page 1 of 2
Jim tells his mother about the pirates’ plot to take Billy’s sea chest, and he flees with her to the neighboring village to seek help. Terrified by the name of old Flint, none of the villagers is willing to go to the inn to offer assistance. Armed with a gun, Jim returns with his mother to the inn. He searches through the dead Billy’s clothing to find the key to the treasure chest. Finding the key around Billy’s neck, Jim and his mother open the chest and find gold hidden at the bottom, a portion of which Jim’s mother claims as her due. They hear running footsteps in the street outside. Jim takes some papers wrapped in an oilcloth that he has found in the sea chest and then flees the inn with his mother. Weakened by fear, his mother faints outside. Jim succeeds in dragging her under a bridge, out of sight but within earshot of the inn.
Terrified but curious, Jim looks out from his hiding place. He sees seven or eight men running toward the inn, among them the blind man who had visited before. The eight men are surprised to find the inn door open and Billy dead. They are concerned about the chest and seem disappointed that it contains only Billy’s money: clearly they are more interested in something else that belonged to Flint. The blind man, whom the others address as Pew, orders the men to scatter and find the fugitives. He reminds them that they could be as rich as kings if they find the missing object.
Enraged, Pew starts screaming at his men, and they all begin to quarrel violently. Hearing a pistol shot, however, the men panic and flee, leaving the blind Pew alone on the road. Pew is accidentally run down and killed by men on horseback who have come to investigate. Returning home, Jim finds the inn ruined. He realizes that the oilcloth-wrapped papers in his pocket may be what the pirates sought, but he is reluctant to hand them over to the officer, Dance, who tries to take charge of the situation. Jim says he would prefer to show the papers to Dr. Livesey, and he sets off with Dance’s party for Livesey’s house.
Jim, Dance, and the others arrive at Dr. Livesey’s darkened house to learn that he is dining at the home of Squire Trelawney, a local nobleman. The group heads to Trelawney’s residence, where they find the two men in the library. Livesey examines the oilskin packet that Jim has recovered. Trelawney claims that the pirate Flint is more bloodthirsty than Blackbeard and has accumulated a huge fortune. They open the book wrapped in the oilskin and find that it is a log of all the places where Flint acquired loot, and of the sums of gold that he obtained in each place. The packet also includes a map of the island where the whole treasure now lies buried, with longitude and latitude detailed. Trelawney and Livesey are filled with glee, and start making plans to sail to the island themselves, bringing Jim along as cabin boy. Everyone present swears to secrecy.
In this section, Jim is already beginning to develop as a character and as a hero. Whereas in the first chapters he wants to run to his mother out of fear, here it is his mother who faints in terror and Jim who drags her to a safe hiding place. Now the male head of the household, Jim shows courage and quick-wittedness. When examining the contents of the sea chest, Jim’s mother seeks to take only the money Billy owes her, whereas Jim has the foresight to take the valuable oilskin packet containing the map of Treasure Island. Facing Billy’s dead body, Jim’s mother sobs and complains that she could never touch it, while Jim tears open the corpse’s shirt and finds the key to the chest. Furthermore, after Pew’s death and the arrival of the town officers on the scene, Jim bravely rejects officer Dance’s request for the map. Jim voices his preference to take the map to Livesey instead, the event that sets the whole adventure in motion. It is hard to imagine that the meek little boy of Chapter I would have taken any of these bold actions; indeed, Jim is growing up quickly.
The aura of mystery and excitement surrounding the pirates grows in these chapters. Jim’s vision of Pew suggests that these pirates are superhuman, as Pew appears much more powerful than one would expect a blind beggar to be. Like many of the other pirates, Pew is physically flawed. He lacks sight, just as Billy lacks overall health and Long John Silver, as we soon see, lacks a leg. Yet these pirates’ inner strength appears to compensate for their physical flaws. This inner power and charisma captivates the young Jim, even as it strikes fear into the villagers. None of the good men has any force of personality or charisma comparable to that of the pirates. Though Trelawney applauds Dance for killing Pew, whom he compares to a cockroach, it is Pew who acts heroically in the streets while Trelawney dines comfortably in his library. In this way, Stevenson subtly sketches the buccaneers as mysteriously attractive, in spite of their immoral and crude outward behavior. He likewise makes it difficult for us to conclude that men like Trelawney are unambiguously superior to the pirates.
Take a Study Break!