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Treasure Island

Robert Louis Stevenson

Analysis of Major Characters

Character List

Themes, Motifs & Symbols

Jim Hawkins

As the narrator of Treasure Island and the instigator of its most important plot twists, Jim is clearly the central character in the novel. Probably around twelve or thirteen years old, he is the quiet and obedient son of the owner of an inn near Bristol, England. As events unfold throughout the novel, Jim’s character changes dramatically, showing increasing cleverness, courage, maturity, and perspective. In the first chapters, Jim is an easily frightened boy who is closely associated with his home and family. Scared by the crusty old seaman Pew, Jim runs to his mother for protection. After his father dies and he embarks on the adventure, Jim starts to think for himself and shows increasing initiative. Jim makes repeated mistakes, but he learns from them, which signals that he is maturing. He grows up quickly during this trip, starting as the cabin boy but eventually naming himself the new captain after he reclaims the ship from the pirates. Although he is courageous, Jim’s impetuous individualism reminds us that he is still a youth. His tendency to act on his whims and his growing self-awareness also shows that he is caught between two worlds—between childhood and adulthood, and between the lawful, rational world and the lawless pirate world. Jim’s story is therefore not merely a fanciful adventure tale but also a narrative about growing up.

Jim’s narrative of his heroic acts is valuable because he records them modestly, giving us an insider view of heroism that is not very glamorous. Jim is not arrogant, but instead is humbled by his mistakes and successes. He takes full responsibility for his errors rather than finding excuses for them, and he confesses to moments of panic, indecision, and regret rather than bragging exclusively of his successes. Jim’s remarkable honesty and sincerity often make the heroic or noble claims of the grown-ups—pirates and honorable citizens alike—seem like empty bluster. Jim’s inclusion of both his follies and his fortunes make his narrative seem more genuine and the adventure more real.

Long John Silver

Long John Silver is a very complex and self-contradictory character. He is cunning and mendacious, hiding his true intentions from Squire Trelawney while posing as the ship’s genial cook. He is very disloyal, shifting sides so frequently that we cannot be sure of his true affiliations. He is greedy and has an almost animal nature, caring little about human relations, as we see in his cold-blooded murder of Tom Redruth. Nonetheless, Silver is without question the most vital and charismatic character in the novel. Though lacking a leg, he moves swiftly and powerfully across unsteady decks and spryly hoists himself over fences. His physical defect actually showcases his strength of character, revealing with every step his ability to overcome obstacles. Likewise, Silver’s mental resolve is impressive: he is the only one of the pirates not to be spooked by Ben’s imitation of the dead Flint’s voice. He remains rational in the face of his men’s collective superstitions, driving them forward to the treasure site. Silver’s “two-hundred-year-old” parrot, which screeches dead men’s words, gives the pirate an almost satanic aura. He has obvious leadership abilities, as he is able to maintain control of his ragged and surly band of mutineers to the very end of their search, through heavy losses and suspicions of treachery.

Despite Silver’s formidable and frightening appearance, he is quick to inspire trust in those who meet him. Captain Smollett and Dr. Livesey both have great confidence in Silver’s character at the outset of the voyage. His friendliness and politeness never seem fake, deceitful, or manipulative. Silver describes himself as a “gentleman of fortune,” a term that, while clearly a euphemism for “pirate,” does emphasize something genuinely gentlemanly about Silver. When Livesey requests a private chat with the hostage Jim, the other pirates protest loudly, but Silver allows it because he trusts a gentleman like Livesey. This trust on Silver’s part seems noble and real. Additionally, the affection between Silver and Jim seems sincere from the very beginning. Though Jim is a mere cabin boy, Silver speaks to him fondly; toward the end of the trip, he remarks that Jim reminds him of himself when he was young and handsome. Likewise, Jim publicly calls Silver “the best man here,” and his wish for Silver’s happiness in the last paragraphs of the novel is sincere. Overall, Silver’s behavior indicates that he is more than a mere hoodlum. There is something valuable in him for Jim’s development, as the name “Silver” suggests.

Dr. Livesey

Dr. Livesey first appears to be an ideal authority figure for the young Jim. Jim entrusts the treasure map to Livesey because Livesey is a respected, knowledgeable man. As the adventure unfolds, Livesey shows that Jim’s respect is merited, proving himself competent, clever, fair, and loyal. Livesey devises the brilliant plan of stalling the pirate brigade by sending Ben Gunn to give spooky imitations of their dead leader, Flint. He also comes up with the ruse of sending the pirates on the wild-goose chase to find the treasure. Livesey is not afraid of action and bravely fires on the pirates at the treasure site. He is noble in his willingness to provide medical attention to the wounded pirates, his enemies. He speaks tenderly to them and seems genuinely to care for their health. More so than the gruff Captain Smollett or the naïve Squire Trelawney, Livesey represents the best of the civilized world of men.

Despite his credentials and valuable achievements in the tale, however, Livesey is simply not charismatic. He does what is reasonable, practical, and ethical, but never acts impetuously or spontaneously, as the pirates and Jim do. Livesey thinks up ingenious plans, but only puts them into practice if they are safe and efficient. He gives the pirates the treasure map only when he knows it is useless. On the whole, Livesey never risks anything, and therefore Jim, as we do, sees him as good but not grand, decent but not inspirational. It is significant that while Jim gives a sentimental farewell to the memory of Silver at the end of his narrative, he omits mention of Livesey, despite Livesey’s importance in the adventure. Jim does not have an emotional connection to Livesey, and, by extension, does not have an emotional connection to the decent, civilized world Livesey represents. Jim does not fit completely into Silver’s world, but he does not fit completely into Livesey’s steady, practical world either.

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by same156, August 06, 2012

whats the conflict? then name one or two episodes from the book which display the following conflict


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by same156, August 06, 2012

describe an decision that jim had to make. be sure to list why it was important and why he made the decision he did


7 out of 24 people found this helpful


by same156, August 06, 2012

pick a theme then describe one scene that fits


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