by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island Exploration Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
From the side of the hill, which was here steep and stony, a spout of gravel was dislodged and fell rattling and bounding through the trees. My eyes turned instinctively in that direction, and I saw a figure leap with great rapidity behind the trunk of a pine. What it was, whether bear or man or monkey, I could in no wise tell. It seemed dark and shaggy; more I knew not. But the terror of this new apparition brought me to a stand. (15.1)
As we soon find out, this figure is neither bear nor monkey, but Ben Gunn. Here Stevenson is recreating the first-contact scene popular in earlier sea-voyage stories like Robinson Crusoe: Jim is meeting what might be a Native American, and he's terrified by the prospect. But of course, it's not actually a new kind of person at all: it's yet another pirate, the pathetic, marooned Ben Gunn.
"Doctor, I'm no coward; no, not I--not so much!" and he snapped his fingers. "If I was I wouldn't say it. But I'll own up fairly, I've the shakes upon me for the gallows. You're a good man and a true; I never seen a better man! And you'll not forget what I done good, not any more than you'll forget the bad, I know. And I step aside--see here--and leave you and Jim alone. And you'll put that down for me too, for it's a long stretch, is that!" (30.37)
Long John Silver doesn't fear any kind of battle, nor does he fear his fellow men. But he's afraid of exploring that final horizon, death – specifically death at the hands of the law. Does this suggest some kind of fear of religious judgment? We can't be sure, but we have some thoughts on the subject in our "Character Analysis" of the pirate crew.
And thereupon we all entered the cave. It was a large, airy place, with a little spring and a pool of clear water, overhung with ferns. The floor was sand. Before a big fire lay Captain Smollett; and in a far corner, only duskily flickered over by the blaze, I beheld great heaps of coin and quadrilaterals built of bars of gold. That was Flint's treasure that we had come so far to seek and that had cost already the lives of seventeen men from the Hispaniola. How many it had cost in the amassing, what blood and sorrow, what good ships scuttled on the deep, what brave men walking the plank blindfold, what shot of cannon, what shame and lies and cruelty, perhaps no man alive could tell. Yet there were still three upon that island--Silver, and old Morgan, and Ben Gunn--who had each taken his share in these crimes, as each had hoped in vain to share in the reward. (33.40)
Robert Louis Stevenson died on the island of Samoa at the age of 44 ( You can visit his grave and museum there). He had a longtime passion for the South Seas and made his home there as an adult, but he was also a socially conscious guy. Jim's meditation on the enormous cost of the treasure Captain Flint has hoarded presents the unromantic, dark side of exploration and acquisition of wealth. "Exploration," in many cases, was synonymous with violence and exploitation.