“What were these villains after but money? What do they care for but money? For what would they risk their rascal carcasses but money?”

The above line is Squire Trelawney’s excited summation of piracy in which he equates pirates with their greed. Squire Trelawney paints a judgmental picture of the pirates’ greed through his repetition of words with negative connotations such as “villains,” “rascal[s],” and “carcasses.” However, Squire Trelawney conveniently forgets that his motivations to find Treasure Island and Captain Flint's gold are also motivated by greed which, by his own logic, makes him no better than a pirate.

“I don’t know about treasure… but I’ll stake my wig there’s fever here.”

This line is spoken by Dr. Livesey when he and the rest of the crew first catch sight of Treasure Island. In a literal sense, Dr. Livesey is making observations about the island using information that he has obtained from his medical background. However, his line can also figuratively represent the way that greed can take hold of a person like a sickness. Dr. Livesey’s observation is proven to be true when the pirates stage a mutiny against Captain Smollett and his men so that they can claim the treasure for themselves. 

“As for you, Benjamin Gunn.. here’s a musket… and a spade, and pick-axe. You can stay here and find Flint’s money for yourself.”

Here, Ben Gunn recalls what his crew said to him before they marooned him as punishment for not being able to find Flint’s gold. Ben led his crewmates to Treasure Island but their voyage was ultimately futile because they were unable to find the treasure once they arrived. Ben becomes a symbol for the futility of greed because his life did not improve even though he was eventually able to find the treasure. Instead, he slowly descended into madness while living alone on the island with his gold for three years until he is found by Jim.

“All was clear to probation. The cache had been found and rifled; the seven hundred thousand pounds were gone!”

When the pirates finally make sense of Flint’s map and find the location where the treasure is buried, they are horrified to discover that the gold has already been found and the hole is empty. The empty hole becomes a symbol for the futility of their treasure hunt. The hole also conjures up an image of a grave, symbolizing that greed only leads to death, loss, and dissatisfaction. In that sense, the pirates quite literally dug their own grave.

“That was Flint’s treasure that we had come so far to seek and that had cost already the lives of seventeen men from the Hispaniola. How many it had cost in the amassing, what blood and sorrow, what good ships scuttled on the deep, what brave men walking the plank blindfold, what shot of cannon, what shame and lies and cruelty, perhaps no man alive could tell.”

Jim notably does not say how much of Flint’s money Ben found and only mentions the nationality of each coin he finds as opposed to how much they are worth. Instead, he focuses on the countless lives that were pointlessly lost in pursuit of the treasure. Jim explicitly states at the end of the novel that he has no desire to seek the rest of Flint’s riches, indicating his refusal to spend a futile life searching in vain for hidden treasure like the pirates.