Allison's Book Bag

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Posted on: November 21, 2010

Ready for an adventure story? I certainly haven’t read one in awhile. How about a story filled with sea adventures, pirates, and treasures? I liked Pirates of the Caribbean, but that was a movie, and now I’m ready for a book with similar fare. Rediscover the old classic Treasure Island written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1880 for his son. In Treasure Island, young Jim Hawkins is “full of sea dreams and the most charming anticipation of strange islands and adventures”. Jim spends hours pouring over a treasure map, never once imagining how strange and tragic his adventures would actually be. Yet they are. For they are filled with murders and betrayals.

Perhaps Jim should have anticipated how “dark and bloody” the sojourn on Treasure Island would be. After all, in the several months prior to his journey, he witnesses two threats and two deaths in connection with the treasure. An old seaman named Bill takes up lodging at the family inn and pays them from his chest with a few pieces of gold. One January morning, a pale and tallowy creature named Black Dog visits the old seaman to chat. A battle ensures and Black Dog flees, but only after injuring Bill’s shoulder. Not long after, Bill is threatened by a second seafaring visitor. This blind man by the name of Pew inflicts Bill with the Black Spot and apparently tells him he will return at ten o’clock. Bill doesn’t live that long, but Pew returns with seven or eight enemies to raid Bill’s possessions. Upon discovering that the family has fled, taking Bill’s treasure map and some of his gold (as recompense for unpaid bills), Pew and his men head out in search of them. They encounter several riders on horseback, and attempt to flee, but Pew accidentally dashes under the nearest oncoming horse. Pew falls, collapses on his face, and moves no more.

Treasure Island_0207

Image by PTMoore via Flickr

If you haven’t already figured out yet from the previous paragraph, the book Treasure Island is filled with a dizzying array of characters. There is Bill, our old seaman with a treasure map, whose coat is soiled, hands are ragged and scarred, nails are broken and black, voice is tottering, and who fears other seafarers for good reason. There is Black Dog, the pale tallowy creature, who lacks two fingers on his left hand, wears a cutlass, smacks of the sea, and both fawns and sneers. There is Captain Flint, the blind man, who has a horrible soft voice, grip like a vice, and swears. These are some of the bad guys. Then there is Dr. Livesey, who is neat and bright with black eyes and pleasant ways. And there is Squire Trelawney, who is tall and broad, has a rough face, and black brows. These are some of the good guys. There are also Jim’s parents, the sea crew, the marooned Ben Gunn, and perhaps the most famous characters of the book: our hero Jim Hawkins and the ship’s cook Long John Silver. Yet as you can see from my brief descriptions, Stevenson made all of his characters come alive.

One more thing about the book riveted me: the atmosphere. Jim and his mother are searching Bill’s room after he dies for his money, when a sudden noise startles them. Captain Flint will return at ten o’clock. It is only six. They search Bill and find around his neck the key to his chest. They are counting our their dues when they hear “in the silent frosty air … the tap-tapping of the blind man’s stick upon the frozen road”. It strikes sharp on the inn’s door. The handle is turned. The bolt is rattled. The blind man leaves. Jim and his mother retreat. Not long after, they hear the sound of several footsteps running, see a light tossing to and fro….

As a young person, Treasure Island is one of the few books on my shelf that somehow I resisted reading each time I picked up a new book. My dad recently picked it as his choice for our family book reading. Now I finally know why the book is considered the classic adventure story!

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate it?

3 Responses to "Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson"

I agree with you that Treasure Island deserves to be considered a classic adventure story. However it is more than just an adventure story. It is the story of a boy growing up, Jim’s experiences before and during the search for the treasure and the influences on him of the other major characters in the book propelling him from being a child to being a man. As well the mix of good and bad in the book’s villain, Long John Silver, reminds readers that there is some good and some bad in everybody. And the final success of Jim and his friends reassures readers that good will eventually triumph over evil. But, as you’ve brought out in your review, what makes this pirate story written in the 1880’s still popular today is that from beginning to end it is full of adventure.

My favorite novels are those which are about more than just their genre.

Half finished reading it. Very interesting! 😀

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