by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island Duty Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"Right you are," said Silver; "rough and ready. But mark you here, I'm an easy man--I'm quite the gentleman, says you; but this time it's serious. Dooty is dooty, mates. I give my vote--death. When I'm in Parlyment and riding in my coach, I don't want none of these sea-lawyers in the cabin a-coming home, unlooked for, like the devil at prayers. Wait is what I say; but when the time comes, why, let her rip!" (11.31)
Here, Long John Silver is drastically redefining duty. His duty is to his pirate crewmates, which mean that he votes for killing Captain Smollett, Squire Trelawney and the other good guys. The problem with telling people to do their duty as a moral lesson is that we all have different notions of duty. To Long John Silver, apparently killing people for the profit of his pirate friends is a kind of duty.
"Most likely Trelawney's own men," said the doctor; "those he had picked up for himself before he lit on Silver."
"Nay," replied the squire. "Hands was one of mine."
"I did think I could have trusted Hands," added the captain.
"And to think that they're all Englishmen!" broke out the squire. "Sir, I could find it in my heart to blow the ship up." (12.37-40)
Squire Trelawney's patriotism blinds his judgment. When Long John Silver tells Trelawney that he lost his leg in a battle under Admiral Hawke, Trelawney believes him. Here Squire Trelawney is disappointed in the pirates not just because they want to murder him, but because they are all Englishmen. Squire Trelawney's idealism makes him an easy mark for Long John Silver, which is perhaps meant to be a jab against idealism.
"Gray," resumed Mr. Smollett, a little louder, "I am leaving this ship, and I order you to follow your captain. I know you are a good man at bottom, and I dare say not one of the lot of you's as bad as he makes out. I have my watch here in my hand; I give you thirty seconds to join me in." [...]
There was a sudden scuffle, a sound of blows, and out burst Abraham Gray with a knife cut on the side of the cheek, and came running to the captain like a dog to the whistle.
"I'm with you, sir," said he. (16.31-5)
We find this description of Abraham Gray coming to Captain Smollett "like a dog to the whistle" oddly dismissive and jeering. Isn't it a good thing that Abraham Gray is remembering his duty? Is Stevenson making a subtle point that obedience for its own sake is cowardly? Or are we making a mountain out of a molehill with this line?