and Gunn and take them with them. Fearing that they might not make it on time, he sent the faster Gunn ahead, and Gunn ingeniously devised the idea of imitating Flint's voice. That trickery gave the doctor and Gray enough time to hide in ambush near the site before the treasure seekers arrived.
When the men reach the boats, they destroy one and then row the other toward the Hispaniola. Leaving Gray to guard the ship, the rest return to the cave where the captain lies beside a fire and coins and bars of gold, obviously Flint's treasure. At this point in the narration, the narrator points out that seventeen men from the Hispaniola died for this treasure. Everyone enjoys a hearty meal, including Long john Silver, who is as polite and as cheerful as he as initially on the journey to the island.
It is a standard and necessary device in this kind of adventure story, that of a quest, that the fortunes of the hero should be at their most critical point at the very moment when help arrives. Jim and Long john Silver face the wrath of the five pirates alone, and their fate seems sealed, but a last minute rescue is effected by the Doctor, seaman Gray, and Ben Gunn, whose action is, of course, appropriately prepared for and explained.
It is important that at this critical juncture in the story Jim and Long John Silver are joined together against the five pirates, even though Silver is - or was himself the leader of the pirates. The careful way in which Stevenson maneuvers Silver into this position is another of his devices for keeping the reader's sympathy on the side of the picturesque, even though the picturesque is intrinsically tied up with evil. Circumstances force Long john Silver to range himself on the side of Jim and his friends against the others, and huts we are able to contemplate and enjoy the good points in Silver's character without feeling that we are letting our sympathies fall on the wrong side.
The dual nature of Long John Silver's personality is again present in this chapter, as silver once again transforms himself, going again to the side of Jim and the doctor. Always, silver is pragmatic; not concerned in the least bit about principles or honor, he takes the way that he thinks will help him, at a minimum, survive and, at best, seize the treasure. At the end of the chapter, he is once again a humble, obedient, cheerful servant, while only hours before he had shown power, leadership, and a murderous rage.
The next day the men transport the treasure to the Hispaniola, although moving the entire amount of gold takes several days. Silver is allowed liberty and tries to ingratiate himself with the men, but with the exception of Gunn and Hawkins, they treat the former mutineer like a dog. The doctor and his party do not know any thing of the three pirate survivors until Hawkins and Livesy hear a snatch of shrieking or singing. Silver says the men are drinking, but Livesy thinks one or more may be ill. While he want to go and help them, Long John Silver forbids him, claiming that the men will kill him. The doctor's party decides to abandon them on the island, but to leave supplies.
Finally, the ship sails away and the people on board see the three pirates kneeling on the shore, begging for mercy. The doctor and his companions have decided that they cannot risk another mutiny, and so they leave them on the island. The captain lies on a mattress, giving orders, while everyone else works hard. They head for the nearest port, in South America, so that they can hire more hands for the voyage home. When they land, they are given a warm greeting and the doctor, squire and Jim spend all night on land. When they return to the ship, Ben Gunn informs them that Silver has escaped, taking with him three or four hundred guineas of the treasure. Believing that Silver might have killed him, Gunn did not hamper his escape. The other are relieved that he is gone.
After adding a few soldiers to the crew, Jim and his friends finish the journey and land at Bristol, sharing the treasure. Smollett retires. Gray, marries and becomes part owner of a ship. Gunn spend his part of the treasure in three week and again becomes a beggar - finally he becomes a lodge keeper. Jim Hawkins never hears of Long John Silver again, but Jim still has nightmares of he "accursed island," and the voice of Silver's parrot still rings in his dreams: "Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!"
Again, the theme of morally wrong but tactically right is raised in this chapter, a further example of this theme is the decision to leave behind on the island three of the pirates. This seems to Jim Hawkins to be a painful but unavoidable decision: "It went to all our hearts, I think, to leave them in that wretched state; but we could not risk another mutiny; and to take them home for the gibbet would have been a cruel sort of kindness." In each of the instances in the book such as this, where decisions are morally wrong but tactically right, there is a careful balancing of competing considerations but the reader is aware that inherent in each set of circumstances is the impossibility of arriving at a wholly judicious course of action.
The book ends, as it begins, with a deliberate pushing of the whole story into the past; it is a retrospect, a thing finished and done with, something to be talked over by the fire on a winter's night. The story begins and ends as a recollection, from the comfort of the present, of the adventures and discomforts of the past. The pattern is, in a large sense, the same as Arabian Nights, where cigar smoking bachelors narrate their adventures in the comfort of someone else's house.
In this concluding chapter, the all important symbol is, of course, money. From the beginning of the book, this has been a reoccurring symbol and metaphor, but as Jim looks at the gold currency as he packs it into bags to be transported, he reflects not only upon the wealth that is at his fingertips, but also upon the cost that this money has had: seventeen men have died for this wealth. Money, therefore, in Treasure Island is a symbol of corruption - even the straight-laced and proper Dr. Livesey has not been unaffected by the influence of money.
Finally, some critics have questioned the moral lesson of letting Long John Silver get away with the money, but in some way this adds to the moral ambiguity that is present throughout this work. Having Robert Louis Stevenson let the arguable hero get away serves as a motivation for the book, for remember in both the conclusion and the introduction you remember that although Jim Hawkins has never seen or heard from Long John Silver again, he haunts his dreams until he is an adult. Thus, this also has implications on the father figure - although Jim was able to transcend the rest of the parental figures in the book, even becoming "Captain Jim," if only to Israel Hands, he is never able to transcend the mysterious, yet influential and helpful, Long John Silver.
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