by Robert Louis Stevenson
Analysis: What's Up With the Title?
We have a question for you: do you like treasure? And do you like islands? Yes to both, right? We think Robert Louis Stevenson was banking on the popularity of both when he called his first novel Treasure Island. After all, the man's trying to make a living as a writer, and the title is one way of marketing a book to his audience.
The "treasure" part of the title suggests fabulous wealth (and the terrible things that people will do to get it), and the "island" part implies travel and exploration. Put the two together and it sounds like a recipe for an adventure novel with high stakes, lots of risk, and tons of strange and exotic locations – all of which Treasure Island is.
As you start reading the book, you'll notice that the island of the title, the one where the dread pirate Captain Flint buried his treasure, is actually called "Skeleton Island." But Jim Hawkins, the main character, takes to calling it Treasure Island. And if you think about it, that switch of names – from Skeleton to Treasure Island – really underlines the way this title inspires the imagination. After all, would you be eager to rush off to an island called "Skeleton Island"? The name sounds threatening and it doesn't really invite visitors. But "Treasure Island," that's a whole different ballgame: who wouldn't want to go to an island full of treasure? Robert Louis Stevenson is trying to attract a particular adventure-loving audience to this book, and the exciting title is the first tool he uses to grab our attention.