Full title   Treasure Island

Author   Robert Louis Stevenson

Type of work   Novel

Genre   Children’s book, adventure story, coming-of-age story

Language   English

Time and place written   1881, Scotland

Date of first publication   1883

Publisher   Cassell and Company

Narrator   Jim Hawkins is both the hero of the tale and the narrator for all but three chapters—Dr. Livesey narrates Chapters XV–XVIII. Jim narrates the tale because Dr. Livesey and Squire Trelawney ask him to recount the events after the end of the adventure.

Point of view   Jim narrates from first-and third-person perspectives. In doing so, he presents plot developments that only he himself observes. Livesey does the same in his portion of the narrative. Whereas Jim describes his state of mind, feelings, and attitudes throughout his tale, Livesey is more objectively factual in his narration.

Tone   Jim’s attitudes toward his life and his adventure are significant. The fact that he hardly mentions his parents, even after his father’s death, suggests indifference toward his family. Jim shows moderate respect, and occasional impatience, when describing Captain Smollett and Dr. Livesey. When Jim describes the pirates, his tone suggests that he admires and reveres them, and is certainly fascinated by them. Jim’s tone is generally modest when narrating his own heroic feats.

Tense   Past

Setting (time)   During the eighteenth century

Setting (place)   Near Bristol, England, and Treasure Island, an island off the coast of “Spanish America”

Protagonist   Jim Hawkins

Major conflict   Jim, Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, Captain Smollett, and his crew search for a treasure that Captain Flint, an old pirate, has left buried after his death. They are challenged by Flint’s former crewmembers, who have tricked Trelawney into hiring them to help sail to Treasure Island.

Rising action   The discovery of the treasure map in the inn; the hiring of a treacherous crew for the expedition; the voyage to Treasure Island; the mutiny of Silver and his crew; Silver taking Jim as a hostage

Climax   The pirates’ and Jim’s discovery that the treasure has already been excavated from its burial ground

Falling action   The return trip to England; Silver’s escape with some of the treasure; Jim’s nightmares about the sea and gold coins

Themes   The search for heroic role models; the futility of desire; the lack of adventure in the modern age; the hunger for adventure; the vanity of pursuing wealth; the process of growing up and proving oneself

Motifs   Solitude; animals; the color black; singing; physical handicaps; betrayal

Symbols   The coracle; the treasure map; rum; the black spot; Ben Gunn’s insanity; the skeleton pointing the way to the treasure; the empty treasure site

Foreshadowing   Billy Bones is handed his black spot and dies soon thereafter; Captain Smollett is suspicious of his new crew, which turns out to be mutinous; Mr. Arrow repeatedly gets drunk, then disappears from the ship; Jim sees Israel Hands hide a knife under his jacket, and Hands soon attacks him; the sailors sing about a dead man’s chest before the adventure has begun, and almost all of them end up dead in the end