Summary: Chapter 16
Dr. Livesey takes over the narration at this point, beginning his story at the mutineers’ departure for the island. Discovering that Jim is with the mutineers, Livesey and Captain Smollett fear for Jim’s safety, and agree that Livesey should go ashore along with Hunter, Squire Trelawney’s servant. Once ashore, Livesey comes upon a stockade Flint’s men built years earlier, near a spring.
Returning to the ship, Livesey tells the others what he has found. The men load two boats with provisions, taking the risk that they may arouse the suspicions of the mutineers onshore. Captain Smollett gives Abraham Gray, a sailor who has fallen in with the mutineers, a last chance to join him and his crew. Gray scuffles onto the boat, and they head for shore.
Summary: Chapter 17
The little boat carrying Captain Smollett, Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, Tom Redruth, and Abraham Gray is dangerously overloaded and thus hard to maneuver. The men begin to suspect that the mutineers might be planning an attack, aware that the pirates possess arms and gunpowder, and that Israel Hands was once Flint’s gunman. Trelawney tries to shoot Hands but hits another pirate instead, though the mutineers do not pay any -attention. Hands fires a cannonball at the men’s boat, causing it to founder. No lives are lost, as the water is shallow, but the men are forced to leave half of their provisions behind when they wade ashore.
Summary: Chapter 18
Captain Smollett and his group make their way to the stockade and pause to reload their guns. Coming upon the pirate they have just killed, they rejoice in their success. At this instant Tom Redruth is shot. His wound is clearly fatal, and the group helps him to lie down and die nobly. Squire Trelawney kisses Tom’s hand and asks for his forgiveness. All agree that he has nothing to fear in the afterworld, as he has died in the line of duty.
Trapped in the stockade, the group is bombarded by cannon fire throughout the evening. The pirates aim at the Union Jack in particular, but Smollett refuses to take in the flag. He makes an entry in his logbook of those in the stockade, while Livesey wonders what has happened to Jim. Just at this moment, Jim suddenly enters.
Summary: Chapter 19
Jim resumes the narration of the tale. Having seen the Union Jack flying above, he approaches the stockade along with Ben Gunn. Jim is unsure whether it is Captain Smollett’s crew or the mutineers who control the stockade, but Ben, assuring him that the pirates would never fly the Union Jack, encourages him to enter. A cannon shot makes the good sailors scatter out of the stockade.
Later, Jim returns to shore to see the pirate’s black flag, the Jolly Roger, flying above the ship. The pirates’ voices suggest that they have been drinking a lot of rum. Jim enters the stockade to join Smollett’s group and tell his story. Smollett carefully assigns tasks to the men to divide the labor, naming Jim the sentry. Smollett asks about Ben’s sanity but displays kindness to the deranged man. Jim sleeps, but wakes to hear someone say that Long John Silver is approaching with a flag of truce.
Summary: Chapter 20
Captain Smollett is wary of Silver’s gesture of truce, fearing a trick. The pirate announces himself as “Captain Silver,” and asserts that he wants to reach a compromise with Smollett. Smollett questions Silver’s claim to the title of captain and refuses to talk with him. Silver hoists himself over the stockade fence anyway, and approaches Smollett. He demands the treasure map in exchange for a cease-fire. Smollett angrily reminds Silver that he is far more powerful than the mutineers. Silver tries again, promising the captain and his men safe voyage in exchange for the map. When Smollett again refuses, Silver leaves indignantly.
Summary: Chapter 21
After roughly turning Silver away, Captain Smollett predicts that the pirates will attack the stockade in retribution, and he orders the men to prepare themselves. They wait in anxious expectation for an hour, then hear a few shots and see the pirates scrambling over the stockade fence. Gray and Squire Trelawney fire on the pirates, wounding several of them. A fight ensues, and in the end, Smollett, Dr. Livesey, Jim, and most of the others return safely to the stockade, having lost fewer men than the mutineers.
Analysis: Chapters 16–21
Stevenson has several reasons for switching narrators from Jim to Livesey for three chapters. The first is a practical reason: because Jim is on shore, he is unable to narrate what is happening on board the ship at the same time. Additionally, however, the switch in narrators gives us insight into the two characters’ different perspectives. As with any first-person narrative, Jim’s tale includes subjective feelings and thoughts, and so does Livesey’s. We immediately notice that there is a change in the tone of the narrative when Livesey takes over: Livesey at times appears a bit insincere or shallow, as when he refers to the dead Tom Redruth as a “[p]oor old fellow.” The most notable feature of Livesey’s narrative, however, is the fact that he largely limits his narration to coverage of the events, excluding the psychological and emotional details that Jim frequently includes. Jim constantly comments about regretting an action he takes, or expresses how he hates one person or likes another. The change in narrative voice subtly reminds us that Jim’s story is not simply a recounting of a series of events involving pirates and treasure, but is also a tale of his own personal and moral development.
In these chapters Stevenson continues to explore the conflict between social organization and anarchy. The half-mad Ben Gunn is an example of what happens to a man when he is removed from the protection of social structure: he loses his abilities to communicate and to be fully human. Indeed, Captain Smollett openly asks Jim whether Ben is a man, as Ben’s isolation from notmal society has lasted such a long time. The pirates also represent an inhuman departure from social rules and organization: as they climb over the stockade fence, Jim remarks that they resemble monkeys. Indeed, the pirates’ impulsiveness and lack of forethought does lend them a somewhat animal character. The pirates have no concept of themselves as a community; while Smollett keeps a careful social register of his men and lists each of their names in his logbook, the pirates seem unconcerned with the structure or membership of their group.
Additionally, whereas Smollett faithfully bids farewell to the dying Tom, the pirates pay no heed to the dead and dying among their ranks. The pirates are quick to drink rum, losing themselves in a stupor, while Smollett’s men remain keen-eyed, vigilant, and capable of teamwork at all times. On the whole, while Smollett facilitates social cohesion in his group, the pirates clearly favor anarchy.
The interesting character of Long John Silver gains added depth in these chapters, especially in the scene of the attempted truce with Smollett in Chapter 21. Here, Stevenson clearly contrasts the personalities of the two opposing leaders. Silver, in an act of brazenness, even adopts the title of captain, introducing himself as such. Though both men are resolute and persistent, insisting on their respective demands, they handle the meeting very differently. Silver heroically heaves himself over the stockade fence, climbs up the knoll, and salutes the captain in a way that Jim describes as “the handsomest style.” Silver may be a mutineer, but he acts with grace and nobility. Smollett, by contrast, sits almost ridiculously in his doorway, whistling the tune “Come, Lasses and Lads,” a frivolous melody arguably inappropriate to his high station. In this way, Stevenson continues to imply that while the pirates may be socially irresponsible, their inner charisma far outshines that of good men such as Smollett and Livesey.