by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island Drugs and Alcohol Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
But [Billy Bones] broke in cursing the doctor, in a feeble voice but heartily. "Doctors is all swabs," he said; "and that doctor there, why, what do he know about seafaring men? I been in places hot as pitch, and mates dropping round with Yellow Jack, and the blessed land a-heaving like the sea with earthquakes – what do the doctor know of lands like that? – and I lived on rum, I tell you. It's been meat and drink, and man and wife, to me; and if I'm not to have my rum now I'm a poor old hulk on a lee shore, my blood'll be on you, Jim, and that doctor swab." (3.4)
Billy Bones has spent many evenings shocking and impressing the quiet country folk of Jim's town with his tales of distant places and adventures. Here, after his stroke, we get the full story: he's lived through terrible situations and has used rum to drown his sorrows. Now he's become so dependent on rum that he demands it even though it will kill him. This contrast between how fun pirate adventures sound and how awful they really are may explain why we can enjoy the story of Treasure Island even as Jim ends the novel swearing that it was horrible and he would never repeat his adventures. (Btw, "Yellow Jack" is yellow fever.)
Mr. Arrow, first of all, turned out even worse than the captain had feared. He had no command among the men, and people did what they pleased with him. But that was by no means the worst of it, for after a day or two at sea he began to appear on deck with hazy eye, red cheeks, stuttering tongue, and other marks of drunkenness. Time after time he was ordered below in disgrace. [...] He was not only useless as an officer and a bad influence amongst the men, but it was plain that at this rate he must soon kill himself outright, so nobody was much surprised, nor very sorry, when one dark night, with a head sea, he disappeared entirely and was seen no more. (10.7-9)
Mr. Arrow can't maintain discipline with the crew because he's drunk all the time. Long John Silver clearly has no trouble identifying and manipulating Mr. Arrow's weakness, just like he exploits Squire Trelawney's blind patriotism and Jim's vanity. Mr. Arrow's weakness isn't so different from the others'; it's just more visible and difficult to ignore. This is why we find Jim's contemptuous conclusion that Mr. Arrow is better off dead a little bit hard to take: it's not like Jim has been so perfect.
"Why, how many tall ships, think ye, now, have I seen laid aboard? And how many brisk lads drying in the sun at Execution Dock?" cried Silver. "And all for this same hurry and hurry and hurry. You hear me? I seen a thing or two at sea, I have. If you would on'y lay your course, and a p'int to windward, you would ride in carriages, you would. But not you! I know you. You'll have your mouthful of rum tomorrow, and go hang." (11.25-7)
Long John Silver offers this diatribe to Israel Hands when Hands tries to hurry him into mutinying before they reach the island. He points out that he's got experience and a plan on his side, but the other pirates are so impatient that they want everything right now. Long John Silver's go-to symbol for this self-indulgence is their "mouthful of rum tomorrow": they would rather have a shot of rum tomorrow than carriages in the future. And Silver proves correct: as soon as they fall to open warfare with the good guys, all the pirates get drunk, leaving them vulnerable to more sober minds.