Study Guide

Treasure Island Drugs and Alcohol

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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Drugs and Alcohol

The word "rum" is used over 70 times in Treasure Island. The only fun thing the pirates ever do together is drink. This reliance on alcohol also proves to be their undoing. Because they are all stone drunk their first night on the island, no one notices when Ben Gunn sneaks up and kills one of them. And who wants to imitate both Billy Bones and Israel Hands, so desperate for a shot of hard liquor after their injuries that they will promise Jim anything to get it? Rum becomes another means of symbolizing the moral weakness and lack of discipline among the pirates.

Questions About Drugs and Alcohol

  1. Why are the pirate characters so particularly given to drinking too much? What does this overindulgence say about the character of pirates?
  2. Which other characters in the novel are chronic alcoholics? What purpose does it serve to the plot to give them this affliction?
  3. What critique of alcohol does Long John Silver offer? How do Long John Silver's views differ from those of the other pirates?

Chew on This

Long John Silver differs from the other pirates in that he recognizes that drinking too much rum wastes money. His views on alcohol become another tool of characterization to show his unusual discipline and restraint.

Alcohol is the root of all of the pirates' problems in defending their territory and organizing attacks on Captain Smollett and the rest of the ship's leadership.

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