Treasure Island was first published serially in a children’s magazine, Young Folks, between 1881 and 1882. It was titled, “Treasure Island, or the Spanish Mutiny.” The story was written under the pseudonym, Captain George North. Then it was published in book form in 1883 and is by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Summary and Synopsis
An old sailor named Billy Bones comes to stay at the rural Admiral Benbow Inn on the west coast of England. He tells the innkeeper’s son Jim Hawkins to be on the lookout for “a one-legged sailor.”
He then encounters a former shipmate, Black Dog, confronts Bones and they engage in a violent fight. After Black Dog is expelled, a blind beggar named Pew visits the sailor to give Bones “the black spot,” a citation to share a map that leads to the buried treasure.
Soon after, Bones suffers a stroke and dies. Pew and his accomplices attack the inn, but Jim and his mother are saved while they take Bones’ sea chest. Inside the chest, they find a map of an island where the infamous pirate Captain Flint hid his treasure.
Jim shows the map to the local doctor, Dr. Livesey, and District Squire John Trelawney, who decide to make an expedition to the island, with Jim serving as a cabin crew. They set sail on the Trelawney schooner, Hispaniola, under the command of Captain Smollett. Much of the crew, as revealed later, are pirates who served under the command of Captain Flint.
Most notable of these is the one-legged chef “Long John” Silver. Jim, sitting on an apple box, listens to the conspirators’ plan to mutiny after the treasure is rescued and murder the patrons.
Upon reaching the coast of the island, Jim joins the party they organize on the coast and then begins to explore the island. Meet a sailor named Ben Gunn, who was also a former member of Flint’s crew.
The situation comes to a head after the mutineers arm themselves and Smollett’s men take refuge in an abandoned stockade. During an attack on the stockade, Jim finds his way there and joins the crew. Jim manages to get to Hispaniola and cuts the anchor off the ship, allowing the ship to move along the tide. Jim tackles Hispaniola and meets Israel Hands, who was seriously injured in a dispute with one of his companions.
Hands helps Jim strand the schooner in the North Bay, but then tries to kill Jim with a knife. Jim escapes, climbs into the shrouds of the ship, and shoots his pursuer.
Jim returns to land and returns to the stockade, where he is horrified to find only Silver and the pirates. Silver prevents Jim’s immediate death and tells Jim that when everyone realized the ship was gone, the captain’s party agreed to a treaty by which they renounced the stockade and the map.
In the morning, the doctor arrives to treat the wounded and sick pirates and tells Silver that he will run into trouble when they find the treasure site. After he leaves, Silver and the others come out with the map, taking Jim hostage. They find a skeleton, arms facing the treasure, which puzzles pirates.
Finally, they find the treasure empty. The pirates almost attacked Silver and Jim, forming an ambush full of gunfire. Livesey explains that Gunn had already found the treasure and brought it to his cave. Members of the expedition load much of the treasure onto the ship and set sail.
At his first port in Latin America, where more crews will sign, Silver steals a bag of money and escapes. The rest sail back to Bristol and divide the treasure. Jim says that there is more left on the island, but he will not undertake another trip to recover it.
Genre: Adventure novel
Treasure Island is an adventure novel. While its genre is technically historical fiction because its setting is the 1700s, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote it with the intention of creating a narrative rich in action and suspense. Despite his suggestions about moral ambiguity with the character Long John Silver, Stevenson composed this coming-of-age story for his son.
- Jim Hawkins: Boy of twelve or thirteen, son of innkeeper. Jim is the protagonist and main narrator of the novel.
- Billy Bones: (“the captain”) An old sailor; a pirate.
- Dr. David Livesey: Local Physician and District Magistrate; Livesey is a minor narrator in chapters 16-18.
- Pew: A blind beggar; another pirate.
- Mr. Dance: An income officer, tax collector.
- Squire John Trelawney: A Squire of the Field; a wealthy man who funds the trip to Treasure Island.
- Tom Redruth Trelawney: The Ranger.
- Hunter: Another of Trelawney’s servants.
- Joyce: Servants of Trelawney, apparently he helps take care of his clothes and toiletries.
- Long John Silver: A Bristol Innkeeper; boat cook; another pirate.
- Captain Alexander Smollett: The new captain of Hispaniola, the ship that Trelawney has purchased.
- Mr. Arrow: First Officer of Hispaniola; a drunk.
- Abraham Gray: An honest sailor who is a carpenter in Hispaniola.
- Tom: An honest sailor who defies Silver and is killed by Silver.
- Alan: A third honest sailor who is killed by pirates.
- Job Anderson – Officer in charge of deck crew, anchors, boats, etc. in Hispaniola; a pirate.
- Israel “Hands”: The boatswain (officer in charge of the main ship and who generally acts as helmsman) in Hispaniola; another pirate.
- Tom Morgan, George Merry, O’Brien, Dick (and nine more unnamed crew members): in Hispaniola; They are all pirates and mutineers.
- Ben Gunn: The “island man”, who had been abandoned there three years earlier; A reformed pirate.
While mostly considered an adventure novel, Treasure Island is also an enduring story about coming of age, as Jim navigates life-and-death situations and faces many moral lessons.
One of the things that stands out in this book is that the author introduced numerous concepts that have been widely associated with pirates: one-legged sailors, black sailing ships, treasure maps marked with an “X”, the terrifying stain black and parrots screaming “pieces of eight”.
With its evocative atmosphere, vivid text, and fantastic characters, Treasure Island generated countless knockoffs.