Study Guide

Treasure Island Analysis

  • Tone

    Suspenseful, Intense

    As our narrator, Jim Hawkins definitely has a flair for the dramatic. He likes to remind us that he's involved in a high-stakes search for treasure. The potential reward is enormous (gold bars) but the risks are equally intense. Take, for example, when Jim ends Chapter 10 with a description of his feelings upon overhearing Long John Silver's mutiny plot:

    It was Silver's voice, and, before I had heard a dozen words, I would not have shown myself for all the world, but lay there, trembling and listening, in the extreme of fear and curiosity; for from these dozen words I understood that the lives of all the honest men aboard depended on me alone. (10.30)

    It's the end of a chapter, and Jim wants us to keep reading, so he doesn't tell us exactly what Long John Silver's "dozen words" that so terrify Jim are. Instead, he focuses on the effect Long John Silver is having on Jim, leaving him "trembling [...] in the extreme of fear and curiosity." This intense description of Jim's fear combines with his deliberate withholding of information until the next chapter to make us intensely curious about what's going to happen next.

    Jim's narration seems to be expressly designed to thrill, chill, and above all interest us in the events of the novel. While Doctor Livesey doesn't seem to have quite Jim's skill, he does keep the suspense going across the three chapters he narrates. For example, at the end of Chapter 18, he suddenly wonders what happened to Jim. Just as he states the question, Jim appears, "safe and sound, [coming] climbing over the stockade" (3.18.41). What has Jim been doing? How has he reached the fort? We have to keep reading to find out.

  • Genre

    Historical Fiction, Adventure, Quest

    Technically, Treasure Island is an example of historical fiction, because it's set in the 1700s, a century before it was published. Still, the "historical" part of this novel's genre is much less important than the fact that it's an adventure. Robert Louis Stevenson conceived of Treasure Island as a plot-rich book for boys, in the tradition of other adventure novelists like James Fenimore Cooper (who wrote The Last of the Mohicans). What's more, Jim's adventure is a quest for treasure, so putting Treasure Island in the quest genre is pretty much a no-brainer.

  • 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.

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    The plot of Treasure Island is pretty gosh-darned simple. It's about treasure and pirates – that's about it. The complicated twists and turns of how Jim deals with the pirates to get the treasure is what fills the book's 34 chapters. Still, that's not to say that Jim's adventures lack deeper meaning. The last chapter of the novel, "At Last," is actually pretty thought provoking.

    There's a serious moral problem in the last chapter. There are still three pirates left alive on the island: Tom Morgan, Dick Johnson (who is sick with fever), and a third nameless fellow. As Jim Hawkins and his buddies (the anti-pirates) load up their ship with treasure, the three pirates start to fall apart. The island's climate isn't healthy and they start getting sick. They're also drunk all the time. As Jim Hawkins and the rest of the good guys (plus Long John Silver, who is...complicated) sail away from the island, they see the three abandoned pirates kneeling on the beach with their arms outstretched, begging to be picked up. But the men on the ship decide to leave them behind. Let's go through the pros and cons on this choice:

    Pros:

    • The pirates are murderers and have proven themselves unreliable and untrustworthy. There aren't many good guys left, so if the three pirates suddenly decided to rise up against Captain Smollett and the others, it could really cause trouble on the trip back to England.
    • Even if the three men were rescued, they would just be going back to a trial and execution in their home country.
    • The good guys do leave the pirates some supplies and ammunition, enough for them to survive on their own on the island.

    Cons:

    • At least one of the pirates (the youngest, Dick Johnson) is seriously sick, and the other two are probably going to get sick. If the good guys abandon the three pirates on the island, aren't they condemning them to a slow, painful death?

    So this is definitely a moral gray area. By presenting us with this pitiful scene, Stevenson is actively drawing our attention to the difficulty of this final decision. Even though the men on the ship decide to leave the pirates behind, Stevenson is acknowledging that their choice is not the only one they could have made – it may not even have been the best choice, ethically speaking.

    Stevenson is pointing out that the pirates are not simply "bad guys"; they are also human beings, frightened of being left alone. And the good guys are not saints; they are practical fellows who decide to do what's best for themselves no matter how ethically problematic it might be. In the end, Treasure Island isn't about abstract concepts of good versus evil; it's about the complexities of human nature. For more on human nature and the end of this book, head of to "Characters" and check out our thoughts on Long John Silver and Ben Gunn.

  • Setting

    The Admiral Benbow Inn, Bristol, The Hispaniola, and Treasure Island

    Treasure Island is supposed to be set in the 18th century, but we don't see any signs of this historical disjunction from the time it was written, except maybe that pirates seem marginally more believable in ye olde days than in the staid, boring 19th century. The key settings of Treasure Island don't truly belong to any particular era: Jim's ordinary life in the Admiral Benbow Inn – and his extraordinary experiences on Treasure Island – feel timeless. The only sense we get of when this novel might be taking place is from references to real men like Admiral Edward Hawke (1705-1781) and Admiral John Benbow (1653-1702), the namesake of Jim's family inn.

    What's much more important to Treasure Island than time is place – which makes sense given that the title of the novel is one of its settings. The different settings of the novel reflect the different stages of its plot development. Obviously, the adventures Jim can have in the Admiral Benbow Inn are very different from those he will encounter on Treasure Island. The Admiral Benbow Inn is a homey space Jim shares with his mother and father. So long as his family life is intact, Jim is sheltered from adventure. Once his family life starts to change, however, adventure comes to find him in the form of Billy Bones, former first mate to pirate Captain Flint.

    Billy Bones is only capable of causing such a ruckus in the Admiral Benbow Inn because Jim's father is dying. The Admiral Benbow Inn is like a symbol of Jim's family life: it's only when Jim's family starts to break down with his father's illness that the inn become vulnerable to ruffians like Billy Bones. And once Jim's father has died and the Inn has been attacked by pirates, Jim's original family life has forever been broken. Even though Squire Trelawney repairs the inn for Jim's mother, Jim's place in it has been lost: his mother hires an assistant, and Jim realizes suddenly:

    I had thought up to that moment of the adventures before me, not at all of the home that I was leaving; and now at the sight of this clumsy stranger, who was to stay here in my place beside my mother, I had my first attack of tears. (7.14)

    So the Admiral Benbow Inn represents family, home, and Jim's origins all at once – and in leaving it, Jim is also symbolically leaving a part of his childhood behind.

    The first stop on Jim's voyage of adventure is the coastal city of Bristol, where he meets a range of people who are different from what he's used to. It's in Bristol that Jim sees Long John Silver's respectable public face as the owner of the "Spy-Glass," a kind of bar/restaurant. Seeing Long John Silver as a business owner and man about town, Jim is all the more likely to trust his gentlemanly exterior.

    By moving from the Admiral Benbow Inn to the schooner ship Hispaniola, Jim is going from established English order to a new, less hierarchical social space that has pirates and gentlemen rubbing shoulders. It's only when Jim is in the less socially rigid space of the Hispaniola that he starts to realize that a brutal, ambitious pirate lies beneath Long John Silver's polite facade.

    Let's consider the names of these settings: Admiral Benbow was a famous naval officer who died protecting English trading rights in the Caribbean. So he is on the side of rigid order and Englishness, where Jim starts out the novel. On the other hand, Hispaniola was Christopher Columbus's original name for the island that's home to today's Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Hispaniola has experienced wave after wave of European colonial fighting. Given multiple cultural influences from Native American, French, Spanish, and African cultures, Hispaniola symbolizes the violent, varied cultural history of the Caribbean. Once Jim leaves England, he is moving away from home and toward a more uncertain new world, symbolized by the name of his ship, the Hispaniola.

    We've covered the Admiral Benbow Inn and the Hispaniola – let's get to the destination everyone in the book is so eager to reach: the island. Captain Flint's chart calls this place Skeleton Island, and Jim calls it Treasure Island. These two names represent the two faces of this adventure: there are huge potential rewards at the end of the adventure (hence "treasure"), but everyone, pirate and gentleman alike, is at constant risk of death (hence "skeleton"). Treasure makes people do crazy things, and all you have to do is look at the death toll on this island to see the proof. More than two-thirds of the sailors aboard the Hispaniola in Chapter 9 aren't alive to sail back to England in Chapter 34.

    One last point about the island and its relation to the novel's plot developments: it's during the characters' time on the island that we get the most alliances and double-crosses among them. Jim slips away to make an allegiance with marooned sailor Ben Gunn, an allegiance Doctor Livesey later joins. Abraham Gray ditches the rest of the crew to join Captain Smollett's party. Long John Silver starts out as the worst mutineer of all, only to find himself striking a deal with Jim Hawkins and Doctor Livesey to save his life once the rest of his pirates turn against him.

    What's really fascinating about these plot twists is that we can find physical signs of the novel's shifting relationships on the island itself. Take the largest hill on the island, Spy-Glass Hill. That name reminds us of Long John Silver's bar back in Bristol (called the Spy-Glass), which suggests that he already knows more than anybody else about the island. But as Long John Silver starts to lose control of his pirate crew, the island's layout itself seems to change: the fort shifts hands from Doctor Livesey and the good guys to Long John Silver and the pirates. Why? Long John Silver has no idea. Even the treasure map stops being a reliable guide, since the pirates trace all its clues faithfully only to find a big hole where gold bars should be. As the situation shifts and changes, Long John Silver's initial, superior knowledge of Treasure Island dwindles, until eventually he's at the mercy of Doctor Livesey and Ben Gunn.

  • What's Up With the Epigraph?

    "To the Hesitating Purchaser"

    If sailor tales to sailor tunes,
    Storm and adventure, heat and cold,
    If schooners, islands, and maroons,
    And buccaneers, and buried gold,
    And all the old romance, retold
    Exactly in the ancient way,
    Can please, as me they pleased of old,
    The wiser youngsters of today:

    -- So be it, and fall on! If not,
    If studious youth no longer crave,
    His ancient appetites forgot,
    Kingston, or Ballantyne the brave,
    Or Cooper of the wood and wave:
    So be it, also! And may I
    And all my pirates share the grave
    Where these and their creations lie!

    In "What's Up With the Title?" we mentioned that the title of a book can be a marketing device to get you to buy it. Well here's another, even more obvious attempt to get the money out of your wallet: Robert Louis Stevenson starts Treasure Island with a poem he wrote himself, "To the Hesitating Purchaser." It's basically an extended ad (though he gets bonus points for putting it in rhyming verse), in which Stevenson tells us the book is a "sailor tale," which, of course, it is. A "schooner" is a kind of ship – to be specific, the kind of ship that our hero, Jim Hawkins, uses to sail to Treasure Island. And "maroon" (in line 3) isn't the color between red and brown; here it means someone stranded on an island, like the Treasure Island character Ben Gunn is. So Stevenson is announcing that this novel is going to be full of exciting stuff you don't see every day – schooners, marooned men, "storm and adventure," and "buried gold."

    In lines 5 and 6, Stevenson offers us "all the old romance, retold/Exactly in the ancient way." In other words, he's promising us a piece of historical fiction – that's the "old romance" part. Stevenson doesn't mean "romance" like a love story, he means "romance" like a fictional tale. Treasure Island was written in the 1880s, but it's supposed to take place in some unspecified year in the 1700s, so it would be historical fiction even to its original readers.

    Still, even though Treasure Island is supposedly set in the past, it's not a deeply researched piece of historical fiction like Stevenson's other famous adventure novel, Kidnapped. Stevenson is trying to make the book seem old-timey so that the pirate part of the plot seems convincing, but he's also inventing a lot of pirate lingo to make characters like Long John Silver and Israel Hands more exotic and entertaining. Sure, he's setting Treasure Island in the past, but it's a past Stevenson is making up himself.

    Lines 12 and 13 of the poem clue us in to other books that have inspired Treasure Island. "Kingston" is William Kingston, a popular writer of adventures on the high seas. "Ballantyne the brave" is Robert Ballantyne, a Scottish writer of kids' books (btw, Stevenson was also Scottish). And "Cooper of the wood and wave" is American novelist James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote a bunch of stories about pioneer life and sea adventures. So Stevenson is pulling an old advertising trick: if you liked Kingston, Ballantyne, or Cooper, you'll love this. We still see this all the time today on book jackets that say things like "Fans of Harry Potter will

    As for line 8 and the "wiser youngsters of today," Stevenson is trying to attract young readers by flattering them a bit. He's pretending that kids today might be too serious for this kind of fiction – for tales of the high seas, pirates, and derring-do. But we all know that pirates never get old (just ask Captain Jack Sparrow!). No matter how serious the world gets, there's always an audience for a good pirate novel. This little performance of "pirates, out of fashion? No way!" explains the second stanza.

    Stevenson ends his epigraph with, "And may I/And all my pirates share the grave/Where these and their creations lie!" (lines 14-16). In other words, if young people today no longer read these kinds of books, then let Stevenson's own work (and his pirates) be forgotten along with the adventure novels he read as a kid. As history has proved, Stevenson didn't have to worry – kids (and adults) today totally still dig pirates, and Treasure Island has been a popular book for 130 years.

  • Tough-o-Meter

    (4) Base Camp

    Treasure Island is an adventure novel. Stevenson spends most of the book crafting cool twists and turns for the plot, and goes light on heavy-duty philosophizing and character development. So it's a really fun book to read: fast-paced and suspenseful. That said, we're still giving it a four on the old tough-o-meter, not because of the content, but because of the book's language.

    Stevenson is deliberately creating his own pirate-y way of speaking, and some of the words he uses (for example Long John Silver's "affy-davy" (20.37) which is pirate talk for affidavit, meaning promise or oath) are tough to figure out. Mix Stevenson's intentionally weird words with difficult sailing jargon, and you've got a bit of a challenging read. What we've realized is that you can enjoy this book without understanding every single thing that Long John Silver is saying. His salty speech is more about creating an effect of pirate-ness than about word-for-word comprehension.

  • Writing Style

    Exotic, Chatty

    Treasure Island is an adventure story. If there's one thing that Indiana Jones, that dude from Avatar, and Jim Hawkins all seem to agree on, it's that if you're looking for adventure, you have to go to unfamiliar places and meet new people. It's hard to have a real adventure in your own kitchen, for example. So Robert Louis Stevenson tries to create a deliberately alien and exotic effect in his descriptions of Treasure Island to make it seem more adventure-y. Whenever Long John Silver, Israel Hands, or even veteran seaman Captain Smollett speaks, their language is so suggestive of high seas life that we can almost taste the salt.

    Take, for example, Long John Silver's dire warning to poor Jim Hawkins in Chapter 28: "Now, look you here, Jim Hawkins [...] you're within half a plank of death, and, what's a long sight worse, of torture" (28.44). His way of speaking is deliberately old-timey ("look you here," instead of "look here," or just "look") and full of pirate-like expressions ("within half a plank of death" is a reference to walking the plank). And the content of the sentence is also pretty terrifying – Long John Silver is basically saying, look, kid, you're about to get murdered, or even worse, tortured. His unusual way of expressing himself makes his threats seem all the more believable and scary. And it's not just Long John Silver – check out Billy Bones or Israel Hands for more amazingly salty language.

    Because the trademark of Treasure Island is this made-up pirate language, it makes sense that Stevenson uses a lot of it. He wants to make the style of Treasure Island distinctive, so there's tons of dialogue in the book. Sure, Jim Hawkins has to narrate his adventures when he's alone (which he is for a fair number of chapters), but whenever there's another pirate on the scene, you can bet he's going to have the chance to speak, especially if that pirate is charismatic Long John Silver. That's why we say this book's style is both exotic and chatty: Stevenson is trying to create a new and compelling vision of pirates and how they talk, so of course he's going to give them as much space to chat with one another and with the good guys as possible. He needs to give us space to get used to the pirates' particular ways of speaking, because after all, it's the pirates that we're reading this novel for in the first place.

  • Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

    The Treasure Map

    The whole idea for Treasure Island started with Robert Louis Stevenson and his girlfriend's son designing an imaginary island together, so it should be no surprise that a map of Treasure Island plays a huge role in this novel. For more on this exciting document, check out "Setting" and "In a Nutshell."

    The Black Spot

    The black spot is probably the one piece of Treasure Island pirate lore that hasn't made it into broader popular culture. It's kind of what it sounds like: a circle of paper that's black on one side and has a message on the other. These are supposed to represent the will of the pirates as a group. When Pew delivers one to Billy Bones, it contains a demand for him to appear before his crewmates at a certain time. And George Merry, Tom Morgan, and Dick Johnson dare to give one to Long John Silver declaring that he is no longer their elected captain (that is, until he shows them he has the treasure map).

    Jim describes Long John Silver's black spot as darkened on one side with ash, with the word "Deposed" written in ash on the reverse. But the ash has rubbed away, leaving the black spot totally unrecognizable. Perhaps this symbolizes the fleeting nature of pirate law: one minute you're in favor and the next you're out.

    The Skeleton Pointer

    In Chapter 31, as the remaining pirates go in search for the treasure under Long John Silver's leadership, they find a neatly laid-out human skeleton. It's too neatly positioned to be natural, so the pirates realize that it's a clue, a pointer toward Captain Flint's treasure. The pirates manage to identify the skeleton as that of a former crewmember, Allardyce. They feel no grief for the man himself, but his skeleton reminds the pirates (and the reader) of just how much violence and human life this treasure has cost. Sure, Captain Flint may have acquired a fortune in gold that his crew is seeking even now to find, but, as the nameless pirate of the final five comments: "Dear heart, but he died bad, did Flint!" (31.33). The skeleton pointer provides an opportunity for the pirates to reflect: is any amount of gold worth this price? (Because they're pirates, they decide that, yes, it sure as heck is, and keep going.)

    Captain Flint (the parrot)

    One of the most enduring images of pirates we have is that they carry parrots. Maybe it's the name: parrot, pirate; pirate, parrot. And maybe it's that parrots symbolize trips to distant climes and strange lands. (You definitely don't find many parrots native to England.) But the real role of this particular parrot, Captain Flint, is to allow Long John Silver to meditate on good and evil.

    Long John Silver isn't just a pirate; he is a pirate-philosopher. He points out that Captain Flint the parrot is completely innocent (after all, it's a parrot; how evil can it be?). Still, she swears a blue streak. The problem with poor Captain Flint is that she's been tainted by her upbringing and associates. It would appear that one of the moral lessons of the novel is that the only way to stay morally pure in this world is to stay out of dangerous situations in the first place. Be that as it may, if we all did our best to avoid any appearance of impropriety, we would never get to go on treasure hunts. So there's a subtle conflict in the novel between what's ethical and what's fun. After all, we're reading Treasure Island precisely because everyone in it is at least a little morally ambiguous. (For more on moral ambiguity in the novel, check out our section, "What's Up With the Ending?")

    Flags

    The Jolly Roger, the pirate flag with a white skull and crossbones on a black background, represents Long John Silver's authority. When Jim takes over the Hispaniola, one of his first acts is to bring down the pirate colors and drop them into the sea. The good guys have a flag, too: the British Union Jack. This flag represents order, discipline, and national pride, so it's no wonder that Captain Smollett (the most dutiful man in the novel) carries not just one, but several Union Jacks with him. For a further consideration of the Union Jack and its symbolic relation to authority, see our thoughts on Captain Smollett under "Characters."

  • Narrator Point of View

    First Person (Central Narrator)

    Jim is both the narrator and the central character of the book, which means that we follow his personal view of events from his encounter with Billy Bones at the Admiral Benbow Inn to his departure from Treasure Island on the Hispaniola. The only exception is Chapters 16 through 18, when Doctor Livesey takes over as narrator to fill us in on events that Jim isn't present to witness. But Doctor Livesey and Jim have surprisingly similar types of observations, so it doesn't feel like a jolt to move from one narrator to another. For more on both Jim and Doctor Livesey as first person narrators, check out "Characters."

    We're just going to add one more note about narrative voice in this book: we keep mentioning that this is an adventure novel. The great thing about a first-person narrator is that it's pretty easy for the reader to identify with an "I" telling a story, because we all think of ourselves as "I." As we read Jim's experiences aboard the Hispaniola and on Treasure Island, the first-person narrator makes it even easier for us to put ourselves in Jim's place and to imagine what we would do if we were facing down Long John Silver.

    • Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

      The Call

      Jim Hawkins doesn't exactly start out in rags, but he's not a wealthy kid. His parents own an inn, but his father passes away in the first chapters of the novel. His mother is clearly concerned about money, or else she would probably be less intent on getting what Billy Bones owes from his sea chest while the sailor's dead body is still lying on the floor. Once a treasure map falls into Jim's hands, how is he supposed to resist the call to riches and adventure beyond his wildest dreams?

      Out Into the World, Initial Success

      When Jim first leaves the Admiral Benbow Inn to travel to Bristol, he is excited (and a little nervous) about his trip. He is really taken with this fellow Long John Silver, who seems so kindly and courageous and strong. What could possibly go wrong on a sea voyage with a guy like Silver looking out for him?

      The Central Crisis

      So all that stuff about Long John Silver being honorable and dedicated to Jim's best interests? Not so much. Jim overhears Long John Silver explaining his plot to wait until the Hispaniola reaches Treasure Island before murdering Jim's friends and making off with Captain Flint's riches. Once Jim realizes that the crew of the Hispaniola is a pirate crew under the leadership of Long John Silver, his treasure hunt becomes a quiet war against the mutineers on board the ship.

      Independence and the Final Ordeals

      Jim's independence is an odd thing: he doesn't seem to be particularly ambitious or anything, but he's incredibly curious. It's Jim's curiosity that drives him away from his friends and toward several key discoveries that help win the battle against the pirates. The first time Jim wanders away, he slips ashore with the first group of pirates. It's on this trip that Jim finds Ben Gunn, the marooned sailor who makes a pact with Doctor Livesey and helps defeat the pirates. On Jim's second trip away, he leaves the fort just after their first battle and winds up taking control of the Hispaniola, beaching it on the north end of the island and becoming Long John Silver's hostage. Jim's willingness to take matters into his own hands winds up saving Doctor Livesey, Squire Trelawney, and Captain Smollett from death at the hands of the pirates.

      Final Completion and Fulfillment

      In a rags-to-riches story, the obvious conclusion is when the main character finds his riches. Obviously, Jim does get a portion of the treasure buried on Treasure Island – if he didn't, this book would be a heck of a lot less satisfying. Once Doctor Livesey comes to rescue Jim and Long John Silver from the remaining pirates in Chapter 33, it turns out that poor, lowly Ben Gunn is the one who first discovered the treasure. And Ben is willing to give the treasure over to Doctor Livesey in exchange for passage off the island and a thousand pounds. So Ben gets his reward, and Doctor Livesey, Squire Trelawney, Abraham Gray, and Jim all take their shares of the treasure.

    • Plot Analysis

      Initial Situation

      Jim Hawkins joins Squire Trelawney and Doctor Livesey in the coastal town of Bristol to prepare for their treasure hunt.

      Explanation/Discussion:
      Because this novel has a lot of plot, the set-up requires a fair amount of time. And by "a fair amount of time," we mean about nine chapters. First Jim has to encounter Billy Bones, take the treasure map over Billy's dead body, and pass it along to Doctor Livesey and Squire Trelawney. Then the novel has to get Jim Hawkins in the same city as Doctor Livesey and Squire Trelawney – and his future frenemy, Long John Silver – to prepare for their voyage to Treasure Island. At this initial stage, Jim is completely taken in by Long John Silver's style and appearance of kindliness.

      Conflict

      Captain Smollett warns Squire Trelawney that something is wrong with the crew.

      Explanation/Discussion:
      Before the Hispaniola leaves Bristol Harbor, Captain Smollett tells Squire Trelawney that something fishy is going on. The captain is an experienced man, and he can see that the crew Squire Trelawney has hired (with Long John Silver's help) is undisciplined and spoiled. Of course, Squire Trelawney doesn't listen to him (and Jim also thinks Captain Smollett is worrying over nothing), but we readers start to suspect that there is something wrong on board the Hispaniola.

      Complication

      Jim overhears Long John Silver explaining his evil plan to Dick Johnson and Israel Hands.

      Explanation/Discussion:
      Up until Chapter 11, we've gotten hints and signs that something piratical is happening on board the Hispaniola: in addition to Captain Smollett's stated suspicions, we also know that Squire Trelawney has blabbed their plans all over town, against Doctor Livesey's express advice. And they are following a dead pirate's map, so that right there is risky. But the plot really starts to thicken when Jim happens to fall asleep in an apple barrel on deck. There he wakes up to overhear Long John Silver's recruitment speech to Dick Johnson. Long John Silver also explains his long-term plan to wait until they reach Treasure Island, murder all the non-pirates, then take the gold for themselves. So now we know that Long John Silver and the crew are pirates, but the crew don't know that their secret is out.

      Climax

      Squire Trelawney and Captain Smollett ambush Israel Hands and five other sailors on board the Hispaniola; open war breaks out against the pirates.

      Explanation/Discussion:
      Once the Hispaniola arrives at Treasure Island, the uneasy truce between the pirates and the good guys seems set to fall apart. The good guys know that the pirates will make their move any minute, so they decide to get the drop on them. In Chapter 16, Captain Smollett gives two-thirds of the crew shore leave, and they head off happily. Then Captain Smollett and Squire Trelawney ambush the remaining sailors aboard the ship and lock them up. Meanwhile, Doctor Livesey goes to the island and identifies an abandoned fort with a spring of fresh water where the good guys can make their stand against the pirates. So the good guys bring their supplies from the Hispaniola to the fort; once they make their move, it's open war between the pirates and the good guys.

      Suspense

      Jim goes off to steal the Hispaniola from the pirates while Doctor Livesey and the rest remain on the island to deal directly with Long John Silver.

      Explanation/Discussion:
      We now know that the main conflict of the novel is going to be between the pirates and the good guys over the treasure. Now that it's come to open struggle between the two groups, we're just waiting to see how everything is going to be resolved. By stealing the Hispaniola from the pirates, Jim breaks their morale, causing strife within the pirate group between Long John Silver and the men he's trying to lead. When Jim accidentally becomes a pirate hostage, he finds out about this struggle and he and Long John Silver form a fragile agreement to help one another get out of this mess alive. Meanwhile, Doctor Livesey has made an agreement with the marooned man, Ben Gunn, who leads Doctor Livesey to Captain Flint's treasure. Once Doctor Livesey knows where the treasure is, he can afford to hand over the treasure map to Long John Silver, since it's not going to do Silver any good. So over the course of the ten chapters, from 22 to 33 or so, we see the twists and turns that bring Long John Silver, Jim Hawkins, and even Doctor Livesey into an alliance.

      Denouement

      Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver find the empty treasure pit; Doctor Livesey and his men arrive to save the day.

      Explanation/Discussion:
      In Chapter 33 everything comes to a head: Long John Silver leads his remaining pirate crew to the place on the map where the treasure has been buried, only to discover that it has already been dug up. Just as it looks like the pirates are going to kill both Long John Silver and his hostage Jim, Doctor Livesey arrives with Ben Gunn and a loyal sailor, Abraham Gray. They ambush the pirates and drive them into the forest. Doctor Livesey explains that it was Ben Gunn who found the treasure two months before, so Long John Silver's map has been useless all along. Now that the good guys have control of both the ship and the treasure, the pirates have no choice but to run away empty-handed.

      Conclusion

      The Hispaniola leaves Treasure Island.

      Explanation/Discussion:
      All that's left at this stage is the mopping up: the good guys decide to maroon the three remaining pirates on Treasure Island with some supplies and ammunition. As they're returning to England, Long John Silver manages to slip away when they're at port. We don't know exactly what happens to him, but he's clever enough to look after himself. Ben Gunn gets the thousand pounds Doctor Livesey promised, which he spends in under three weeks. The rest of the good guys get their fair share of the treasure. So everyone lives happily ever after, though Jim still finds himself haunted by nightmares of his terrible adventures on Treasure Island.

    • Three-Act Plot Analysis

      Act I

      Jim Hawkins is a boy working at his parents' inn when a drunken old sailor comes to stay. This sailor, Billy Bones, has a treasure map leading to the buried hoard of fearsome pirate Captain Flint. Once Jim finds the map in Billy's sea chest, he brings it to the local judge, Doctor Livesey. Doctor Livesey and his friend, Squire Trelawney, hatch a scheme to go on a treasure hunt. The three set out from Bristol on the Hispaniola with a crew largely hired by helpful, gentlemanly sea-cook Long John Silver. Of course, this crew is a crew of pirates who just want to use the Hispaniola to get them to Captain Flint's island. But Jim and his friends don't know that – at least not at first.

      Act II

      The second act is the part of the story where everything seems as far as possible from a conclusion. When Jim overhears Long John Silver's plans to mutiny once the Hispaniola arrives at Treasure Island, he runs and tells Doctor Livesey, Captain Smollett, and Squire Trelawney. At this point, the good guys are outnumbered. Once they reach Treasure Island, through a series of ambushes and surprise attacks, the good guys manage to whittle the number of pirates down to a handful by the time Jim becomes a pirate hostage. Now the pirates' numbers are low, they are struggling among themselves, and the good guys have taken control of the Hispaniola. But we still don't know where the treasure is, the key point of conflict for both sides.

      Act III

      This is the moment when everything gets solved. In Chapters 33 and 34 we finally discover what has happened to Captain Flint's gold. As long as the pirates can keep hoping for treasure, all of their problems (sickness, losing the Hispaniola, and failing confidence in their elected captain, Long John Silver) seem manageable. But once Tom Morgan, George Merry, and Dick Johnson find that the treasure has already been dug up, they totally lose control. They rush to attack Long John Silver without realizing that the good guys – Doctor Livesey, Abraham Gray, and Ben Gunn – have been following them on their trek across the island. Just at this moment, Doctor Livesey and the rest come out of the forest, attack the remaining pirates, and rescue Jim and his unusual ally, Long John Silver. The remaining pirates flee and the good guys get away from the island with a fortune in gold bars.