Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Do you like stories involving pirates and treasure? I sure do. Out of all the old, wonderful classics we have in the world, this one is a great favorite of mine. I don't think it can be beaten. It may be the greatest of all classic literature. For me at least.
I read this when I was a young teenager. At the time, I was just discovering my love for nautical aesthetics. I picked it up with high expectations.
Sometimes, all that I ever want is a good classic story. Nothing too complicated, and no strenuous history for me to spend an hour on before I get to the real story. I wanted a story about pirates and that's just what I got.
Treasure Island is about a young boy named Jim Hawkins. It is also in his perspective of the events, (Though Dr. Livesey takes over for two chapters when the reach the island.) but arguably, many people say the pirate Long John Silver is the true main character of this book. Jim Hawkins is a wonderful narrator though, and this perspective gives us a wonderful insight into his growth as a character. From the very first chapter, we already see he's a hard-working boy helping his parents with the inn they run. His father is sick and his mother is doing everything she can for the family even though Jim still works long hours.
Then, a shady old many carrying a large chest ends up staying for a few nights. He doesn't allow anyone near the chest and doesn't talk much about where he came from. His name is Billy Bones and he nearly drinks himself to death at the inn.
His appearance at the inn brings his old comrades to him. In complete panic, he drops dead of a heart attack, living Jim with the chest containing a treasure map.
The adventure starts when Jim leaves his family's home on a grand treasure hunt. They find a captain and bring together their crew with the seemingly innocent Long John Silver as a simple cook.
One thing I love about this book is the friendship between Jim and Silver. It sparks an amazing conflict into the story as it goes on. Silver, in a popular scene where Jim unknowingly listens in on the conversation in a barrel full of apples, discuss with some of the crew about their plan to take over the ship and maroon the others on the island. Jim Hawkins never considers joining sides with the pirates. He knows where he stands when it comes to acts of wickedness. It's unacceptable, even if his best friend is the head of it all.
Though Silver goes along with the plan, there are times in the story where he nearly risks his skin to protect the boy. This reminds me of another pirate who tends to shift sides.
Just like Pirate of the Caribbean's Captain Jack Sparrow, Long John Silver is obsessed with treasure and even hurts innocent people to get to it. (If anything, some of the people he kills makes him even worse than Jack Sparrow...) Despite his confused sense of morals, Silver is willing to change to the good side if people he cares about are in danger.
Don't just take my word for it though. Let's look at some of these changing scenes where this happens.
As Jim and friends break away from the pirates, they find a stockade in the wilderness. This becomes their only means to protect themselves from the pirates. After a while, Jim ends up running away to release the ship from the hands of the pirates. He does this all by himself!
The ship is under the watch of two pirates who, by the time Jim arrives, are drunk and fighting. Israel Hands kills the other, and soon after brawls with Jim as well.
Jim manages to kill him, but not before the pirate's knife lands in his shoulder. The ship is freed from the flying skull and crossbones and Jim heads back to the stockade.
But he only throws himself into the arms of the pirates.
Some time while he was gone, the pirates took control of the cabin. The pirates awake in an uproar, arguing about what they should do with the boy. When they decide to kill him, Silver speaks up and defends him. He convinces them Jim would be better as a hostage, though he only said that to protect him.
After some disagreement, they decide to do it Silver's way and Dr. Livesey arrives and treats Jim's wound. As it turns out, everyone realized the ship was gone and the pirates made a treaty with the captain. The pirates will take the stockade and map, and Jim's friends will live and take the ship. As he's treating Jim's shoulder, the doctor tells him to bail and run from the pirates. Yet once again, we see Jim's honesty as he says he promised he wouldn't run and he must keep his word.
So Jim goes along with the pirates as they search for treasure...
The map leaves them clues they must figure out, but they eventually make it to where the treasure is buried. Only, there's nothing there. The pirates aim to kill both Silver and Jim, but suddenly, the rest of the crew show up and bind them.
Ben Gunn, a marooned man formally of Captain Flint's crew found the treasure and stored it in a cave. And so, the true captain stows the treasure aboard the ship and take the pirates as prisoners where they will be judged back in Bristol.
Long John Silver makes a break for freedom, taking Jim hostage and taking a boat out to sea. Jim steers the boat to shore right before freedom, staling Silver yet again. Here, we see another touching moment of friendship. Silver threatens to kill Jim, and Jim braces himself as he raises his gun. But he doesn't have the heart to shoot the boy.
The crew is on their way to retrieve Silver, and he struggles to get the boat back in the water. Jim, for the only time in the whole book, goes against his loyalty to his upstanding goodness and helps the pirate escape with a smile on his face. We even see Dr. Livesey wishing Silver well.
Long John Silver is a fantastic character! He's a fearsome pirate, yet he has limits of what he'll do and what he wouldn't. The book and reader cheers for him even though he is often the villain in the story. I love how his grand escape at the end is not a failure, but a victory!
The island is forever under a shroud of mystery. We went to the island, learned its dark secrets of Captain Flint, and discovered the treasure. Yet the book ends with Jim stating there's even more treasure there, but he'll never go back on another voyage there again. The rest of the treasure will remain hidden...
It left me thinking about the ending and how there's still something great to be discovered there. It makes me think back on the adventure as a whole and reminds me of the intense battles and action. This is how a story should end! But I do suppose that's why it's a classic piece of literature in the first place.
A person's favorite story often says a lot about them. I suppose this one just shows how much in love I am with tales of mysterious characters and grand adventures for treasure! What is your favorite classic piece of literature and why?