Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson relates the childhood of Jim Hawkins, the son of an innkeeper. One day, an old pirate captain arrives at his father’s inn, drinks a lot of rum, gets in some scuffles, and dies not long afterwards. Jim and his mother go through the pirate’s possessions to look for the money he should have been paying for his room. Among the gold and jewels, Jim discovers a map, and takes it without thinking. Other pirates then arrive on the scene searching for the map, but are unable to find it. Jim takes the map to the family doctor and his squire, and they realize that it gives directions to the captain’s buried treasure (worth seven hundred thousand pounds). Jim leaves his mother, the squire acquires a crew and a ship, and they all set off to find Treasure Island.
The characters are the best part of this book. The account is from the perspective of Jim, who is a little timid but is also observant and adventurous. Long John Silver is the most interesting character, the ship’s cook who is more nimble than would be expected for someone with a peg leg. (“At a glance I was sure he must be Long John. His left leg was cut off close by the hip, and under the left shoulder he carried a crutch, which he managed with wonderful dexterity, hopping about upon it like a bird. He was very tall and strong, with a face as big as a ham–plain and pale, but intelligent and smiling.”) From the beginning, the reader gets the impression that they should not trust Silver, but why this is the case is not revealed until much further in. The other thing I liked about Treasure Island is that it contains much more dialogue and moves at a faster pace than most 19th century literature.
I didn’t develop an attachment to any of the characters and am not particularly fond of violence and pirates, and thus did not enjoy this book. The character you are supposed to become attached to is the main character, Jim Hawkins. I couldn’t relate to him–not being a young, adventurous boy myself–and did not discover anything in common with the greedy, drunk pirates he was surrounded by. If you are a young male reader who enjoys tales of violence and wealth, this should be perfect for you. Girls? Well, let’s just note that the only female character in this book is the mother, who hardly says anything and is left behind when Jim goes on his adventure.
Although this book was written in my favorite time period for literature, I did not like it. It is specifically directed towards a young male audience and I should have realized that before I started reading. Nowadays, this work would probably best be enjoyed by a 10 or 11 year old boy who loves pirates and violence.