Summary: Chapter 25

Climbing aboard the Hispaniola, Jim is surprised to see no one on deck. A bit later, however, he finds two watchmen—one is Israel Hands, who lies splashed with blood in a drunken stupor; the other is dead. Jim addresses Hands, who begs for a little brandy. Descending into the cellar, Jim finds that most of the ship’s store of alcohol has been consumed. He returns with a drink for Hands and asks that Hands consider him the captain, since Jim has taken possession of the ship. In a symbolic gesture, Jim throws the pirates’ flag, the Jolly Roger, overboard.

Hands offhandedly refers to the corpse next to him, insulting the dead man’s Irish nationality and noting that the dead man is unable to help navigate. Hands then asserts his own navigational expertise and strikes a deal with Jim: if Jim gives Hands food, drink, and medical help, Hands will assist Jim in sailing the ship. They steer the ship toward the North Inlet of the island, enjoying a favorable wind. Jim is delighted with his new position of command, though wary of Hands’s careful watch over him.

Summary: Chapter 26

Jim and Hands approach the North Inlet but must wait for a favorable tide to cast anchor. Hands proposes throwing the Irishman’s dead body overboard, as he objects to the corpse’s presence on deck. Jim replies that he does not like the idea, and Hands responds that a dead man is simply dead. Jim retorts that the spirit never dies. Suspiciously, Hands claims that the brandy is too strong for his head and asks Jim for wine instead. Jim feigns innocence and goes to fetch some port wine, but watches Hands in secret and observes him extract a long knife from a hiding place and place it under his jacket.

Jim knows that he needs Hands to guide the ship safely into the inlet and remains wary of him. As he becomes absorbed by the effort of maneuvering the ship into its anchorage, he relaxes his vigilance and Hands attacks him. They engage in a fierce scuffle. Jim climbs up a mast and Hands follows. Jim pulls his pistol on Hands, who flings his knife, piercing Jim’s shoulder and pinning him to the mast. Jim’s gun goes off and Hands falls into the water.

Summary: Chapter 27

Gradually my mind came back again, my pulses quieted down to a more natural time, and I was once more in possession of myself.

See Important Quotations Explained

The knife still pinning him against the mast, Jim watches as Hands’s body rises once in the water and then sinks down. Covered in blood but not seriously wounded, Jim initially feels faint and terrified but manages to regain his composure. Shuddering, he frees himself by ripping the bit of shoulder skin that the knife has pinned to the mast. He climbs down the mast to care for his wound and, seeing the dead Irishman on deck, pushes him overboard and watches the body in the water.

Now alone on the ship, Jim decides that he is close enough to the island to swim to shore safely. He reaches the island and treks through the woods in search of Captain Smollett’s stockade on the other side of the island. He finally glimpses the glow of a fire in the distance, and finds that it is coming from campfires in the stockade. Jim is surprised that Smollett would allow such a waste of firewood. Creeping into the stockade, Jim finds the men asleep. A voice suddenly cries out, “Pieces of eight!” and Jim recognizes the voice of Silver’s parrot, Cap’n Flint. Realizing that the pirates have taken over the stockade, Jim tries to flee but is held tight.

Analysis: Chapters 25–27

Jim’s authority continues to grow in these chapters. His taking control of the ship in Chapter 25 and declaration to Israel Hands that he should be addressed as captain demonstrate Jim’s meteoric rise in prestige. He has promoted himself from cabin boy to captain on one single voyage. This quick ascent to power is as central to Jim’s adventure as the search for treasure, and is perhaps more important; Jim, unlike the adults, devotes hardly any thought to the treasure itself or the life of leisure it can buy. As Jim stumbles into stockade and hears the parrot scream “[p]ieces of eight,” we recall that the gold coins are the mutineers’—as well as Squire Trelawney’s—highest goal. These “[p]ieces of eight” are not the catchphrase of Jim’s own quest, however, as he is less interested in loot than in proving his worth as a hero and a man.

Jim and Hands’s struggle on deck is more than a match between the good and the bad. Stevenson also gives the fight symbolic value, using it to highlight the contrast between the self-aware Jim and the self-destructive and reckless Hands. Indeed, Jim repeatedly takes firm control of his surroundings in these chapters. He tells Hands outright that he has taken possession of the ship, and later, after the fight, waits a while to climb down from the mast until, as he remarks, “I was once more in possession of myself.” Hands, in sharp contrast, is unable to take possession of anything. The ship he is supposedly guarding is cut adrift and blowing about wildly while he lies on the deck drunk. Indeed, Hands’s loss of control over the vessel mirrors his loss of control over himself. The symbolism of alcohol is again apparent: drunkenness, more than causing mere bodily intoxication, represents a total inability to maintain control of one’s own life.

Jim’s treatment of the dead Irishman’s body in Chapter 27 is unexpected, given his objection, in the preceding chapter, to Hands’s suggestion that they push the corpse overboard. Jim’s heaving the body into the sea without hesitation leaves us to wonder whether he had merely been pretending to care about the Irishman’s eternal soul. Jim’s lack of solemnity is even more jarring when contrasted with the tears Squire Trelawney sheds over Tom’s dead body in Chapter 28. Stevenson implies that respect for the dead is a mark of proper upbringing. Granted, the Irishman is Jim’s enemy, but his coldness toward the corpse is nonetheless uncharacteristic. These instances when Jim seems to straddle the line between the civilized men and the pirates make his character more interesting and complex. His sudden piratelike behavior causes us to question how conventional or complete Jim’s civic and spiritual development has been.