Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

This novel is probably one of the most influential novels in British history. Treasure Island responsible for our modern view of piracy; X marks the spot, the talking parrot, one legged men, and much more. I have seen a film adaption, as well as the Muppets Treasure Island, and I think had the book read to me by my parents, but I have not read the book myself. It was the perfect book to read after the intensity of the previous book I read, its an easy read, yet entertaining and intriguing.

Treasure Island is split into six parts, most of which are narrated by the main protagonist, Jim Hawkins. It tells Jim’s story as he gets embroiled in a pirate plot. We meet Jim at his parents inn, somewhere in the South-West of England, an area renowned for its involvement with piracy. Jim’s father is seriously ill, and a mysterious man, known as the captain but named Billy Bones, takes a room at the inn; he starts paying Jim to keep an eye out for another man, a one-legged ‘seafaring man’. As the story develops Jim gets more involved with Bones and eventually learns some of his secrets. After his father dies Jim becomes more interested in Bones, however after receiving a visitor the captain has his second stroke and dies, but not before revealing all the secrets of his seaman’s chest.

Opening Bones’ chest results in further adventures for Jim; along with the doctor who cared for his father, Dr Livesey, and the district squire, Trelawny, Jim sets off to search for the captains treasure. In Bristol they recruit a crew to sail for the Caribbean, including a number of dodgy characters. They recruit a captain, Captain Smollett, who does not trust many of the crew, yet still agrees to sail with them anyway. The main concern for their captain is the ship’s cook, Long John Silver, he appears to be an honest man but is a name that I think most people will now associate with piracy. As their voyage progresses the honest men on board the ship start to discover things about their crew, most of which concerns them. Eventually they realise that most of the crew has heard that they are on a voyage to find the treasure of a deceased pirate named Captain Flint, the map for which was hidden in Bonestatic1.squarespace.coms’ chest. I will not give away too much of the plot so you can read this yourselves, but there are a number of twists and turns as the novel progresses.

Jim is certainly the hero of this novel, however each of the characters are well-rounded and have a purpose; the Doctor is the moral and rational person on the ship, Jim is definitely the risk-taking youth, Smollett is the most skeptical of others, and Silver is deceitful, cunning but strangely caring about Jim. These characters really make the story, without each of their individual characteristics Stevenson’s story would not be as exciting as it is.

Throughout the novel Stevenson introduces stereotypes of pirates, each of which has become the norm for modern views of 18th century pirates. I don’t think Pirates of the Caribbean, International Speak Like a Pirate Day, Black Sails, or many Halloween costumes would exist if not for this novel. Its influence is vast, and I think it deserves it as its a very enjoyable read. Treasure Island is a classic novel and it really deserves to be read by as many people as possible, it may well be the slightly scary novel that you read to your kids one day.

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