Summary: Chapter 31

Silver thanks Jim for saving his life and for not running away when Dr. Livesey encouraged him to do so. Jim and Silver sit down to breakfast, and Jim is astonished by the fact that the band has prepared three times as much food as is needed. Silver’s men are happy, confident of seizing the treasure soon, but Jim is sad in his certainty that Silver will betray him at the soonest practical moment.

After breakfast the pirates set off on the treasure hunt, with Silver leading Jim on a leash. They trudge through the hills, periodically pausing to consult the map. Reaching the top of a hill, the pirates are shocked to find a skeleton in seaman’s garb, stretched out on the ground like a compass, pointing to the treasure. The man’s knife is missing, suggesting that the pirates are not the first to have come across the skeleton. The pirates recognize the skeleton as a former mate, Allardyce, who served on Flint’s crew, because of its long bones and yellow hair. Following Allardyce’s clue, they head on toward the treasure.

Summary: Chapter 32

Taking a rest from the search, Silver expresses his confidence that they are close to the treasure. One of the pirates feels uneasy thinking about Flint, and Silver says they are lucky the old captain is dead. The pirates suddenly hear a trembling, high voice singing the same song the pirates frequently sing, “Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest.” One of the pirates claims the voice is Flint’s, and the men grow terrified, thinking they have awakened a ghost.

The pirates hear the voice again, and it wails what all the men recognize as Flint’s last words. One of the men takes out his Bible and starts praying. Silver, the only one who remains undaunted, scorns the other men’s belief in spirits and keeps focused on the search for the treasure. The pirates continue onward. As they approach the treasure site, Silver’s nostrils quiver and he seems half mad. Suddenly coming upon the site, the pirates are shocked to find it has already been excavated, and only an empty hole lies before them.

Summary: Chapter 33

Silver and his men are astonished that the treasure is gone. Silver hands Jim his gun, realizing that he needs the boy after all. Jim coldly accuses Silver of changing sides again. The men dig in the pit and find a few coins. One of them accuses Silver of having known all along that the treasure was gone. The angered pirates suddenly seem united against Silver and begin to move upon him. Suddenly a gun fires from somewhere in the surrounding thicket, cutting down several of the pirates. Silver draws his pistol, killing the pirate who had accused him. Dr. Livesey, Ben Gunn, and Abraham Gray emerge from the trees, their muskets smoking.

Silver thanks Livesey for saving him from the uprising and greets Ben Gunn affectionately. We learn that Ben, in his wanderings about the island, had come across the skeleton, dug up the treasure, and moved it to a cave. Livesey found out about Ben’s actions and gave the map to Silver only after he knew it was useless. Learning that Jim would be among the disappointed treasure-seekers, Livesey sent Ben off to imitate Captain Flint’s voice, playing on the pirates’ superstitions and slowing their progress.

Finally, the group goes to the cave and finds the vast treasure of gold just where Ben left it. Captain Smollett tells Jim that he will never go to sea with him again. They all enjoy a good meal together, with Jim especially happy among his friends.

Summary: Chapter 34

[T]he worst dreams that ever I have are when I hear . . . the sharp voice of Captain Flint still ringing in my ears: “Pieces of eight! pieces of eight!”

See Important Quotations Explained

The next morning, the men begin the difficult task of transporting all the gold down to the Hispaniola. Jim is fascinated by the coins—far more by the variety of their designs and nations of origin than by the wealth they represent. On the evening of the third day of loading the ship, the men discover three of the mutineers, who are either drunk or crazy. The men decide to leave the three mutineers marooned on the island with a small amount of provisions.

As Captain Smollett and his men finally make preparations to embark, the three mutineers kneel before them in submission, begging to be taken on board. Understanding that they are being left behind, they fire at the departing ship, but no one is hurt. Smollett sets course for a port in Spanish America before turning home. The Hispaniola eventually returns to Bristol.

Stepping back from his tale, Jim reports that Captain Smollett is retired from the sea life, that Ben has spent his reward and is now a lodge-keeper, and that Silver crept overboard one night during the voyage with a few bags of the treasure, never to be heard from again. Jim wishes Silver well. He notes that the remainder of the treasure still lies buried on the island, but claims that nothing would ever induce him to take part in another treasure hunt. He says that he still has nightmares of Silver’s parrot crying, “Pieces of eight! pieces of eight!”

Analysis: Chapters 31–34

Spirituality and the treasure come together in these last chapters, as the searching pirates are guided by a dead man and imagine themselves pursued by spirits. Approaching the treasure means approaching death, spirits, and even the Bible, which one of the pirates reads frantically in an attempt to appease the spirits that he believes are haunting them. Though the spirits are merely a trick devised by Livesey, Stevenson nonetheless wants us to make a serious connection between the treasure hunt and spirituality. Stevenson has a skeleton literally point the way to the treasure, reiterating the spiritual significance of the treasure hunt. Likewise, he questions the value of money that one sacrifices one’s integrity trying to find. Stevenson suggests that a man’s greed can cause him to lose part of his humanity. Just as the skeleton is literally a destroyed human, the greedy pirates are doomed to self-destruction. Ironically, the treasure is not even there anymore; the pirates are pursuing fool’s gold, while the real bounty lies hidden elsewhere, waiting for the good men to uncover it.

Additionally, Stevenson questions the actual value of the treasure. Though the treasure is the very thing that prompts the whole adventure, and which gives the island and the novel their names, Jim hardly mentions it at the end. We assume that Jim wins his hard-earned share of the loot, but we are never absolutely certain, because he does not refer to it at all. Indeed, the treasure itself seems insignificant to Jim. Even when the group first finds it hidden away in Ben’s cave, Jim does not think about the pleasure and leisure it can buy, but rather of the “blood and sorrow” it has cost. The treasure is literally a heavy burden to bear when Jim and the men carry it down to the Hispaniola. Later, though Jim is fascinated by the national origins of the coins and their designs, he is uninterested in their financial power or value. Ironically, then, the final lesson of Treasure Island for Jim may be that treasure is not such a prize after all.

In the final passage of the novel, Stevenson again makes us wonder whom Jim cares about most in this novel. In the concluding paragraphs, Jim mentions only Captain Smollett, Ben Gunn, Abraham Gray, and Long John Silver, men whom he meets after his voyage has started. He does not talk about Dr. Livesey and Squire Trelawney, the men with whom he starts the voyage. Though Livesey and Trelawney represent the heights of science and aristocracy, the fruits of civilization, Jim does not think about either of them at the end of his tale, and we sense that they do not matter to him anymore. Considering the bloodshed Silver has caused, in contrast to the assistance Livesey has provided, it seems disrespectful for Jim to wish the pirate well while ignoring the doctor. Nonetheless, Livesey and Trelawney do not inspire Jim in the way that Silver has. Jim certainly has not been recruited into piracy, but Silver and his pirates have influenced him all the same. We are certain that Jim will not grow up to become like either Livesey or Trelawney; rather, he will be a mix of reason and rationality, spirit and charisma.