Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island

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Treasure Island Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 50-page guide for “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 34 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Loyalty Versus Mutiny and Greed as Vice.

Treasure Island is an adventure novel for young adults written by Robert Louis Stevenson, which was serialized in 1881 and 1882 and published in 1883. It is frequently dramatized in plays, television, and film, and has had an enormous influence on popular culture, particularly on public perceptions of pirate and sea-faring life. It is considered a coming-of-age tale and belongs to a genre of sea novels popular in the 19th century.

Plot Summary

Treasure Island is told primarily from the point of view of Jim Hawkins, the 17-year-old son of an innkeeper in a small coastal town in England. An old sea captain visits Jim’s family’s inn one day. He takes up residence for some months before passing away and leaving behind a chest containing a treasure map. Jim takes the map to the local doctor and squire, and together they plan to go to sea to find the deceased captain’s buried treasure.

They outfit a ship with a crew and supplies and set sail. Once at sea, however, Jim learns that the hired crew has plans to win the treasure for themselves and are willing to kill whoever necessary in order to do so. This sets the stage for the ship’s landing at Treasure Island, where a battle ensues between the pirates (also referred to as “mutineers” and “buccaneers”) and the men loyal to the ship’s original captain, Captain Smollett.

The novel is divided into six parts of roughly six chapters each. In Part 1, Jim describes the behavior of the old sea captain who visits the inn and the dangers he faced in securing the treasure map from the sea captain’s chest. In Part 2, Jim goes to Bristol and sets sail. It is here that Jim first meets Long John Silver, who ultimately proves to be the dangerous and violent leader of the pirates, as well as Captain Smollett, the rightful captain of the ship.

The ship anchors at Treasure Island in Part 3, and the battle between the pirates and the captain’s men begins. Jim goes ashore alone, witnesses John Silver murdering an honest hand, and encounters a marooned man named Ben Gunn. In Part 4, the captain defends himself against the advances of pirates onboard the anchored ship, and the doctor ferries supplies back and forth to a stockade, a fenced-in and protected log cabin in a clearing on the island. After an attempt at bargaining fails, the pirates attack the stockade, but most of the captain’s men survive.

In Part 5, Jim escapes from the stockade, finds Ben Gunn’s boat on the beach, and commandeers the ship. Onboard he finds an injured pirate, who helps Jim steer the ship to the north of the island before attacking him with a knife. Jim survives the pirate’s attack and safely anchors the ship once more, but shortly after he returns to the stockade, which has been taken over by the pirates.

In Part 6, Jim joins the pirates, led by John Silver, on a hunt for the treasure. They find the supposed treasure site empty, however, and are attacked by the captain’s men. Jim rejoins the honest men, and together they load the treasure, which had been stored in a cave by Ben Gunn, onto the ship. They safely sail home with John Silver, who escapes at a port along the way.

The novel is told in a straightforward, linear fashion, with a series of chapters narrated by the doctor—instead of Jim—in Part 4. The author focuses primarily on action, events, landscape, and dialogue, and often incorporates nautical terms and slang, all of which contribute to the work’s sense of play and adventure.

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