Robert Louis Stevenson
I got to indulge myself by reading 'Treasure Island' by Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island, originally named The Sea Cook: A Story for Boys, is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of "buccaneers, buried gold, pirates and mutiny." A delightful read, that had me enthralled just a few pages in.
Robert Louis Stevenson (born 13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet and travel writer, most noted for writing Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Kidnapped, and A Child's Garden of Verses.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island in 1881. It is set in the days of sailing ships and pirates and tells of the adventures of Jim Hawkins and his search for the buried treasure of an evil pirate, Captain Flint.
The book and the writing style is just what you would expect from a book written over 100 years ago, but the principles and themes still ring true to this day. So what are some of the themes we can draw out from this absolute classic?
Fortune and Greed - The plot of Treasure Island is structured around the hunt for a fortune of massive proportions. The existence of this fortune tempts nearly all the characters - few are exempt from such a dream, from Long John Silver and Captain Smollett to Jim Hawkins himself. Importantly, the story never really challenges this desire. The pirates might be the murderous enemies of the protagonist, but not because they are greedy while the others remain selfless. How often do we see this play out in everyday life mere mortalites? Where fortune and greed can also be translated to our unending chase of money, fame and riches that might be leading us to a perilous end.
Father Figures and “Becoming a Man” - While Treasure Island is certainly an adventure story, it’s also about Jim Hawkins growing up and learning to navigate a dangerous, unfamiliar world. Jim’s father dies near the beginning of the novel, leaving him without a figure who can guide him through this process. We are reminded throughout the novel that Jim is "only a boy", but as the tale unravels we see the clear progression of what it is to transform from a boy to a man, from the actions that Jim takes and the risks that pay off.
Courage, Adventure, and Pragmatism - All good pirate novels need to have a strong sense of adventure, which Treasure Island was certainly packed with, but it was the sense of courage that really sealed the deal. If there’s anything that makes Long John Silver admirable despite his despicable qualities, it’s his courage in the face of danger. Jim notices this aspect of Silver’s character as he watches the pirates threaten to mutiny once again, this time against Silver, who remains calm and cool even though he is outmatched. Jim watches and learns from Silver how to act in a real adventure. While courage is often associated with a positive character, it was refreshing to see that the quality can be imbued by any type of character and learnings can still be drawn from them.