Summary: Chapter 28

Jim accidentally enters the pirates’ camp and finds that only six of the pirates are still alive. Long John Silver addresses Jim fondly, telling the boy that he reminds Silver of what he was like when he was young. Silver tells Jim that Dr. Livesey is angry about Jim’s desertion and is glad to be rid of him. Jim only partially believes this statement, but he is relieved to hear that his friends are alive. Jim realizes that Silver is having trouble managing his men, who are surly and disrespectful. Jim boldly reveals that he cut the rope on the ship and killed Hands, and he tells Silver that he does not fear him.

Silver seems merely amused by Jim, but his men threaten to become violent. Silver strives to assert his power over the mutineers, but they assemble in a far corner, leaving Silver and Jim in the other corner. Silver whispers to Jim that the men are close to another mutiny, and that he and Jim need to rely on each other to save their skins. He tells Jim to play the role of the hostage, to convince Silver’s men that Silver is still in charge. Finally, Silver reveals that Livesey has given him the treasure map, which astonishes Jim.

Summary: Chapter 29

Jim and Silver await the end of the pirates’ council. One of the pirates hands Silver a black spot, the official pirate judgment, cut out of a page of the Bible. Silver casually reads the judgment, which announces that he has been deposed from his position as a punishment for bungling the mission. Furiously, Silver retorts that if his wishes had been followed, the men would already be in possession of the treasure. He claims the failure is the fault of the men, because they forced his hand as captain. Silver also tells the men that they are all very close to being hanged. He insists on the usefulness of having Jim as hostage and reminds the men that it was he, Silver, who arranged for Dr. Livesey to tend to them every day.

As a final gesture Silver flings down the treasure map Livesey has given him, and the men gather around his side again. Silver tosses Jim the black spot as a souvenir, and Jim reads the biblical quote, from the biblical Book of Revelation, that is on the paper. Jim goes to sleep thinking of the man he has killed that day and of Silver’s fate.

Summary: Chapter 30

Jim wakes up the next morning as Dr. Livesey arrives to tend to the pirates. Jim is happy to see the doctor, but fears his disapproval. Livesey is visibly shocked to see Jim, but does not speak to him, and proceeds to treat his patients. Finally he asks to see Jim alone. One of the pirates voices a refusal, but Silver insists that that the request be granted. Jim and Livesey advance to the other side of the stockade, still in view of Silver. Livesey expresses surprise that Silver is not worried about losing his hostage, and Silver replies that he trusts Livesey as a gentleman.

Livesey accuses Jim of being cowardly in deserting the captain at a moment of weakness. Jim begins to weep. Livesey suddenly suggests that they both make a run for it and flee the pirates. Jim responds that such an action would not be right. He tells Livesey that he knows the location of the Hispaniola. Livesey exclaims that Jim manages to save their lives at every step. He returns Jim as a hostage to Silver and warns Silver not to be in any hurry to find the treasure.

Analysis: Chapters 27–30

In Chapter 30, Stevenson again addresses his recurring question of whether there is something truly noble about the pirates. Livesey, who has just chided Jim for deserting the captain in a moment of distress, suddenly encourages Jim to desert Silver. This hypocrisy contradicts Livesey’s normal gentlemanly behavior and amounts to a betrayal of Silver’s trust. Jim’s refusal to run away is not a practical decision but an ethical one, as he says it would not be right to leave Silver at this moment. Yet even Jim’s decision is highly ironic, as he willingly deserts his good captain earlier and now refuses to desert his seemingly evil enemy on moral grounds.

We again wonder whether Jim secretly feels more solidarity with and respect for Long John Silver than he does for Captain Smollett. Of course, Jim is not likely to abandon society and become a lawless pirate. Nonetheless, he shares a strong spiritual sympathy with Silver, which does have good consequences. At this moment, at least, Jim comes across as more of a true gentleman than Livesey, the wealthy man of high society whose ethics we normally wouldn’t question.

The pirates’ inability to take care of themselves becomes even more obvious in these chapters, though the buccaneers remain fascinating and enthralling in many ways. Only six pirates remain alive, while hardly any of Smollett’s men have been lost. The pirates’ recklessness and lack of foresight—they burn all the firewood in one night and drink too much day after day—is at least partly to blame for their heavy losses. Even more important, the pirates continue to be dysfunctional as a group or community. Silver has difficulty managing his men and is perilously close to facing a mutiny when Jim stumbles upon him. Silver’s agitated attempt to defend his own course of action suggests for the first time that he is losing his cool. When the mutineers lay out their reasons for wanting to depose Silver, Silver argues against these points out of order, suggesting his extreme anxiety. The tension within the pirates’ band suggests that the group is very close to self-destruction as a social unit.

The spiritual aspect of the novel resurfaces in a small plot detail that acquires considerable symbolic importance: the black spot the pirates deliver to Silver is written on a page torn from the Book of Revelation in the Bible. The pirates seem aware that their transgression—tearing a page of the Bible—is a seriously bad omen; later, when they use the Bible to swear an oath, they wonder whether the book maintains its holiness with a page missing. The fact that the pirates dispute the Bible at a moment of crisis suggests that even the bad men cannot escape the power of the Bible’s good word. Jim also seems affected by the verse inscribed on the scrap of paper, reading, “Without are dogs and murderers,” an allusion to the final divine verdict that the Bible says will fall on Judgment Day. Jim falls asleep thinking about Silver’s fate, as if he is close to passing judgment himself on Silver.