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.