This post contains spoilers for every last doubloon of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
I’m not saying this book is a pirate AU of The Hobbit, but as I finished reading it I couldn’t help noticing some parallels.
- quest for treasure
- the questers are all greedy in their way, with varying shades of morality
- everything leads to a lot more bloodshed than anyone expects because GREED
- no one really takes the young inexperienced hero into consideration until the last few chapters, when they realize he’s been wandering around wrecking all their plans and making new ones
I’m sure there are more: feel free to point them out.
Descriptive line of the week: “He rose once to the surface in a lather of foam and blood” (chapter 27). Sick, dude.
Dead pirates aside, let’s talk about Jim for a moment. He goes through a lot in these chapters. His reckless, hare-brained idea to leave his friends behind and see what he can accomplish really pays off, which I find unfair because if I left my friends alone in a cabin in the woods and tried to commandeer a ship and fight pirates, I would never hear the end of it and I would probably end up drowned.
Jim himself observes the extreme experiences and changes he is going through, “as the habit of tragical adventures had worn off almost all my terror for the dead” (chapter 27). My copy of the book has a really disturbing illustration of Jim pinned to the mast, too. By the time Jim gets back to the cabin, only to discover it’s full of pirates (aw man), he seems pretty ready to die for his friends:”My heart smote me sorely that I had not been there to perish with them” (chapter 28) and when he’s talking to the doctor the next day: “believe this, I can die” (chapter 30). I’m torn between JIM YOU ARE A TINY BABY AND MUST BE PROTECTED and JIM YOU ARE A TINY BADASS HONEY BADGER.
I appreciate that we don’t have some melodramatic sub-plot where Jim starts to trust Silver again, only to have his hopes dashed. Jim understands Silver’s game with the other pirates in chapter 29, and he takes note that Silver is hedging his bets with both the pirates and Jim’s side in chapter 31. Four for you, Jim Hawkins.
I love his speech to Silver and the other pirates, when his back is literally and figuratively against the wall:
“And as for the schooner, it was I who cut her cable, and it was I that killed the men you had aboard of her, and it was I who brought her where you’ll never see her more, not one of you. The laugh’s on my side; I’ve had the top of this business from the first; I no more fear you than I fear a fly. Kill me if you please, or spare me.” (chapter 28)
Jim, you’re a parrot’s feather away from getting murdered by pirates and you are SNARKING?
While we see Jim get more and more power in these last chapters, or at the least more experience, Silver is quickly losing control over the situation and his crew, but he strives to the end to control Jim. I especially appreciate his use of the word “gentleman” when he’s appealing to Jim’s better qualities of loyalty and nobility. Jim isn’t a gentleman, and Silver is using it as a reference to gentleman of fortune (pirate) rather than an actual gentleman, but it still has a nice ring to it: “I always wanted you to jine and take your share and die a gentleman” (chapter 28) and “for a young gentleman you are, though poor born” (chapter 30).
Completely incomprehensible line of the week: “Have I lived this many years, and a son of a rum puncheon should cock his hat athwart my hawse at the latter end of it” (chapter 28). I have nothing to add to that, except that it sounds completely filthy.
The black spot shows up again in chapter 29. It seems to be a legal summons to accusations by other pirates. I don’t think this book ever says “pirates’ code” or “honor amongst thieves” but that’s the idea it seems to be driving at, in between all of the classism. For example, Dr. Livesey is a babe, but he is constantly judging the pirates for their ignorance on healthy living conditions: “camp in a bog, would you?” (chapter 30) and their hand-to-mouth lifestyle. Not that I’m empathizing with the pirates, but they’re all low class dudes who have turned to crime and probably don’t have much education on a variety of things. Jim judges them too, though, for their lack of resource management (chapter 31) so maybe I’m just being oversensitive. DISCUSS.
Wig Watch line of the week: “I’ll have my wig sorted by the captain or I’m mistaken” (chapter 30).
The final treasure hunt is underwhelming as far as treasure hunts go (I’ve watched way too many Jerry Bruckheimer movies), except for the corpse acting as a compass (chapter 32). That was pretty epic. The pirates are very superstitious, because of course they are, to highlight their ignorance that has been pushed at us from the beginning of the book. I enjoy how the pirates’ attitudes toward the different ghosts decides what their behavior. Most of them are terrified of Flint’s ghost, except for Silver who proclaims:”I never was feared of Flint in his life, and by the powers, I’ll face him dead” (chapter 32), but none of them are bothered by Ben Gunn’s ghost, once identified. Besides which, of all things, ghosts don’t have ECHOES, so it can’t possibly be a ghost talking to them anyway.
Pirates are weird.
I don’t like Silver as a character, but he is a very compelling villain. By that I mean, you can’t ever underestimate this guy, because he’s smart and fast and changes attitudes constantly to suit the situation. When they find the empty treasure hole, Jim notes that Silver “kept his head, found his temper, and changed his plan before the others had had time to realize the disappointment” (chapter 33). Granted, we haven’t been given much evidence of the other pirates’ brains before this. But Silver is a genius at spur-of-the-moment plans and manipulation, and its a scary trait to face off against.
Sassiest rejoinder of the week:
Silver: “You would have let old John be cut to bits, and never given it a thought, Doctor.”
“Not a thought,” replied Dr. Livesey cheerily.
I’m disappointed that they essentially let Silver go free at the end. They don’t tie him up or keep an eye on him at all because – why?
I’m disappointed in the lack of epilogue for Jim, Trelawney, and Dr. Livesey. What do they do with their treasure? What do they do afterwards? Ben Gunn, Smollett, and Gray get endings, but not the main characters. Rude! I have no choice but to assume Trelawney marries Smollett, since I’m given nothing else to go on here.
I hope you all enjoyed the book; I’d like to hear your thoughts on it. Comment or link me, by thunder!
Join us in December for a readalong of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.