by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island Drugs and Alcohol Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"Come aboard, Mr. Hands," I said ironically.
He rolled his eyes round heavily, but he was too far gone to express surprise. All he could do was to utter one word, "Brandy." (25.11-2)
Like Billy Bones, Israel Hands is physically badly off (from a stab wound rather than a stroke) but he still wants nothing more than alcohol. The dependence on alcohol leaves all of these characters in a sorry state not only because they're drunk all the time, and therefore careless, but also because when they're sick or injured, they become totally dependent on whoever is nearest to them. In both Billy Bones and Israel Hands's cases, that would be Jim.
I went into the cellar; all the barrels were gone, and of the bottles a most surprising number had been drunk out and thrown away. Certainly, since the mutiny began, not a man of them could ever have been sober. (25.16)
When Jim takes control of the Hispaniola once more, he discovers what's been pretty clear from the pirates' behavior (their singing on the beach, their inability to keep watch): they've been drunk pretty much this whole time. We have to wonder, if the pirates had been at all sober during their time on Treasure Island, would the outcome of the novel have been entirely different?
"Drunk or raving," said [Doctor Livesey].
"Right you were, sir," replied Silver; "and precious little odds which, to you and me."
"I suppose you would hardly ask me to call you a humane man," returned the doctor with a sneer, "and so my feelings may surprise you, Master Silver. But if I were sure they were raving--as I am morally certain one, at least, of them is down with fever--I should leave this camp, and at whatever risk to my own carcass, take them the assistance of my skill." (34.9-11)
In our discussion of "Quotes: Duty," we use this passage to explore Doctor Livesey's dedication to treating the pirates even at the risk of his own life. Here we will focus on the fact that the three remaining pirates on Treasure Island are either drunk or crazed (or both). Now that these pirates have lost the treasure, the ship, and their leaders, their drunkenness is perhaps like Billy Bones's: an effort to avoid acknowledging a horrible reality. We find their descent into total drunkenness and/or sickness both pitiful and tragic. This detail makes the decision of the good guys to leave them behind on Treasure Island seem all the more cruel and ethically problematic to us. What do you think?