by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island Duty Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"Is that you, John Silver? What brings you here, man?"
"Come back to my dooty, sir," returned Silver.
"Ah!" said the captain, and that was all he said (33.41-3)
This moment is one of Long John Silver's rare missteps. He knows nobody believes in his humble, friendly act anymore, but he still puts it on. Why does he even bother to tell Captain Smollett that he has "come back to [his] dooty [duty]" in Chapter 33? What duty could Long John Silver mean here?
"Ask your pardon, sir, you would be very wrong," quoth Silver. "You would lose your precious life, and you may lay to that. I'm on your side now, hand and glove; and I shouldn't wish for to see the party weakened, let alone yourself, seeing as I know what I owes you. But these men down there, they couldn't keep their word--no, not supposing they wished to; and what's more, they couldn't believe as you could." (34.12)
Long John Silver is telling Doctor Livesey that to try to treat the sick pirates now would be madness – they would kill him in a second. But perhaps the most tragic thing about Long John Silver's comment is that the pirates "couldn't believe as [Doctor Livesey] could" keep his promise to help. In other words, they are so used to breaking promises that they can't imagine anyone being able to keep them. This is the key problem with the way pirates live in Stevenson's world: because they are violent and untrustworthy, they assume that everyone around them will be that way too, so they can't see or understand goodness anymore. Is Long John Silver any different? Do you see any good in his character?