“Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end… I take up my pen in the year of grace 17__ and go back to the time…”
Stevenson deliberately places his novel in the past. The novel’s opening lines alert the reader that the narrator is recording events that already took place, and he literally sets the novel in the 18th century despite publishing it in the late 19th century. He invokes this sense of history to show that the pirate world is a relic of the past that has no place in the modern world. The entirety of the novel is a nostalgic fantasy about the Golden Age of Piracy which had ended long before Stevenson was publishing Treasure Island in 1883.
“We’ll have favourable winds, a quick passage, and not the least difficulty in finding the spot, and money to eat, to roll in, to play duck and drake with ever after.”
Squire Trelawney emphatically delivers this line to Dr. Livesey and Jim when the three of them decide to sail to Treasure Island and search for Flint’s buried gold after Jim finds the treasure map. Squire Trelawney’s vision of treasure hunting, which sounds as if it comes straight from a sensational novel, is nothing more than an indulgent fantasy. However, it echoes the generational fascination with the pirate lifestyle that was running rampant in the 19th century.
“[F]ull of sea-dreams and the most charming anticipations of strange islands and adventures.”
In this line, Jim describes his excitement to set sail while he is impatiently waiting for Squire Trelawney to make the necessary arrangements for their journey. Stevenson’s use of the word “dreams” is important because it equates the sea-faring life with fantasy as opposed to reality. While Jim will go on to encounter pirates and buried treasure and all sorts of trouble, Stevenson reminds the modern reader that they can only experience an adventure like Jim’s through dreams and stories like this one.
“Seaward, ho! Hang the treasure! It’s the glory of the sea that has turned my head.”
Squire Trelawney writes this famous line in his letter to Dr. Livesey and Jim in which he tells them that their ship and crew are ready to set sail for Treasure Island. Squire Trelawney notably ascribes his sense of glory to the upcoming voyage across the sea. The acquisition of treasure is, at this moment, simply an added bonus. Here, Stevenson outlines one of the novel’s key themes: the adventure that Jim and his companions embark on is a greater and more rewarding treasure than any gold.
“[Silver’s] chances of comfort in another world are very small.”
In one of the novel’s closing lines, Jim wishes Long John Silver peace, wherever he is, because Jim is unconvinced that Silver could ever find comfort in a civilian life. Jim’s bittersweet musings are a moving farewell to his complicated mentor. However, Stevenson is also paying tribute to piracy in general which, like Silver, has no place in the modern world.