by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The squire and I were both peering over his shoulder as he opened it, for Dr. Livesey had kindly motioned me to come round from the side-table, where I had been eating, to enjoy the sport of the search. On the first page there were only some scraps of writing, such as a man with a pen in his hand might make for idleness or practice. One was the same as the tattoo mark, "Billy Bones his fancy"; then there was "Mr. W. Bones, mate," "No more rum," "Off Palm Key he got itt," and some other snatches, mostly single words and unintelligible. I could not help wondering who it was that had "got itt," and what "itt" was that he got. A knife in his back as like as not. (6.30)
Doctor Livesey is opening the packet of papers that Jim found in Billy Bones's sea chest. They find a few bits of writing that catch Jim's interest and imagination. As Jim speculates about "who it was that had 'got itt,' and what 'itt' was that he got, he is encouraging us to imagine along with him what this could mean. But by putting Billy Bones's spelling of "itt" in quotation marks, Jim is also pointing out the odd and uneducated way Billy Bones expresses himself. Language becomes another way for Stevenson to suggest the wacky, alien world of pirate society for his readers.
Well, sir, I thought I had only found a cook, but it was a crew I had discovered. Between Silver and myself we got together in a few days a company of the toughest old salts imaginable--not pretty to look at, but fellows, by their faces, of the most indomitable spirit. I declare we could fight a frigate. (7.6)
This is an excerpt from Squire Trelawney's letter to Doctor Livesey. Unlike Doctor Livesey's three chapters of first-person narration, which don't seem that different in tone from Jim's, Squire Trelawney really sounds like a different character. His use of language helps characterize him, cluing us in to his misplaced overconfidence. His language is full of emphatic statements like, "I declare we could fight a frigate" (a kind of ship). He says he has found "the toughest old salts imaginable," fellows "of the most indomitable spirit." Well, of course they're tough – they're pirates.
"You see the mounds? I come here and prayed, nows and thens, when I thought maybe a Sunday would be about doo. It weren't quite a chapel, but it seemed more solemn like; and then, says you, Ben Gunn was short-handed--no chapling, nor so much as a Bible and a flag, you says."
So he kept talking as I ran, neither expecting nor receiving any answer. (15.54-5)
As Ben Gunn and Jim travel across the island, Gunn keeps narrating as though he is alone and doesn't expect a response from his audience. He is clearly used to talking to himself, which reminds us that he has been alone for three years. Stevenson is amazingly skilled at using language to suggest character. Here, we definitely get the sense that Ben Gunn has gotten a little weird during his years of solitude.