Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of "pirates and buried gold". First published as a book in 1883, it was originally serialized in the children's magazine Young Folks between 1881-82 under the title The Sea Cook; or, Treasure Island: A Story for Boys.
Traditionally considered a coming-of-age story, it is an adventure tale known for its atmosphere, character and action, and also a wry commentary on the ambiguity of morality—as seen in Long John Silver—unusual for children's literature then and now. It is one of the most frequently dramatised of all novels. The influence of Treasure Island on popular perception of pirates is vast, including treasure maps with an "X", schooners, the Black Spot, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen with parrots on their shoulders.
Plot summaryEditThe novel is divided into 6 parts and 34 chapters: Jim Hawkins is the narrator of all these except for chapters 16-18 which are narrated by Doctor Livesey.
The novel opens in a seaside bad village in south-west England in the mid-18th century. The narrator, Jim Hawkins, is the young son of the owners of the Admiral Benbow Inn. An old drunken seaman named Billy Bones becomes a long-term lodger at the inn, only paying for about the first week of his stay. Jim quickly realizes that Bones is in hiding, and that he particularly dreads meeting an unidentified seafaring man with one leg. Some months later, Bones is visited by a mysterious sailor named Black Dog. Their meeting turns violent, Black Dog flees, and Bones suffers a stroke. While Jim cares for him, Bones confesses that he was once the mate of the late notorious pirate, Captain Flint, and that his old crewmates wants Bones's sea chest.
Some time later, another of Bones's crewmates, Pew, appears at the inn and forces Jim to lead him to Bones. Pew gives Bones a paper. After Pew leaves, Bones opens the paper to discover the Black Spot, a pirates' summons, with the warning that he has until ten o'clock, and he drops dead of apoplexy (in this context, a stroke) on the spot. Jim and his mother open Bones' sea chest to collect the amount due for Bones's room and board, but before they can count out the money that they are due, they hear pirates approaching the inn and are forced to flee and hide, Jim taking with him a mysterious oilskin packet from the chest. The pirates, led by Pew, find the sea chest and the money, but are frustrated that the chest does not contain "Flint's fist." Revenue agents approach and the pirates escape to their vessel, except for blind Pew, who is accidentally run down and killed by the agents' horses.
Jim takes the mysterious oilskin packet to Dr. Livesey, as he is a "gentleman and a magistrate", and he, Squire Trelawney and Jim Hawkins together examine, finding a logbook detailing the treasure looted during Captain Flint's career, and a detailed map of an island, with the location of Flint's treasure caches marked on it. Squire Trelawney immediately plans to outfit a sailing vessel to hunt the treasure down, with the help of Dr. Livesey and Jim. Livesey warns Trelawney to be silent about their objective.
Going to Bristol, Trelawney buys a schooner named Hispaniola, hires a Captain Smollett to command her, and retains Long John Silver, owner of "The Spy-glass" tavern and a former sea cook, to run the galley. Silver helps Trelawney to hire the rest of his crew. When Jim comes to Bristol and visits Silver at the Spy Glass tavern, his suspicions are immediately aroused: Silver is missing a leg, like the man Bones warned about, and Black Dog is sitting in the tavern. Black Dog runs away at the sight of Jim, and Silver denies all knowledge of the fugitive so convincingly that he wins Jim's trust.
Despite Captain Smollett's misgivings about the mission and Silver's hand-picked crew, the Hispaniola sets sail for the Caribbean Sea. As they near their destination, Jim crawls into the ship's apple barrel to get some apples. While inside, he overhears Silver talking secretly with some of the other crewmen. Silver admits that he was Captain Flint's quartermaster and that several of the other crew were also once Flint's men, and he is recruiting more men from the crew to his own side. After Flint's treasure is recovered, Silver intends to murder the Hispaniola's officers, and keep the loot for himself and his men. When the pirates have gone back to their berths, Jim warns Smollett, Trelawney, and Livesey of the impending mutiny.
When they reach Treasure Island, the bulk of Silver's men go ashore immediately. Although Jim is not yet aware of this, Silver's men have given him the Black Spot and demanded to seize the treasure immediately, discarding Silver's own more careful plan to postpone any open mutiny or violence until after the treasure is safely aboard. Jim lands with Silver's men, but runs away from them almost as soon as he is ashore. Hiding in the woods, Jim sees Silver murder Tom, a crewman loyal to Smollett. Running for his life, he encounters Ben Gunn, another ex-crewman of Flint's who has been marooned three years on the island, but who treats Jim kindly in return for a chance of getting back to civilization.
In the meanwhile, Trelawney, Livesey, and their men surprise and overpower the few pirates left aboard the Hispaniola. They row to shore and move into an abandoned, fortified stockade on the island, where they are soon joined by Jim Hawkins, having left Ben Gunn behind. Silver approaches under a flag of truce and tries to negotiate Smollett's surrender; Smollett rebuffs him utterly, and Silver flies into a rage, promising to attack the stockade. "Them that die'll be the lucky ones," he threatens as he storms off. The pirates assault the stockade, but in a furious battle with losses on both sides, they are worsted and driven off.
During the night, Jim sneaks out of the stockade, takes Ben Gunn's coracle and approaches the Hispaniola under cover of darkness. He cuts the ship's anchor cable, setting her adrift and out of reach of the pirates on shore. After daybreak, he manages to approach the schooner again and board her. Of the two pirates left aboard, only one is still alive: the coxswain, Israel Hands, who has murdered his comrade in a drunken brawl, and been badly wounded in the process himself. Hands agrees to help Jim helm the ship to a safe beach in exchange for medical treatment and brandy, but once the ship is approaching the beach, Hands tries to murder Jim. Jim escapes him by climbing the rigging, and when Hands tries to skewer him with a thrown dirk, Jim reflexively shoots Hands dead.
Having beached the Hispaniola securely, Jim returns to the stockade under cover of night and sneaks back inside. Because of the darkness, he does not realize until too late that the stockade is now occupied by the pirates, and he is easily captured. Silver, whose always-shaky command has become more tenuous than ever, seizes on Jim as a hostage, refusing his men's demands to kill him or torture him for information.
Silver's rivals in the pirate crew, led by George Merry, again give Silver the Black Spot and move to depose him as captain. Silver answers his opponents eloquently, rebuking them for defacing a page from the Bible to create the Black Spot and reveals that he has obtained the map to the treasure from Dr. Livesey, thus restoring the crew's confidence in him. The following day, the pirates search for the treasure. They are shadowed by Ben Gunn, who makes ghostly sounds to dissuade them from continuing, but Silver forges ahead and locates the place where Flint's treasure was buried. The pirates discover that the cache has been rifled and all of the treasure is gone.
The enraged pirates turn on Silver and Jim, but Ben Gunn, Dr. Livesey and Abraham Gray attack the pirates by surprise, killing two and dispersing the rest. Silver surrenders to Dr. Livesey, promising to return to his duty. They go to Ben Gunn's cave home, where Gunn has had the treasure hidden for some months. The treasure is divided amongst Trelawney and his loyal men, including Jim and Ben Gunn, and they return to England, leaving the surviving pirates marooned on the island. Silver escapes with the help of the fearful Ben Gunn and a small part of the treasure. Remembering Silver, Jim reflects that "I dare say he met his old Negress [wife], and perhaps still lives in comfort with her and Captain Flint [his parrot]. It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small."
Captain Flint backstoryEdit
Treasure Island contains numerous references to fictional past events, gradually revealed throughout the story and yielding a backstory that sheds light upon the events of the main plot.
The bulk of this backstory concerns the pirate Captain J. Flint, "the bloodthirstiest buccaneer that ever lived", who never appears, being dead before the main story opens. Flint was captain of the Walrus, with a long career, operating chiefly in the West Indies and the coasts of the southern American colonies. His crew included the following characters who also appear in the main story: Flint's first mate, William (Billy) Bones; his quartermaster John Silver; his gunner Israel Hands; and among his other sailors: George Merry, Tom Morgan, Pew, "Black Dog" and Allardyce (who becomes Flint's "pointer" toward the treasure). Many other former members of Flint's crew were on the cruise of the Hispaniola, though it is not always possible to identify which were Flint's men and which later agreed to join the mutiny—-such as the boatswain Job Anderson and a mutineer "John", killed at the rifled treasure cache.
Flint and his crew were successful, ruthless, feared ("the roughest crew afloat"), and rich, if they could keep their hands on the money they stole. The bulk of the treasure Flint made by his piracy—-£700,000 worth of gold, silver bars and a cache of armaments—-was, however, buried on a remote Caribbean island. Flint brought the treasure ashore from the Walrus with six of his sailors, also building a stockade on the island for defence. When they had buried it, Flint returned to the Walrus alone-—having murdered all of the other six. A map to the location of the treasure he kept to himself until his dying moments.
The whereabouts of Flint and his crew are obscure immediately thereafter, but they ended up in the town of Savannah, Province of Georgia. Flint was then ill, and his sickness was not helped by his immoderate consumption of rum. On his sickbed, he was remembered for singing the chantey "Fifteen Men" and ceaselessly calling for more rum, with his face turning blue. His last living words were "Darby M'Graw! Darby M'Graw!", and then, following some profanity, "Fetch aft the rum, Darby!". Just before he died, he passed on the treasure map to the mate of the Walrus, Billy Bones (or so Bones always maintained).
After Flint's death, the crew split up, most of them returning to England. They disposed of their shares of the unburied treasure diversely. John Silver held on to £2,000, putting it away safe in banks—and became a waterfront tavern keeper in Bristol, England. Pew spent £1,200 in a single year and for the next two years afterwards begged and starved. Ben Gunn returned to the treasure island to try to find the treasure without the map, and as efforts to find it immediately failed, his crew mates marooned him on the island and left. Bones, knowing himself to be a marked man for his possession of the map (as soon as the other members of Flint's crew should desire to recover the treasure), looked for refuge in a remote part of England. His travels took him to the rural West Country seaside village of Black Hill Cove and the inn of the 'Admiral Benbow'.
- Jim Hawkins: the boy who finds the treasure map; he is the protagonist and chief narrator. His parents are the owners of "The Admiral Benbow Inn.
- Billy Bones: ex-mate of Captain Flint's ship and possessor of the map of Treasure Island. Dies of a stroke brought on by a combination of alcoholism and fear when "tipped" the Black Spot.
- Squire John Trelawney: a skilled marksman, he is naïve and hires the crew almost entirely on Long John Silver's advice. He has some sea-going experience and sometimes stands watch in calm weather. His propensity to talk too much is nearly the downfall of the expedition.
- Dr. Livesey: a doctor, magistrate, former soldier (having served under the Duke of Cumberland) and friend of Trelawney who goes on the journey and for a short while narrates the story.
- Captain Alexander Smollett: the stubborn, but loyal, captain of the Hispaniola.
- Long John Silver: formerly Flint's quartermaster, later leader of the Hispaniola's mutineers. Engaged as the ship's cook, and formerly the quartermaster on Flint's ship. Seemingly respectable in the beginning, he is landlord of "The Spy-glass" public house. Throughout the novel it is made clear that Silver is a remarkably charming man, whom even his enemies can't quite dislike. It is also clear that he is intelligent, ruthless, manipulative, and without a conscience.
- Israel Hands: ship's coxswain and Flint's ex-gunner; tries to kill Jim Hawkins and ends up in Davy Jones' Locker. The character may have been named for the real-life pirate Israel Hands.
- Ben Gunn: a half-insane and marooned ex-pirate, who becomes a lodge keeper after losing his share of the treasure; speaks in a "rusty voice" and craves toasted cheese. He has already found and removed the treasure before the events of the story.
- Pew: a blind ex-pirate (used to be part of Flint's crew), now beggar and killer, who dies when he is trampled by horses. With Pew and Long John Silver, Stevenson sought to avoid predictability by making the two most dangerous characters in Treasure Island a blind man and an amputee. Stevenson also introduced a dangerous blind man in Kidnapped.
- Captain Flint: a feared pirate captain who dies in Savannah from rum; also the name of Long John's parrot.
- Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins, the parents of Jim Hawkins
- Black Dog, one of the companions of Pew who visit the Spyglass Inn (used to be part of Flint's crew)
- Tom Redruth: The gamekeeper of Squire Trelawney, accompanies him to the island, ends up being shot and killed by the mutineers before the attack on the stockade
- Richard Joyce: One of the manservants of Squire Trelawney, accompanies him to the island, is later shot through the head and killed by a mutineer at the attack on the stockade
- John Hunter: the other manservant of Squire Trelawney, accompanies him to the island, is later knocked unconscious at the attack on the stockade. He then dies of his injuries while unconscious
- Abraham Gray: A ship's carpenter on the Hispaniola. He is almost incited to mutiny but later defects to the other side when asked to do so by Captain Smollett. Saves Hawkins life by killing Job Anderson at the attack on the stockade, helps shoot the mutineers at the rifled treasure cache. Later escapes the island along with Jim Hawkins, Dr. Livesey, Squire Trelawney, Captain Smollett, Long John Silver and Ben Gunn. Spends his part of the treasure on his education, marries, then becomes part owner of a full rigged ship
- Tom Morgan: an ex-pirate from Flint's old crew; ends up being marooned on the island
- Job Anderson: ship's boatswain and one of the leaders of the mutiny who is killed while trying to storm the blockhouse; possibly one of Flint's old pirate hands
- John: a mutineer who is injured while trying to storm the boathouse, later shown with a bandaged head, ends up being killed at the rifled treasure cache; possibly one of Flint's old pirate hands
- O'Brien: a mutineer who survives the attack on the boathouse and escapes, but is later killed by Israel Hands in a drunken fight on the Hispaniola; possibly one of Flint's old pirate hands.
- Dick: a mutineer who has a Bible. The pirates later use one of its pages to make a Black Spot. Dick later ends up being marooned on the island after the deaths of George Merry and John.
- Mr. Arrow: The first mate of the Hispaniola. He drinks alcohol even though there was a rule about no alcohol on board and is useless as an officer. He mysteriously disappears before they get to the island and his position is filled by Job Anderson.
- Tom: A sailor who does not defect to mutiny. He hears the dying scream of Alan, and decides to stay honest. He starts to walk away from Long John Silver and the mutineer throws his crutch, breaking Tom's back. Silver then kills Tom by stabbing him twice.
- Alan: A sailor who does not defect to mutiny. He is killed by the mutineers for his loyalty and his dying scream is heard by several of the others.
- Additionally, there are minor characters whose names are not revealed. Some of those are the four pirates who were killed at the attack on the stockade along with Job Anderson, the pirate who was killed by the honest men minus Jim Hawkins before the attack on the stockade, the pirate who was shot by Squire Trelawney (who was aiming at Israel Hands) and later died of his injuries, and the pirate who was marooned on the island along with Tom Morgan and Dick