Treasure Island: There and Back Again, a Hawkins Tale

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)

Mr. T is definitely Trelawney in this AU.

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?

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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.


Treasure Island: Further Reading (2)

As we finish up Treasure Island this week, I thought I’d scour the booklists for related piratical reading. Like for Dracula, there are a lot of unofficial sequels to Treasure Island out there. There’s even what appears to be a Ben Gunn-focused book , for all those rabid Ben Gunn fans out there. Are there rabid Ben Gunn fans? Do I want to know?

Fair warning: I haven’t read any of the below.

  • For those of you who want to know more about Robert Louis Stevenson, here’s a biography by Frank McLynn. In my extra reading on him, I’ve been learning that besides classics like  Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, he also wrote poetry and essays and fables. Interesting dude.
  • Speaking of, here is a collection of Robert Louis Stevenson’s essays.
  • I’m really curious about this comedy  by Sara Levine about a recent college grad who becomes obsessed with Treasure Island and its “principles.” I can relate to an improper literary obsession at an advanced age. It can turn out badly.
  • Andrew Motion has a couple of sequels to Treasure Island in which Jim’s son and Silver’s daughter return to the island. Part of me is “yikes” and part of me is “Oooo.”
  • John Drake has a prequel trilogy about Silver, Flint and Flint’s crew. Just the idea is terrifying to me, but I’m guessing there’s an audience for that based on the success of Starz’ Black Sails show which has a similar premise.
  • Last but possibly not least, another sequel in which Jim Hawkins himself has to return to the island. Because….reasons? It sounds like a re-tread for me, but at least all the main surviving characters are back.

Treasure Island: The Happy Family and Their Pet Coracle

This post contains spoilers for chapters 18-26 of Treasure Island.

We got one more chapter from the doctor’s point of view (we might get some more later on, I suppose). There’s much more about the adults and their concerns when we’re with Livesey.  The adults are being as safe as they can plan for; they’re doing the best they can with what they have to establish a secure position, to keep watch, to make a plan, and to repel the pirates. The captain is chillingly practical when Redruth dies and he observes that they have one less mouth to feed (chapter 18) but he’s also fine with keeping their flag up, even though it makes a perfect target for the pirates to shoot at. Smollett, man, where’s your head? His attitude toward Redruth’s death is really dark: it’s okay that he died because he died in his proper life station, i.e. dying for his master. Yikes. Whereas Trelawney asks Redruth to forgive him, and Redruth asks,

“Would that be respectful like, from me to you, Squire?”


RIP Redruth.

Jim’s point of view, which we get back to in chapter 19, is much more reckless and therefore, in my opinion, much more fun. Jim’s like “it’s hot in here, let’s go find the boat! Let’s go get the ship! Let’s go on crazy adventures!” Typical.

Also, Ben Gunn. That guy is bad news. That guy is trying to be some sort of ninja-Gollum-parrot hybrid. He literally says, “Now, Ben Gunn is fly” (chapter 19). Ohhhhhhkay –


Fortunately, Doctor Livesey has an illicit taste in Italian Parmesan and apparently smuggles it everywhere, which comes in handy when you need to bribe a guy who sneaks around at night bashing dudes’ heads in.

Ben Gunn: I know what will make Jim’s friends like me: MURDER!

To be fair, the other good guys are all varying degrees of incompetent. Trelawney is a good shot, but they’re all FAILURES at lookouts. I love the part where Smollett finishes parleying with Silver, and NONE OF THEM ARE AT THEIR POSTS except Gray (chapter 21), and like, he doesn’t even really go here.

Smollett’s dressing down of his tiny incompetent company is gorgeous, especially: “Doctor, I thought you had worn the king’s coat! If that was how you served at Fontenoy, sir, you’d have been better in your berth” (chapter 21).

Smollett, in general, is really my favorite right now. What a babe. The scene between him and Silver is gorgeous. Silver comes along, trying to be all suave and manipulate them back into getting murdered by his crew. Like, it takes nerve to try to pass off an entire mutiny as just a big ol’ misunderstanding.

Silver calls Smollett and Co. “a happy family, in a manner of speaking” (chapter 20), which makes Livesey the mom, Smollett the dad, and Trelawney the irresponsible teenager. I am 90% sure this is accurate.

But anyway, back to Smollett being great. His rebuttal to Silver needs to be one of those epic speeches idiots quote in their Facebook profiles, especially:

“If you won’t, my name is Alexander Smollett, I’ve flown my sovereign’s colors, and I’ll see you all to Davy Jones.”


Meanwhile Silver be like


I mentioned in the last post, regarding Fletcher’s article, Silver’s disability and how it is used as a villainous characteristic. This is extremely problematic and we need to be aware of it. I think it’s interesting, though, how it’s also used in this scene almost as a point of empathy. Silver has to struggle up and down the hill while his enemies watch with absolutely zero pity, and then they force him to sit on the ground and then not help him up. Granted, he’s murdered a bunch of people by that point, but it’s interesting. IDK, discuss!

There’s a lot of shooting and killing and dying and I’m not sure what to say about that except RIP Joyce and Hunter, we didn’t know you at all but you made up like 30% of the good guys and it’s too bad you’re gone.

I am more concerned, logistically and morally, with the injured mutineer. Jim says he dies “under the doctor’s knife” (chapter 22); usually I would interpret this as dying while the doctor is working on him, but did he get murdered or what? Yikes. I mean, I guess the real question is, was the doctor wearing his wig while operating on him????

I really like some of the descriptions of the surrounding environment or weather in this book. A good example is at the beginning of chapter 22:

It was still quite early, and the coldest morning that I think I ever was abroad in, a chill that pierced into the marrow. The sky was bright and cloudless overhead, and the tops of the trees shone rosily in the sun. But where Silver stood with his lieutenant all was still in shadow, and they waded knee deep in a low, white vapor, that had crawled during the night out of the morass.

Yes, perfect, Robert.

Aside from the descriptions, I like the wry humor employed at times, such as Jim and his coracle in chapter 22/23:

I had not then seen a coracle, such as the ancient Britons made, but I have seen one since, and I can give you no fairer idea of Ben Gunn’s boat than by saying it was like the first and the worst coracle ever made by man.

Jim continues to be incredibly reckless and NOT THINK THINGS THROUGH but I absolutely love picturing him bobbing about in a home-made, mutated coracle. I have a lot of questions about how Jim cut through the hawser, but maybe a schooner is smaller than I’m picturing. Anyway, good job, kid, I guess??

I want Jim to become a naturalist and travel the world and describe the various animal and plant life he sees. Giant snails, Jim, really? How? HOW?

RIP coracle, I knew you way better than I did Joyce or Hunter.



ISRAEL (bleeding out on the deck): This ship can’t be crewed by one man-  you’ll never make it out of the bay!

JIM: Son….I’m Captain Jim Hawkins. Savvy?

I’m really impressed by the action scenes in this, particularly when the pirates attack the cabin and the whole chapter with Jim vs. Israel. It’s suspenseful and interesting and adventurous. I guess I see why this was such stellar adolescent entertainment at the time.

That’s all for now. Enjoy the last week of #treasuRead!


Treasure Island: Further Reading (1)

This post contains spoilers through Chapter 17 of Treasure Island. The two articles I chose for today’s post make a really good juxtaposition of different readings of this novel. One looks at the narrative structure and how it’s mix of historicity and fantasy; one looks at the social allegory being made, accidentally or not, by the characters.

[Text that looks like this] are my own thoughts and discussion questions. Articles were accessed via my free-but-limited JSTOR account (which you can get, too!).

“Historical Reality and Fictional Daydream in Treasure Island” by William H. Hardesty III and David D. Mann

This article goes through the plot of the novel bit by bit and shows how the narrative moves from “Historical reality (England in the mid-eighteenth century)” to “fantastic daydream (Treasure Island and its promise of great wealth)” (94). Hardesty/Mann point out that the first third of the novel establishes a very realistic setting. We can extrapolate from the clues that Jim’s inn is on the north Devon coast, at about 1758 or 1759 (95). All of RLS’s internal dates are consistent with each other. [This is especially nice after reading Stoker, amirite]. RLS gets the reader to empathize with Jim immediately, and establishes him as a reliable narrator (98). [DISCUSS: do you agree or disagree that Jim comes off as reliable? I agree, but I’m curious].

Once he’s got the realism set up, RLS uses the sea voyage as a “transitional device” (99) that leads from the Real World to the Fantasy World/ Romance of Treasure Island. Hardesty/Mann point out that we are deliberately kept in the dark during the voyage as to the island’s location, because of narrative reasons (the characters don’t want anyone stealing their treasure) but it also works to ease us into the less-realistic world of the island.

The island itself doesn’t seem very Caribbean – it’s based off RLS’ experiences in California and off of pirate tropes, which help it“acquire a pseudo-historical validity” (99). Additionally, the passing of time isn’t very specific once we get to the island. [I won’t talk more about this because of spoilers, but it is kinda interesting. Pay attention to how time works haha.] However, RLS “[maintains] a precise orientation in space, thanks to the map” (100); we know where everything happens because of the map and his matching descriptions.

The article also talks about the end of the book, but no spoilers here. [But pay attention to if and how the story returns to the “realistic” beginning or if it stays in the vaguer, more romantic island world.]

“Long John Silver, Karl Marx and the Ship of State” by Loraine Fletcher

Meanwhile, according to Fletcher, Treasure Island

“offers an analysis of the contemporary condition of England in an allegory as precise as Animal Farm (1945) and on much the same subject: class conflict and the threat posed by Marxism. In the Hispaniola, Stevenson creates a ship of state whose cabin party and alarming crew represent respectively Britain’s ruling class and an underclass of workers gathering confidence with the growth of the Trades Unions and the circulation of Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’ publications” (34).

Fletcher points out that the conflicts in the novel revolve around “working relationships, identifies the cash nexus that binds them, and examines received ideas in the light of changing economic conditions” (35). [I mean, this seems legit. Gentry vs. pirates, they all want money, they have different ideas about how the money should be distributed….DISCUSS how socalist this book is on a scale from 1-10.]

Jim isn’t gentry or underclass. As Fletcher notes (and I’ve mentioned in my posts, just saying), he admires Livesey’s “educated gentility” (35). He’s also the “most upwardly mobile figure” (39) in the novel.

Aside from Jim, both the pirates and the cabin group want the money, but  Trelawney judges the pirates for wanting the same thing he does (36). There’s a very fedual master/servant relationship system that’s upheld through the story – if characters go against it, they are evil and/or die. The pirates want what their former masters the gentry have, but they are represented as not fully human, their “consciousness is formed only of appetite and competitive individualism” (36).

Abraham Gray is an example of a “rare working man of good character” (40)  who sticks with the established system of the gentry and is rewarded for it (38), whereas the pirates are criticized for wasting their resources. [Interestingly, Silver himself criticizes the pirates for this and considers himself super great for being good with money but also good at murder and stuff.] Since he’s so clever but also evil, “Silver is a worthy fictional representation of Marx the nineteenth-century bourgeois nightmare” (44). He encourages fighting the system, and he’s good at it, too.

So according to Fletcher, Treasure Island is basically an allegory about feudalism between the owners, their servants, the military, and “the dogs of the proletariat” (40), although she admits that RLS most likely didn’t intend it as an allegory. [DISCUSS: does authorial intention matter? Why or why not?]

I recommend reading the full article once you’ve finished the book, as she goes into a lot of other specific examples that I haven’t mentioned here.


Fletcher also criticizes the fact that multiple pirates have disabilities and it is “concomitant with their moral shortcomings, and constructed as vengeful and frightening” (38), and she also goes through all of the anti-Semitism and stereotypes represented by Israel Hands. [I think these are important things to point out and give the side-eye. DISCUSS. Problematic book is very problematic!]

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.


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!


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.


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:

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?


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.



Treasure Island: Fancasting

I was trying to write this post but was really uninspired, partly because I’m fighting off the cold from hell, partly because I felt like anyone I chose was retreading the same old ground.

SO! I decided to engage Rule 63: “Rule 63 is a rule of the internet that reads as follows: “For any given male character, there is a female version of that character.” This rule’s exceptions are only in the instance that A: the male character is already so androgynous that a female version would be basically the same, or B: the female version hasn’t been drawn yet.”

Let’s do this.

Jim Hawkins: Amanda Troya

I was really tempted to cast Maisie Williams here, because she would be AN AMAZING JIM HAWKINS WOW, but she’s getting pretty old. Maisie Williams can be a pirate. Any pirate. Anyway, I’m really not very familiar with child actors right now but Amanda Troya impressed me in Annie (2014). I think she could pull off a vulnerable, idealistic, occasionally cynical Jim Hawkins very well.


Long John Silver: Zoe Saldana

This is the most difficult/complex character to play in the story for a lot of reasons, but I think Zoe Saldana could pull it off. Plus she has the swagger and attitude to look good doing it.


Dr. Livesey: Freema Agyeman

Freema would be perfect as the idealistic, fierce, professional doctor.


Squire Trelawney: Helena Bonham Carter

I was tempted to cast her as Silver, but I think she has awesome comedic skills and would be really great as the bumbling, determined, ambitious but good-hearted Trelawney.


Billy Bones: Gwendoline Christie

I love Gwendoline Christie and I don’t like casting her as a villain but picture her as a big, drunken, terrifying ex-pirate. It would be the best.


The Captain: Natalie Dormer

Because Natalie Dormer, honestly. I’d like her to captain her ship right into my heart (I might have a lot of Treasure Planet influence here, tbh).



As you may have noticed, I’m mostly just dropping my favorite actresses into this movie – I’m just missing Emily Blunt (she’d be a good Livesey, too) and Charlize Theron (Flint flashbacks? EEEEK), who would also make excellent pirates.

If you’d like to do your own fancasting, link it up in the comments or on the #TreasuRead hashtag!

Treasure Island Ch. 1-8: Put Out His Eyes, Said The Blind Man

All right, this post contains spoilers for chapters 1-8 of Treasure Island. Ye be warned!


I mentioned this in the introduction post, but I’m going to mention the narration again. Unlike the plot of Dracula, which is told as it is happening by the characters, Treasure Island is narrated from the future, looking back at past events. How does Jim’s hindsight on events affect the suspense of the story? Do you think it’s suspenseful so far? Why or why not? So far I’m of the opinion that it is suspenseful, just in a different way than wondering “aHHHH WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN?” Instead we wonder “HOW will this happen? How will they find the treasure, and what’s going to happen on the way?” DISCUSS.

Jim, the little tease, keeps dropping foreboding comments. For example, when he’s daydreaming about treasure and admits that “in all my fancies nothing occurred to me so strange and tragic as our actual adventures” (chapter 7): WHAT TRAGEDY IS GOING TO BEFALL THEM? Further, when he meets Silver he ruminates that “I thought I knew what a buccaneer was like” (chapter 8). We’ve seen his experiences with the pirates so far at the inn, all of them terrifying, so his narration warns us that we can’t trust what we’ve read so far. Why can’t we? What’s going to prove Jim’s experience wrong?


What do we know about the pirates so far?

  • They have “tarry pigtails” (mentioned in chapter 1 and chapter 8). I’m not completely sure how RLS is using “tarry” here but my best guess is that he means tar-like, appears to be covered in tar, or resiny. So…their hair is super greasy, maybe to protect it from the sun and the sea air? If anyone has etymological insights, let me know.
  • Their names are hilarious and noun-heavy: Flint, Billy Bones, Black Dog, Pew. I love their names so much. From what I’ve been learning about real-life pirates, they do seem to like nicknames and monikers. I mean, Blackbeard wouldn’t be half as terrifying if everyone called him Ed.
  • So far the pirates haven’t been romanticized on the level of modern Hollywood, but there is an odd combination of idealization and criticism. For example, all of the pirates who have shown up at the inn are clearly hardened murderous criminals, but Jim and the other inn-habitants secretly love hearing Bones’ pirate stories.
  • Billy Bones’ secret love of seashells gives me life (chapter 4), but I’m not sure if that’s a pirate trait or an effort to give Bones some normal human hobbies.

Meanwhile, our “good” treasure-hunters are slowly introduced. Question: how old is Jim? I honestly have no idea. I’ve seen him portrayed anywhere from 9-ish to 19-ish. He seems around 10 here, but I don’t know how old he would have to be for them to care enough to take him along. DISCUSS.


The beginning with Bones is always really horrifying to me – that this random visitor comes along and just sort of terrorizes the entire inn and neighborhood. But the book doesn’t have a good opinion of the inn-habitants aside from Jim and maybe his mom. When Dr. Livesey appears, Jim compares his neighbor to the educated doctor/magistrate:

“I followed him in, and I remember observing the contrast the neat, bright doctor, who his powder as white as snow, and his bright, black eyes and pleasant manners, made with the coltish country folk, and above all, with that filthy, heavy, bleared scarecrow of a pirate of ours” (chapter 1).

I don’t know how much of these opening chapters are class bias. Jim’s dad is too weak to kick Bones out. The townsfolk won’t help Jim and his mom with either Bones or the other pirates later (chapter 4). Even Jim’s mom is criticized for being obsessed with settling Bones debt: “how I blamed my poor mother for her honesty and her greed” (chapter 4), albeit sympathetically. Dr. Livesey appears to be the only reasonable person in the bunch. I love the part where he helps Bones after Bones has a stroke and high-key admits he would prefer Bones dead: “and I have just, very much against my own will, dragged you headforemost out of the grave” (chapter 2). Jim recognizes Dr. Livesey as somehow superior even to lawmen like Mr. Dance, as he only trusts Livesey to take the oilskin packet which ends up containing the treasure map (chapter 5).

Then again, Trelawney is a much higher social class and he’s, no offense, a total ditz. I love him, but it’s true. I like how Jim comes in unnanounced and Trelawney and Livesey are hanging out by the fire, probably plotting against illiteracy or solving crimes from their armchairs. I want to know how many times Livesey has complained about his job that makes Trelawney announce, “Livesey, you will give up this wretched practice at once” as soon as the treasure map is found (chapter 5).

So! The stage is set. We have our primary characters. We’re off to find the treasure, if the ship doesn’t spring a leak. Is anyone else questioning Trelawney’s acquisition of the ship and the crew, or is it just me?


A few miscellaneous notes:

  • Re: Silver’s wife in chapter 7, I couldn’t find out what “a woman of color” means. I think it means she’s got a foul mouth and/or a sharp tongue. EDIT: I’ve been informed by reputable sources that “woman of color” did indeed mean POC at the time. So…that’s interesting. More as the story develops. Oxford English Dictionary agrees. 
  • Royal Georges or Georges = coins with King George’s image on them. I’m not sure if this is King George II who reigned 1727-1760, or King George III who reigned 1760-1820. It’s so hard to keep track of these English monarchs. Anyway, yeah, coinage.
  • Silver is said to have served “the immortal Hawke” (chapter 7). He was kinda a big deal in the English navy.

I will be back next week with chapters 9-17!

Treasure Island: Set Sail!

Ahoy, ye landlubbers, and welcome to the beginning of our voyage through Treasure Island! I will try to keep my pirate-talk to a minimum, but it’s still going to show up now and then. Our piratical adventure will end November 30th.

Here’s the reading schedule:

By November 7th, you should have chapters 1-8 read.
By November 14th, you should have chapters 9-17 read.
By November 21nd, you should have chapters 18-26 read.
By November 28th, you should have chapters 27-34 read.

Make sure you check out the hashtag #TreasuRead on Twitter and Instagram.

I’m not going to begin discussing the story until Monday’s post, but below are some fun facts, helpful links, and a couple general themes and questions to keep in mind while you read this book.

The author, Robert Louis Stevenson, lived from 1850-1894, but Treasure Island is set somewhere in the 1700s. The “Golden Age of Piracy” is considered to run from the late 1600s to the early 1700s.

Here is a brief biography on RLS.

I found this page about his literary contemporaries really interesting.

This is really fun and user-friendly website on pirates in the time period of Treasure Island.

This article covers what 18th century folks thought of pirates like the ones in Treasure Island. It’s drier but worth a read.

Like Dracula, Treasure Island is a first-person fictional document recounting what has happened in the past. However, here there is only one narrator, and he is much younger than any of the Dracula characters. Pay attention to if and how this affects the story. Does the fact that the story is being told after it’s all over affect the suspense, and how?

Some themes to look out for:

  • Greed is going to be pervasive in any story about treasure. Pay attention to which characters (good and/or bad) are being affected by greed, and when.
  • Social class: take note of the different characters’ social class and how the story treats them. Is there a bias, and if so, whom is it against?
  • Heroic role models: do they exist in this book, who are they, and why are they heroic?
  • Animals/animal imagery: Look out for humans being compared to animals in some way.


Lastly, ye best have fun reading, or ye’ll have to walk the plank!





Treasure Island Readalong

Following on the heels of our awesome Dracula readalong, a Treasure Island Readalong will be coming to a hashtag near you starting in November 2016! Join us on twitter, instagram, or whatever social media you desire. The discussion hashtag will be: #TreasuRead (thanks again to @gingernifty).


Here’s the reading schedule:

By November 7th, you should have chapters 1-8 read.
By November 14th, you should have chapters 9-17 read.
By November 21nd, you should have chapters 18-26 read.
By November 28th, you should have chapters 27-34 read.

If we can arrange it, we will also do some watchalongs of some Treasure Island-esque movies.

Just like for the Dracula readalong, I will be posting on this blog a couple of times a week with quotes, observations, and other nonsense.

Please let me know if you have ideas or suggestions for the readalong!