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The most popular pirate story ever written in English, featuring one of literature’s most beloved “bad guys,” Treasure Island has been happily devoured by several generations of boys—and girls—and grownups. Its unforgettable characters include: young Jim Hawkins, who finds himself owner of a map to Treasure Island, where the fabled pirate booty is buried; honest Captain Smollett, heroic Dr. Livesey, and the good-hearted but obtuse Squire Trelawney, who help Jim on his quest for the treasure; the frightening Blind Pew, double-dealing Israel Hands, and seemingly mad Ben Gunn, buccaneers of varying shades of menace; and, of course, garrulous, affable, ambiguous Long John Silver, who is one moment a friendly, laughing, one-legged sea-cook . . .and the next a dangerous pirate leader!
The unexpected and complex relationship that develops between Silver and Jim helps transform what seems at first to be a simple, rip-roaring adventure story into a deeply moving study of a boy’s growth into manhood, as he learns hard lessons about friendship, loyalty, courage and honor—and the uncertain meaning of good and evil.
Angus Fletcher is Distinguished Professor Emeritus, City University of New York, and is the author of Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode, Colors of the Mind, and A New Theory for American Poetry, among other books.
If we go back to the origins of adventure story fiction, we discover that the heroic quest remains its principal myth. Quest-romances take many different forms, whether it be the search for the Holy Grail in Arthurian legend, for the Golden Fleece (as in the Argonautica, the ancient epic of Jason and the Argonauts), for the safe return home after perilous Homeric wanderings, as in the Odyssey, or for a wide range of ends both material and spiritual. What is important is that, once established in classic form, the great adventure stories render all readers, of any age, essentially children at heart. The quest gives us our dream of success, and when we tire of daily labor in making a living, it returns us to that time of the dream. Thus for Treasure Island the questing dream comes out of a long preceding history. Besides two early travel books based on journeys in France, Stevenson told stories in homage to the Near Eastern tradition of loosely woven adventures: his New Arabian Nights (1882), in which the exotic nature of travel to distant lands is imagined as occurring in stories set in Europe. This art of romance thrives on the incredible voyage, the sailor’s yarn (in his day perhaps more fashionable than any other type), the tall frontier tale, including exotic or utopian settings that could never actually exist, because romance demands almost complete power to overcome all human obstacles. The mode of romance therefore demands freedom to imagine. Yet the tradition seems to mix realism on some level with such unreal situations for the hero. In Robinson Crusoe (1719) Daniel Defoe mingles fact and fiction liberally. The same mixture appears in Arthurian lore, while with the rise of the modern middle classes a new kind of romance arises around the quest for material success.
By Stevenson’s time Protestant beliefs and secular technology had long since fueled the rise of capitalism. Robinson Crusoe, while it inaugurated the realistic tradition of the novel in England, makes a continuous critical commentary on mercantile capitalism and its value system, especially as they derive aid and comfort from Protestant Christianity. Crusoe, whose name plays on the name of Christ, is in effect a marooned capitalist, who must rebuild his fortune, by returning his commercial skills to their most primitive beginnings. In this process Crusoe learns who he actually is. Such a quest is tied to the science of counting up supplies, enemies, distances, and even dreams, all of which become the very stuff of realistic modern fiction. Typically the castaway begins his lonely sojourn by surveying what is left to him from the ruins of shipwreck—that is, making the inventory of tools available beyond mere life itself. To be sure, virtually all the major novelists comment, directly or allusively, on the nature and sources of wealth, often indicating how these derive from imperial expansion. Scholars have found these middle-class indicators in what might seem the strangest places—for example, the novels of Jane Austen. Character and commerce seem not so secretly linked. Yet how could it be otherwise, since the bourgeois novel attempts an accounting of life? At the end of the nineteenth century, Henry James claimed for the novel that its function was to provide genuine “criticism” of the way we live, to provide a kind of narrative philosophy, storytelling endowed with serious levels of meaning, suggesting profound and often obscure themes. Stevenson’s essay “A Humble Remonstrance” (1884; see, in “For Further Reading,” The Lantern-Bearers and Other Essays) countered James’s critical principle by favoring romance. There is no way, the essay claimed, for the novel to “compete with life.” Instead the novel should maintain its exhilarating imaginative independence from the crude facts of existence, drawing upon those facts solely as a resource for delineating passion. (The saame article faults the distinguished American novelist and editor William Dean Howells for a similar dependency upon the new naturalistic style.) Stevenson wanted to keep the idea of treasure somehow pure. With Henry James, whom Stevenson so much admired and who became his valued correspondent, the idea of a treasure sought by adventurous quest took on an ironic aspect. James’s critical gaze, enhanced by his own obsession with wealth, led him to analyze the typical methods of acquiring it, such as real estate speculation in the value of houses or New Englanders piling up industrial wealth or European princes marrying American money. In these late novels and stories James’s critical conceptions collide with material obsessions, and the results are often obscure, even uncanny, as in The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, and The Golden Bowl.
By the author’s own account “the seed” of his novel came from the idea of a treasure chest he found in another adventure story, Charles Kingsley’s At Last (1871). As a goal of acquisitive good luck and daring, treasure in general provides the motive, indirectly or directly (consider Rider Haggard’s immensely popular novel King Solomon’s Mines) for all sorts of adventures. The nineteenth century saw a new world of yearning popular literature, much like Hollywood movies and television shows today. Sentimental romances, “penny dreadfuls,” and “shilling shockers” enthralled large masses of readers. The fossilized popular novels of this earlier date now sit moldering on the storage shelves of pre-electronic libraries, their desiccated pages exuding a dismal smell. Once great in number and acclaim among the young, they saved many a tedious day from misery. The adventure novels of G. A. Henty (1832–1902) appeared in more than 150 volumes. In twentieth-century Britain, Henty was displaced by the more up-to-date Percy Westerman (1876–1959; at school youngsters called him “Percy Piffler,” to show they knew their author), who wrote more than 100 such books. In the United States, to match such prolific output one would look to the 135 “dime novels” of Horatio Alger (1832–1899), again showing how the market of books for the young continued and still continues to put a premium on production. This literature multiplies mainly because it lacks any serious, thought-provoking realism about the hazards of either romance or adventure. The book cannot be read fast enough! Sentimental romances and the adventure stories are of course the same commodity, masked by gender difference. If the novel is to work, it must on some level achieve an illusion of escape, and also of achieving a goal at the same time.
Posted September 16, 2009
This is one of my favorite adventure stories, for anybody who enjoys action, adventure, and thrill, they should definitely buy this book. This book was so excellent I had to pass it on to somebody else so they could enjoy it just as well.
I highly recommend it!
16 out of 18 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Jim, the protagonist, is just a boy, that works at the Admiral Benbox Inn, but he can see that Billy Bones is a nervous man, always alert and watching for stangers arriving at the inn. And he has the right to be nervous, because he possesses a map drawn by Capitan Flint, the most feared pirate to ever roam the high seas. <BR/>Well, Flint died, but there's plenty of men who served with Capitan Flint still alive who feel they deserve a fair share of the treasure. The map, though, ends up with Jim Hawkins. (it's a near thing, read the book to find out how that happens). Jim confides in the local doctor and squire, who work together to acquire a ship, a crew, and provisions to sail for Treasure Island. There is a weak link though, because although Squire Trelawney is well-intentioned, he has a big mouth. By the time the Hispaniola is ready for sea, she is boarded by the old murderous mob who sailed with Flint! <BR/>There's a scene in the book where Jim, hiding in a barrel on deck, discovers that mutiny is planned. The numbers suggest that the pirates are going to take over the ship and make this journey their own, taking all the treasure for themselves. There are nineteen mutineers and seven honest men, including Jim, aboard the ship. <BR/>And now....this book will have you pining to see what happens next. This is a fantastic story of double-crossing and deceit, bravery and cowardice. I don't know how things would have turned out if Jim hadn't been involved. For it is he who finds Ben Gunn, marooned on the island, half-mad with isolation. And it is Jim who single-handedly steals the Hispaniola from under the very noses of the pirates and sails her round the island to a secret beaching place. <BR/>And do you know what happens to Long John Silver, the greatest double-crosser of them all? A true classic my dad read to me when I was young.
10 out of 16 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 11, 2009
I felt this was a rather good book that seemed to really start the pirate tales that have gone through to the Pirate of the Caribbean movies. I thought that the intro was also good and did explain where Stevenson got his ideas for the book, and much better than the intro for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which I felt gave the ending away too early. I was hoping the book would be a bit more exciting, but there was enough action throughout. I have read better books, but I have also read worse, so that is why I gave this book 4 stars.
8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2012
The Treasure Island is a fascinating read. It has such original characters that has been reinvented throughout the decades. Anyone who likes sea voyage, pirate stories will love the beginnings of such stories in Stevenson's cleverly portrayed novel.
The characters are fun and interesting, the plot is actionful there is always another secret to solve in the story.
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 1, 2013
The novel is, of course, a classic adventure story. Unfortunately, this edition is poorly done. Among other flaws, it lacks an illustration of the treasure map, which is critical to the story. Instead of traditional quotation marks, it uses some odd invention that is distracting.
I took the book to my local B & N store, where the clerk agreed with my negative assessment of this edition and where I quickly found an excellent version of the book. I bought it and gave it to my grandchildren, as was planned. The story's book was actually less expensive, too, so this all ended happily.
But ditch the edition I ordered online. It is substandard.
5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 18, 2013
Not An Ordinary Treasure Hunt
By Robert Louis Stevenson
304 pgs. $4.45. (Young Adult; ages 13 and up)
“Reading” is usually something a teenager doesn’t want to hear. But when you read Treasure Island, your mind goes off into to a great land where it is just you and the book. Robert Louis Stevenson created a fiction novel that makes you think. It makes you want to know what is going to happen next. You are more focused on finding the treasure in this book. What starts off a little slow turns into a great adventure on which you will embark with the protagonist named Jim.
Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scottish author, wrote “Treasure Island” in 1884. Even though this book has some age on it doesn’t mean it is not good. “Treasure Island” is a classic for many reasons. “Treasure Island” is a book that will take you on an adventure that you will never forget. It starts off with a young boy named Jim. Jim and his parents own a Inn near the ocean. Jim helps out at the “Admiral Bow”. Jim met one “customer” one day that would change his life forever. They called him Captain. Captain was an odd man that created the story.
The Captain’s personality was spine chilling. They said he was a mean man. He showed it when the book described this, “The old fellow’s fury was awful. He sprang to his feet, drew and opened a sailor’s clasp-knife, and balancing it open on the palm of his hand, threatened to pin the doctor to the wall.”(17). That just got the book started. There was more to come.
Jim, the protagonist, was a very adventurous kid. He had to grow up fast when he learned he had to embark on a journey with a crew of older men. It took them to Treasure Island. The story got a lot more intense as it went on. It even pushed Long John to the edge. He said, “That’s enough, cap’n,” shouted Long John ,“A word from you’s enough. I know a gentleman, and you may lay to that.” (336). Tension gets high when treasure is put on the line. Long, the captain of the crew, wanted to find that treasure.
Jim meets tons of people on his journey. He makes friends and enemies. He learns from mistakes. Jim learns that he can put himself apart from others and still accomplish things. As you read this book, you have to remember Jim is not an adult. He is just a really mature kid. The kid shows in him at times when he is a little too curious. He knows he can do what the other crewmembers can. Jim will prove to the people that he is not a little kid anymore.
Keep reading this wonderful novel to find out what happens next. You will not want to put down the book once you start. This book will keep you guessing. There is something awesome happening in “Treasure Island”. This adventurous book will make you have chills running down your back. This book has you on the edge. This book shows you the build up to adventure, the adventure, and what happens after the adventure. When you start the journey to Treasure Island, you will be in your own world with Jim and his shipmates.
This book would be a 4 out of 5 stars for me. I like it but I really don’t love pirate adventures. This is still a great read and I recommend it to anyone that loves adventure.
5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 9, 2013
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Posted June 2, 2002
DONT READ THIS BOOK!! It is horrible and it makes no sense. The pirates talking with their pirate lingo and everything doesnt make sense! I had to read it for school and I had to push myself through the book to finally finish it. So if you are smart, and I hope you are, dont read this book, its a waste of time, spend your time doing something else! DONT READ IT!!!
3 out of 27 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 25, 2013
Do not buy because there is a different book called 25 children books that is $3 and has 25 other stories includeing this title!
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 11, 2014
At first it seemed good, but once you getva little farther into the book it gets boring. I am dragging myself through the rest. I have to read it for school:(
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Posted May 12, 2014
Posted January 8, 2014
This Classic Literature novel by Robert Louis Stevenson is really good book has shown the
adventure and the action. Stevenson created delightful story of an amazing treasure hunt. As
this novel takes place way back into the eighteenth century, the adventure started from a young
boy named Jim Hawkins having a mysterious treasure map from the most feared pirate to ever
roam the seas. On this voyage, the author draws attention with rumors of betrayal among
the crew. Jim discovers that mutiny is planned and is the hero of the pirate tale.
I will recommend to read this book especially the people who like action, the pirate adventure,
and sensation. This has enough action for the reader to keep the interest of what happens to
Long John Silver, the greatest double-crosser of the pirates in the ship "Hispaniola". I read this
book back in middle school and got really fascinated. Now that I read it again, I love this classic
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