Treasure Island

Treasure Island Summary and Analysis of Chapters 21-27

Chapter 21


After the captain returns from his conversation with Silver, he is angry to find out that everyone but Gray has abandoned their post. Next, he quickly begins to prepare for the upcoming battle by assigning different men to different sides. The most opening, the north side, is to be manned by Trelawney and Gray. Jim is assigned to load the muskets. Before the men even know it, a small group of pirates swarm the stockade fence, while others open fire from the woods. In the ensuing battle, the fight goes back and forth quickly before the battle is finally won. In the end, Jim and his men kill three pirates, three of the four who are storming the stockade, and the fourth pirate retreats as a coward. In the process, however, Joyce is killed, Hunter is injured, and the captain wounded. The captain figures out that five pirates have been killed, leaving the odds four to nine, not bad considering at one time it had been seven to nineteen. In an aside, the narrator explains that the actual odds were four to eight, because one pirate had died unbeknownst to the group.


In this chapter, the most noticeable thing is about the characteristics of the two groups of fighters. First, it is clear that the captain, Jim and his men have courage and moral strength: they are able to win the battle and keep the stockade safe from the pirates because they do not back down even when their backs are to the wall and the situation looks bleak. In contrasts, the pirates seem slightly cowardly, especially in their retreat as one simply runs away in stead of being killed or trying to fight more. Moreover, they do not try a secondary attack with the men who have been firing from the trees - they simply give up in order to retreat and try again (assumedly) at a later date.

Throughout the entire novel, one continuous marked stylistic theme is the unremorsness of the characters when they encounter death. This is for two reasons. The first has already been discussed, it is because it is an adventure book narrated by a boy who is unconcerned with death, more concerned with the quest at hand then speculating or focusing upon those who die. The second is because in Treasure Island, the only people who are wounded or die are the minor characters - death does not bring any sadness or remorse. It is merely part of the plot and something that is necessary in order to push the action before.

In the theme that the book is a story of Jim becoming a man, this chapter also has special importance. Not once in this chapter, despite its traumatic events, does Jim ever back down or exhibit any type of behavior that is child-ike. Although he will do child-like things in the future in Treasure Island, that the young boy was able to perform flawlessly under harrowing conditions is worth noting and a big step in his process of maturation.

Chapter 22


Luckily, the pirates do not return during that day and so the doctor is able to tend to those who are wounded while Jim and Trelawney cook dinner. While one pirate and Hunter die, Captain Smollett is predicted to recover, but must not walk on his wounded leg.

After a private meeting with Livesey, Trelawney and Smollett, the doctor leaves the compound, with pistols, a cutlass and the treasure map. Jim guesses that he has gone to see Ben Gunn. Bored and scared of the blood and bodies, Jim decides to leave the compound to look for Gunn's boat, although the knows that it is against the wishes of his comrades. As he sneaks to the anchorage, he sees Long John Silver in a smaller boat beside the larger Hispanolia, speaking to two pirates who are onboard. Suddenly, Silver departs and the two men on board go down to the cabin.

Jim finds the handmade boat under a tent and near a white rock. Interestingly, the boat is small and light, portable, and is a wood framework covered with goatskin - Jim calls the boat a coracle. Deciding that the pirates will soon take the anchor up and wanting to stop them, Jim decides to cut the Hispanolia loose and merely let it land anywhere the wind and current take it, thereby stopping the pirates. By this time, the night is dark and the only visible things on the horizon are the light in the ships cabin and a great fire in the swamp, where the pirates are drinking. In these conditions, Jim sets out in the coracle.


This chapter, following on the heels of the last chapter, show again how fast paced this novel is. Instead of having the characters reflect on the death or talk together on how things are going to proceed, Robert Louis Stevenson starts immediately on a new stage in the action, having Jim leave the compound and begin to get into danger again. By having him leave, however, the reader is able to glimpse the actions of the pirates and thus Stevenson is able to more effectively tell the story because the reader can realistically know at least a little of what is going on in both sides of the warring factions.

The most interesting development of character in this chapter is to see the rationalization of Jim, something that adds to the theme of Treasure Island as a novel concerning the maturing of the narrator. All the while that Jim is stealing away from the compound, about to seek out on his own and find the boat, he realizes that the course of actions that he is taking is wrong. This realization is, of course, of an adult character, thinking of the greater good of the people that he is with. He justifies his behavior, however, by telling himself that he is only a little boy and doesn't know better, even though he does. This, therefore, is a moment where Jim is both an adult and a child, stuck in the gray material half-way between the two stages of life.

Another interesting aspect of this chapter is the incredible detail of the wilderness that Robert Louis Stevenson provides his readers. Through Stevenson's words, the wildness and the violence of the sea majestically reach far from the pages of the book. For example, the narrator describes the "surf tumbling and tossing . . .I have never seen the sea quiet around Treasure Island . . these great rollers would be running along all the external coast, thundering and thundering by day and night." His use of similes and metaphors is what enable his description of nature to leap out of the pages.

Chapter 23


The next chapter begins as Jim is in the coracle, having trouble steering towards the larger Hispaniola. Fortunately for Jim, the tide sweeps him to the boat. Jim is able, after waiting for the boat to slacken the howser, to cut all but two threads of the rope that anchor the Hispaniola, and then he waits for the next breeze. While he is waiting, Jim listens to the voices coming from the ship's cabin. Immediately, he recognizes one as Israel Hand, the other he only identifies as wearing a red nightcap. Clearly, from the sounds of their angry voices, the men sound tipsy. Once again, a breeze comes up and puts the rope in a perfect position and Jim cuts through the rest of the rope. Upon this action, the Hispaniola begins to slowly spin and sway with the current. As he is shoving away from the bigger boat in the smaller oracle, Jim catches a rope and hoists himself into a position where he observes the two sailors in a physical struggle, a struggle that to Jim appears deadly.

Jim gets back into the coracle, which is following the wake of the bigger schooner, and heads for shore, where he comes near the campfire and hears the pirates singing. All of the sudden, the Hispaniola changes the course because the current has turned in and is sweeping both the coracle and the bigger boat out to sea. Having nothing else to do, Jim lies in the bottom of his boat, which is tossing in the turbulent waves. Although he expects to be killed at sea, Jim is eventually rocked to sleep and dreams of his home and the Admiral Benbow.


One of the main theme's of the book that begins to become apparent later in the book is the role of fortune in Jim's ability to become a hero. In this chapter, this theme is manifested by his ability to cut the ship away. Although he was not able to steer the small ship himself, because of the tide, he still reached is destination and was able, somehow, to cut the ship loose. Why is he not a strong hero, able to do whatever he wishes because of his own power? Cunningly, Stevenson does not allow this omniscient power because he is the hero of a young boy's novel and by making him able to be the hero only through fortune and luck, Jim is closer to the ordinary boy and the implied audience of the book can better relate.

The other theme that is evident in this part of the book is primitive forces impinging on the civilized world. Because the book is know set on an island, it is clear that nature, and not man, is in charge. In the vivid language that describes the sea, in the fact that Jim cannot alone control his own destiny, he must allow on nature's whims to carry them where they may, and on the point that he is able to escape the control of the group, all represents that savagery is winning out in the battle against civilization.

Another aspect to note in this chapter is again Robert Louis Stevenson's brilliant use of figurative language in describing the forces that control Jim, namely the ocean, and the pirates that he sees on both the shore and the ship. By using words and phrases such as, "the tall schooner and the little dancing coracle," as well as others, the reader can feel themselves caught up in the current, and can feel the tightness of the rope, the breezes, the sea spray, and the rocking of the boat.

Chapter 24


The next chapter begins the next morning, where Jim awakens to find himself at the southern end of Treasure Island, at a point where the cliffs of Spy-glass, the island's tallest hill, fall to the sea. Because of the roughness of the territory where he has landed, Jim decides to let the current take him to the Cape of the Woods, where it will be much safer and easier to land. Still lying at the bottom of the coracle, Jim is amazed the boat's ability to ride the huge waves. Jim also realizes, through trial and error, that he can paddle a little from his prone position and so tries to steer the boat towards land. Finally, the current sweeps him past the point of the Cape of the Woods and he sees the Hispanolia. Jim realizes, because of the way the boat is behaving, that no one is steering the boat. He then decides that he will try to paddle out to the boat in order to try to return the boat to Captain Smollett, if no one is aboard. Finally, when Jim is paddling towards the boat, the boat turns and heads towards him. Jumping up, he hangs on the ship's jib-boom, but he finds that he is not able to tie the coracle to the boat, which leaves Jim stranded on the Hispaniola.


It is interesting to note some characteristics about Jim that you can glean from his voyage around the island. First, Jim is enthusiastic and clearly eager for adventure. His is able to quickly think on his feet and is confident, perhaps over-confident, of his abilities. Although he gets into danger time and time again, this does not dissuade him from doing something that is adventurous and daring again. In short, he is the perfect hero for a boy of 13 and 14.

It is also extremely interesting to note that Robert Louis Stevenson's background is extremely helpful in his ability to depict the way that Jim steers the boat and makes his away across the island. His early experiences with his father, where he learned about ships, summering towards the sea, and his crossing of the Atlantic all help him assist the reader in visualizing this setting and events.

The other theme that is apparent in this part of Treasure Island is the moral ambiguity that pervades this work. Having Jim get on the boat is merely a tactically issue - in reality, he was the one who has defied authority and is doing the "wrong" thing. Instead, the reader roots for Jim because his is merely a game, which is reinforced when death seems arbitrary and is not full of remorse.

Chapter 25


Although he is nearly tossed into the sea, Jim finally is able to get on the deck of the ship. As he initially looks around, he does not see anyone. Later, he spots two men, the man in the red-cap dead and Israel Hands, unconscious. Both men are surrounded by blood. When Hand moans, Jim greets him and the pirate asks him to bring him some brandy. Jim heeds his request and goes below deck to retrieve the brandy, where he sees that the place is a complete disaster - there is mud on the floor, empty bottles rolling about, and the locks are broken, something that probably indicates the pirates' desperate search from the treasure map. Jim finally finds brandy for Hands, as well as biscuit, cheese, and fruit for himself. Returning to the deck, Jim drinks water and gives Hands the brandy. Jim tells Hands that he is taking possession of the ship and should be regarded as captain, and with that pronouncement, the boy pulls down the pirates' flag.

From this point, Israel and Hands make an agreement. Jim will give Hands food, drink and a handkerchief for a bandage, while Hands will tell Jim how to sail the ship. Both agree that they will sail to the North Inlet. Hands then proceeds to bind up the wound on his thigh with a silk handkerchief that used to be Jim's mothers'. From this point, the sail goes smoothly but Jim notices that Hands is watching him closely, with "treachery in his smile."


In this chapter, Israel Hands does not prove to be clearly evil, as he has been depicted earlier; instead, he is the classic Stevensonian composite of good and evil. Jim comments on the odd smile which appears continually on Hands' face: "It was a smile that had in it something both of pain and weakness - a haggard, old man's smile; but there was, besides that, a grain of derision, a shadow of treachery, in his expression as he craftily watched, and watched me at my work." Such adjectives such as Œpain,' Œweakness' and Œhaggard' are calculated to arouse the reader's sympathy, but the juxtaposition of these terms with Œderision' and Œtreachery' dilutes the force of that sympathy and the result is a deliberate ambivalence, exactly what Stevenson believed of human character.

In continuing the theme of surrogate fathers that exists within the pages of Treasure Island, in this chapter, Israel Hands serves again as a surrogate father to the young Jim during this chapter. His kind behavior, as well as his advice on where to land the ship and how to steer the ship, as well as his linkage with Jim's mother (through the handkerchief that Jim gives him to bind his leg) is symbolic of that of Jim's father, and although he will eventually betray him, for this chapter he serves in the same type of role as a father-figure.

The symbolic function of the mess in the cabin is also worth exploring. Through this mess, Stevenson shows the lack of discipline in the pirate's behavior and also indicates heavy drinking. The broken locks serve as evidence that the pirates are after one thing, the treasure map, and have turned the ship inside and out looking for the desired map that will lead them towards their goal.

Chapter 26


After they reach the North Inlet, Jim and Hands wait for the other tide so that they can land the Hispanolia on the beach - they cannot simply anchor because Jim has cut the rope and the anchor is gone. At this point, Israel Hands asks the young narrator to go into the cabin and get him some wine because the brandy is too strong. Jim, however, realizes that this request is strange, and Jim realizes that this is just a pretext to get Jim out of the way. Although he goes along with Hand's deception, Jim quickly sneaks back up to see what Hands is up too. He discovers that Hands has a coil of rope and a knife and is laying in wait for Jim to come back up the stairs, unsuspectingly. Although Jim knows that Hands is armed and dangerous, he does not think that he will do anything to him until the ship is safely beached and so he goes back up the stairs with the wine. He is right, Hand pretends that he has no knife when he asks Jim to cut him a piece of tobacco.

At this point, Jim suggests to Hands that he pray and be forgiven of his sins, namely killing his fellow pirate. Hands, however, disregards this notion, saying that his philosophy is that no good comes about being nice and the person who strikes first is the person who in the end survives. Finally, when the tide is out, and Hands tutoring Jim, the boy manages to bring the ship to the shore, a difficult feat of navigation. Completely enthralled by the landing, Jim forgets that Hands is armed and dangerous and he is nearly stabbed but jumps and turns out of the way just in time to avoid the approaching Hands. Jim shoots the pistol at Hands but nothing happens because the pistol is wet. As Jim is trying to dodge the seamen, the Hispanolia strikes land and tips over at a 45 degree angle. Jim, Hands, and the dead body all roll in the same direction. Jim is the first to his feet and he climbs to the top of the mast. Hands throws his knife, which narrowly misses Jim. Hands begins to climb up the mast to get Jim but suddenly, without his doing a thing, Jim's pistols go off and drop in the water his body. Luckily, Hands is hit and drops into the water, following the pistols.


One of the few symbolic objects in Treasure Island is a knife. Notice, that whenever Jim is endangered or threatened by anyone, they wield a knife. This chapter, of course, is no different. The object that Israel Hands threatens Jim with is a knife. A knife, therefore, represents danger and killing for Jim.

In this chapter, one of the most revealing conversations is when Israel Hands expresses the kill-or-be-killed philosophy of the pirates. Hands feels absolutely no regret over the death of O'Brien. He sees absolutely no good in goodness but observed that "dead men don't bite" and therefore always tries to hit first. The only thing that he believes in is luck and himself.

The major theme again explored in this chapter is Hands as a father figure. Jim literally basks in the presence of Hands as he instructs him on how to both sail and land the Hispaniola. Jim is so desperate for any father figure that he forgets about the imminent danger that Israel Hands represents and instead basks in the attention and advice. It is unfortunate that like his real father, Israel Hands also meets the end of his life at a time when Jim can witness it.

Chapter 27


Jim hangs at the top of the mast, perilously, looking at Hands body go up and down in the sea, amongst the blood and foam of the sea. For a while, he clings desperately to the mast, trying to hold on. The knife that Hands had thrown at him barely hit him but Jim fails when he tries to pull the knife out. Shuddering violently afterwards, he is lucky that this action displays the blade from his body. Jim finally climbs down the starboard shrouds and binds his wound, finding that it is neither deep nor dangerous. After throwing O'Brien's body overboard, the young narrator secures the boat and wades ashore, leaving the boat for Captain Smollett.

When he gets to land, he tries to head for the stockade, hoping that his absence will be forgiven because he has secured the boat. After some time, the views a glow against the sky and assumes that the fire is a sign of Ben Gunn cooking dinner, but he wonders why the strange man is not afraid that Long John Silver will find the fire. As he finally reaches the stockade, Jim slows down because he is afraid that he will shot by his companions. Reaching the stockade, Jim realizes that no one is on watch and he feels bad for abandoning his friends and consequently leaving them short-handed. Finally, as he reaches the clearing in front of the house, he is surprised to see the remnants of a fire, something that the captain would have never permitted them to do while Jim as with them. Planning on surprising his friends, he sneaks into the house but as he stumbles on one of the sleeping bodies, he hears a voice repeat "Pieces of eight!" Jim runs out of the house, and Silver calls for someone to bring a torch.


The symbolism and foreshadowing of the chapter's name, is the first notable aspect of this chapter. Robert Louis Stevenson's use of foreshadowing in this chapter is again at its peak, a literary technique which increases the suspense of the chapter. As soon as Jim sets foot on the island, he and the reader, are given two signs that all is not well with his comrades - both having to do with the fire. That, accompanied by the titles name, "Pieces of Silver," increases the anxiety and anticipation that again, something bad is going to happen to Jim and all is not well with his comrades.

Once again, the theme of the unimportance and lack of sadness at death is explored as the death of Israel Hands leaves another person dead at the account of the treasure hunt. At the beginning of the chapter, the thing that most worries Jim is not that he just killed a man, his first of such actions, but instead that he might join him in the ocean. He is brave and not a bit remorseful about the death, instead, like a true action-hero, he is only worried about saving his own life and continuing with the quest at hand. This attitude is even expressed by Jim as he throws O'Brien's body overboard, he notes that "the habit of tragical adventures had worn almost all my terror for the dead."

Robert Louis Stevenson's descriptions in this part of the book are again superb. The mood that he creates in the beginning of the chapter is lonely and somber, as Jim leaves the death and destruction of the ship behind. Clearly, though, the reader realizes that something as wrong. As he proceeds to the interior of the island, however, the mood switches to hope and anticipation at meeting his friends and telling them about his adventures. Although the reader remembers the ominous, combined with the foreshadowing mentioned before, Jim is still hopeful until the very end when he realizes that he has stumbled upon Long John Silver and his men.