Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Pirates! Treasure! Adventure! All this and more await you as you accompany teenage Jim Hawkins on a journey from his family’s small inn to the famed and titular island. Stevenson’s tale is obviously well known, with many different movie adaptations,  and is generally thought to be a book for boys. Certainly boys (of all ages, even the big ones over 30) will enjoy the swashbuckling sailors and treachery of pirates, but those of the female persuasion are also quite likely to enjoy it. Of course, the romance of Pirates has not diminished in the hundred plus years since the novel’s publication (they are, after all, making another Pirates of the Carribbean movie to the delight of Johnny Depp fans). Beyond the subject matter, Stevenson’s unforgettable characters, especially that of the infamous Long John Silver, are what have made this classic endure.

The story is told from the recollections of the grown up Jim Hawkins, and begins with the arrival of an old sailor, Billy Bones, at his parent’s inn. It becomes clear that Billy is hiding from someone and asks Jim to keep an eye out for a man with a wooden leg. A blind man comes looking for Billy and he receives the dreaded “black spot” (marked for death). After Billy dies Jim and his mother check his sea chest so that Mrs. Hawkins may claim the payment she’s been denied. Jim also spies an oil cloth packet, which turns out to contain a very interesting map. Jim is soon on the run from the blind man and his nasty friends and finds safety with doctor Livesey and Squire Trelawney. These three then organize a trip to follow the map and lay claim to the treasure. They hire a ship – the Hispaniola – and Captain Smollett, who has misgivings about their venture and the fact that the ship’s cook, Silver, has hand picked about half of the crew. Silver is all charm and compliments to everyone on board and is a ready, cheerful and willing part of the crew, at least to start with. As they get closer to the island mutiny becomes his clear intent and by the time they arrive at the island, the crew is divided in two camps with each side fighting the other for the map and treasure.

Much like Tarzan of the Apes this tale of adventure can be read as a light, easy story that doesn’t require much thought. However, if one wishes to examine the story and what books influenced Stevenson’s writing – and, in turn, what Stevenson then influenced – one may find more literary connections than initially suspected. Most editions of Treasure Island include an introduction which discusses this to some extent. In the Penguin version John Seelye explains that earlier works such as Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Washington’s Tales of a Traveler and Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans influenced Stevenson’s writing.  Stevenson, in turn, is said to have influenced J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Golding’s Lord of the Flies and almost every pirate story told since.  In fact, this novel is thought to be the first fictionalized appearance of such standard pirate cliches as the parrot on the shoulder, the peg leg, “X marks the spot,” and the now famous song lyric, “Fifteen men on a dead’s man’s chest – Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum!”

Take a trip with Long John Silver on the Hispaniola by requesting this book in our catalog.


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