Summary: Chapter 13

Having approached the island in sweltering weather, the crew is irritable and discontent. Dr. Livesey warns the men that they may be at risk of contracting tropical diseases on the island. Silver, with his knowledge of the island’s geography, advises Captain Smollett of a good place to drop anchor. Smollett does not reveal what he knows about the planned mutiny. After consulting with Squire Trelawney, he decides to allow the crew to go ashore for diversion, which allows the honest men to reclaim control of the ship.

Smollett takes Tom Redruth and several other honest sailors into his confidence and gives them weapons. Silver leads the pirates ashore, believing that they will be able to recover the treasure immediately. Jim, deciding that his assistance is not needed on board, hides in one of the pirates’ boats and goes ashore with them. However, Silver catches sight of Jim, who begins to regret his decision. Reaching the shore before the others, Jim quickly scrambles away from them.

Summary: Chapter 14

As Jim surveys the island, he is startled to hear voices nearby. He creeps closer and finds Silver addressing one of the sailors named Tom, trying to persuade him to join the mutineers. Silver makes it clear that Tom’s life is riding on his decision, but Tom declines politely but firmly. They suddenly hear a piercing scream from far away, and Tom is greatly alarmed. Silver says coldly that the scream must be from Alan, another honest sailor who has refused to join the pirates.

Tom tells Silver that Silver is his friend no more and starts to walk away. Silver flings his crutch at Tom’s back, knocking him down, and then walks over and kills him with his knife. Jim is terrified, realizing that he has no way to get back to the ship without being spotted and killed by Silver and his gang. Jim starts to run deeper into the island.

Summary: Chapter 15

Fleeing the pirates, Jim sees a human figure in the woods, and he fears that it is a cannibal. Suddenly remembering he is armed, Jim gains courage and walks briskly toward the man, who is hiding behind a tree. Jim asks the man his name, and the man replies that his name is Ben Gunn and that he has been on the island for three years. Jim asks Ben if he was shipwrecked, and Ben answers that he was marooned. Ben speaks in a deranged manner, making many religious allusions. Jim suspects that Ben may be mad.

When Ben asks if the ship moored on the shore is Flint’s, Jim realizes the wild man may have useful information. Jim learns that Ben once served on Flint’s crew and thus knows all the current mutineers. Ben was left behind on the island after a failed treasure hunt three years ago. Jim learns that Flint buried his treasure and killed the six men who helped him bury it. Ben also mentions that he made a boat, which he hides under a white rock. He assures Jim that he can locate the treasure in return for safe passage home, and guides Jim to his dwelling. On the way there, Jim is startled to see the Union Jack, the gentleman sailor’s flag, proudly waving in the distant woods.

Analysis: Chapters 13–15

The allure of the island begins to fade when the ship lands in Chapter 13. We no longer see the island as a fantasy place and instead start to feel its dismal reality. Stevenson’s descriptive language emphasizes the island’s starkness and ominous aura. He makes it clear that the island is far from a tropical paradise—it is covered with “grey-coloured woods” and “naked rock.” The trees appear “melancholy,” and even the birds seem to be “crying all around.” The foliage has a “poisonous brightness,” and indeed the place may literally be poisonous: Livesey is certain that the air, which has a stagnant smell of rotting wood, will breed fever and illness. In short, Jim seems justified in his remark that “from that first look onward, I hated the very thought of Treasure Island.” That he hates the “thought” of the island rather than the “sight” of it reminds us of the degree to which the characters in the novel are driven by mental interpretations of reality rather than by hard facts. Jim’s perception of the island as repulsive may not be objective; rather, he may be responding solely to his mental image of the place.

Jim’s sense of autonomy and free will continues to develop in these chapters, as we see his increasing ability to deal with the consequences of the mistakes he makes. When he perceives that he is not needed on board the ship, he decides on a whim to go ashore with the pirate brigade. His word choice emphasizes the casual and unreflective way he makes this decision: “It occurred to me at once to go ashore.” Indeed, Jim quickly learns that perhaps he should have deliberated his decision a bit more carefully. Silver catches sight of Jim hiding in the boat, leading Jim to admit that “from that moment I began to regret what I had done.” However, he is able to learn from his mistake and accept its consequences. Hiding in the forest, Jim reflects that “since I had been so foolhardy as to come ashore with these desperadoes, the least I could do was to overhear them at their councils.” In this sense, he is able to make the best of his difficult situation. Jim is learning to make good use not only of his successes, but also of his errors.

Jim’s concept of death begins to change in these chapters. The deaths Jim experiences earlier in the novel occur in natural or accidental fashion: Jim’s father and Billy die of natural causes, and the blind beggar Pew dies in a road accident. Now the possibility of unnatural death, or murder, arises. Silver’s cruel execution of Tom is the most obvious example, and it forces Jim to become aware for the first time of the possibility that one man might wish another dead. Indeed, Jim displays new awareness that he might be killed himself: he realizes he could be knifed outright like Tom or abandoned to “death by starvation” by the mutineers. It is significant that Jim believes that the island could not sustain him: in his mind, it is not a nurturing place but a place that kills. Even Ben’s survival on the island is a mixed blessing: he is half mad, as if his human reason has already been killed. Indeed, from the perspective of normal human society, Ben may as well be dead, as his derangement renders him unable to conform to law or reason. In this sense, death is all around Jim—both literal death, in the form of corpses, and symbolic death, in the form of alienation from—civilized society.