Treasure Island: I’ll Stake My Wig On It!

I’m upset we don’t wear wigs as a general fashion anymore, as they seem useful for expressing one’s feelings and beliefs.

Spoilers for chapters 9-17 of Treasure Island are below. I’m going to wade through the idioms and name-drops chapter-by-chapter. This is going to be a hot mess so get ready.

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Chapter 9:

The meeting between Jim and Co. with Captain Smollett is really, really good. Trelawney and the captain are determined to hate each other but once Livesey shows he’s willing to listen, they at least make a truce. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of misunderstandings….

CAPTAIN: You told everyone about the treasure! You even told the parrot!

TRELAWNEY: Wait, seriously?

CAPTAIN: It’s an expression.

….

CAPTAIN: The first mate shouldn’t drink with his subordinates!

TRELAWNEY: HE IS DRINKING ONBOARD????

CAPTAIN: Oh for goodness sake.

Once the captain is gone, Trelawney calls him “downright un-English” which are grounds for a duel, at the very least.

Jim’s commentary on past events continue to contain zero chill: “for, as you shall hear, we had not long the benefit of his opinion”. Sorry, Mr. Arrow, you are not long for this world according to our terrifying tragic narrator.

Chapter 10:

I like how Silver knows everything about pirates and yet no one questions this. My favorite random pirate fact is that Silver’s parrot is two-hundred years old and has a tragic backstory that sounds incredibly fake…and yet narrator Jim is including it anyway.

The parrot also sailed with Captain England the pirate, who seems like a pretty nice guy . He died of a tropical disease after being marooned by his crew, which is a rough way to go.

Chapter 11:

“Roberts” and the Royal Fortune are references to Black Bart, another famous pirate. He really, really liked ships, apparently holds the record for most captured by a pirate, and he liked to rename all his flagships Royal Fortune.

Every time a “pirate” figure of speech comes up, such as “shiver my timbers,” I wonder if it was realistic for the golden age of pirates or if RLS just made stuff up and then it made it into our pop cultural pirate speech?

It’s hard not to admire how smart Silver is. I mean, yeah, he’s terrible, but he’s not only good at basic pirate skills like pillaging and murdering, he’s also good at politicking, manipulating people, and controlling his crew. On the legitimate side, he saves his money and has a business. Of course, all of these skills means he clearly thinks he’s superior to both the good guys and his own bad crew. He also criticizes Flint, Bones, Pew, and Roberts, for their own respective flaws. What a guy.

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Chapter 12:

Here we meet “Skeleton Island,” because of course it’s named something creepy for no particular reason, because PIRATES. The three hills on it are called: Fore, Main (or the Spyglass), and Mizzen. Capt. Kidd’s Anchorage is where you’ve gotta park the car.

There are bunch of pretty maps online but this is the one RLS made:

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It is ugly and hard to read.

If you’re keeping tabs on Livesey’s wig (I know I am!) he takes it off in this chapter while Jim tells them about the scheduled mutiny: “the doctor smoking away, with his wig on his lap, and that, I knew, was a sign he was agitated.” Classic.

 

Trelawney is turning into my favorite character, though, because I never have a clue what to expect from him. In regards to the terrible crew, he tells Smollett: “You were right, and I was wrong.” Real life people almost never say this, and characters certainly don’t because it cuts down on melodrama. This was really big of Trelawney, and not what I expected after his blithering in previous chapters.

Of course, pages later, he’s back to his old self: “Sir, I could find it in my heart to blow the ship up.” Slow down, crazy, slow down. Smollett’s like, “SO WE KILL OURSELVES? KILL OURSELVES? TRELAWNEY SO BAD FOR YOURSELF STEP AWAY FROM THE POWDER.”

Chapter 13:

Today on WigWatch, Dr. Livesey has a sixth sense for detecting disease and plague: “I’ll stake my wig there’s fever here.”

Chapter 14:

How Jim survived to escape this island when he doesn’t even know what a rattlesnake is, I will never know.

“I defies you.” RIP honest Tom!

Chapter 15:

Jim is having a terrible day, as he realizes his position: “behind me the murderers, before me this lurking nondescript.” You are now Frodo, trapped in the wasteland with only Gollum for company. I like how once Jim realizes Ben Gunn is white, he’s all calm again, like, this is fine, he can’t possibly be a crazy cannibalistic murderer.  Can’t. Possibly.

 

Here’s a how-to video on how to tie a clove hitch knot. Or was it just me who had no idea what Ben was talking about?

Chapter 16:

Ok, this chapter threw me for a loop. I don’t appreciate it when authors throw convention out the window unless they have good reason. We switch point of view with NO WARNING and it’s upsetting. But yay – Dr. Livesey!

“I was not new to violent death – I have served his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, and got a wound at Fonteroy—but I know my pulse went dot and carry one.”

Just when you thought Livesey couldn’t get hotter, amirite?

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Also I have no idea what “went dot and carry one” means but I’m guessing his pulse got REAL ERRATIC. He knows all about pulses because he’s a doctor.

You can read up on the Battle of Fontenoy (in which it appears the Duke of Cumberland was sorta a badass) here.

I love the bit where they recruit Abraham Gray because I am trash for dog-and-master metaphors.

Chapter 17:

Speaking of Abraham Gray, the bit where they’re in the boat, fleeing, and watching the pirates get out the cannon, and Gray quietly says, “Israel was Flint’s gunner” is a pitch-perfect moment of terror. The end.

Speaking of Trelawney and how I love his hidden depths, he is suddenly a stone-cold shooting machine and I love it.

 

In conclusion, rereading this crazy adventure of a story is really great and chaotic. If you have questions, comments, topics to bring up, let me know below or on Twitter. By next Monday, we will have read through Chapter 26.

 

 

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