Treasure Island

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Father Figures and “Becoming a Man” Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Fortune and Greed Theme Icon
Father Figures and “Becoming a Man” Theme Icon
Deception, Secrecy, and Trust Theme Icon
Courage, Adventure, and Pragmatism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Treasure Island, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Father Figures and “Becoming a Man” Theme Icon

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. As we are reminded midway through the book, Jim is “only a boy” at the time of this tale. Some of the more questionable decisions he makes, like sneaking away from camp late at night, can be understood as part of his process of growing up.

The book doesn’t tend to consider Jim’s mother as able to set an example of “manhood” for Jim—indeed, Robert Louis Stevenson made the active decision to exclude nearly all women from the entire tale, as part of writing an adventure “for boys.” As a result, Jim is left to align himself with a number of different adult men over the course of the novel. At first, he mimics the behavior of others on the Hispaniola in considering Captain Smollett a fun-hating, overly strict authority figure; only little by little does he come to respect him as a leader. Dr. Livesey is another male role model for Jim, and certainly the most straightforward in terms of guiding him to make good decisions.

Most surprising, perhaps, among the potential father figures in Jim’s life is Long John Silver. As a pirate and would-be mutineer, Silver is not exactly an obvious role model—and yet Jim, and correspondingly the book’s readers, come to admire the pirate in his courage and ultimately his fondness for Jim. More than anything, Long John Silver is independent, refusing to play by anyone else’s rules, and he is strategic in his decision-making. It is this independence and quickness of spirit that inspires Jim. Growing up, in this book, is not quite a matter of learning what is right and wrong, or learning to be responsible for other people; instead, it’s about becoming a clever, independent person who can be responsible for him- or herself.

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Father Figures and “Becoming a Man” Quotes in Treasure Island

Below you will find the important quotes in Treasure Island related to the theme of Father Figures and “Becoming a Man”.
Chapter 8 Quotes

Now, to tell you the truth, from the very first mention of Long John in Squire Trelawney’s letter, I had taken a fear in my mind that he might prove to be the very one-legged sailor whom I had watched for so long at the old “Benbow.” But one look at the man before me was enough. I had seen the captain, and Black Dog, and the blind man Pew, and I thought I knew what a buccaneer was like—a very different creature, according to me, from this clean and pleasant-tempered landlord.

Related Characters: Jim Hawkins (speaker), Long John Silver, Billy Bones (“the captain”), Pew, Black Dog
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

Jim had been told by the captain to look out for a one-legged man, and that is the first piece of description by which the squire identified Long John Silver, the ship’s cook whom the squire hired as part of the sea voyage crew. Nonetheless, while Jim hasn’t seen much of the world outside of the Admiral Benbow inn, at this point he has encountered a number of pirates, and understands them to be ragged, drunken, and at times frightening creatures. Judging by his experience, then, there’s little possibility that Silver could have anything to do with such men.

Soon enough, of course, Jim will be proven wrong. Silver possesses a remarkable capacity to adopt whatever attitude and to make whatever statements necessary in order to obtain what he wants, and in order to ensure his own survival—no matter how much lying or treachery it takes. In time, Jim will learn to admire such quick wit and attempt to mimic it himself. For the moment, however, Jim has just lost his father and now thinks he finds an ideal male paternal figure in Silver.

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Chapter 10 Quotes

All the crew respected and even obeyed him. He had a way of talking to each, and doing everybody some particular service. To me he was unweariedly kind; and always glad to see me in the galley, which he kept as clean as a new pin; the dishes hanging up burnished, and his parrot in a cage in one corner.
“Come away, Hawkins,” he would say; “come and have a yarn with John. Nobody more welcome than yourself, my son. Sit you down and hear the news.”

Related Characters: Jim Hawkins (speaker), Long John Silver (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

Once on board the Hispaniola, Long John Silver is even more skilled at winning over everyone on board—a skill that even the captain himself does not exactly master. Jim is the youngest person on the ship, and sailing is new to him: Silver’s welcoming attitude thus makes him feel at home in a way he would find it difficult otherwise. Jim visits Silver in his galley as he would visit a friend or, perhaps more properly, a kindly uncle, and the clean, bright galley is another way that Jim feels welcomed. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see Silver’s behavior as coldly calculating. He knows exactly what it takes to make others like and admire him, and he does exactly that for just as long as needed, so that he can be sure of their loyalty and obedience later on. He is an excellent actor, so much so that his penchant for deceit will only become evident to Jim by accident.

Chapter 11 Quotes

“Here it is about gentlemen of fortune. They lives rough, and they risk swinging, but they eat and drink like fighting-cocks, and when a cruise is done, why, it’s hundreds of pounds instead of hundreds of farthings in their pockets. Now the most goes for rum and a good fling, and to sea again in their shirts. But that’s not the course I lay.”

Related Characters: Long John Silver (speaker)
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

Jim has been accustomed to listening to Long John Silver talk like a gentleman. Now that he’s hiding in an apple barrel and listening to Silver speak to a number of other crewmen, Silver has slipped effortlessly into their way of talking, using bad grammar and sailors’ slang. Here he gives the crew an overview of the strategy for “gentlemen of fortune,” that is, pirates, who greedily seek after fortunes only to spend them on rum and women, before going back out to sea.

Silver, though, wants to win the others’ confidence by making a case that although he might be familiar with the ways of such “gentlemen,” he is different. Silver wants to be thought of as responsible, cool-headed, and rational, rather than hot-headed and lusting after gold. If he succeeds in convincing the others of this, they’ll be much more likely to betray the captain’s loyalty and join Silver’s plans of mutiny. Silver has clearly spent a great deal of time planning and plotting this attack, and he’s willing to be patient in order to be certain of success.

“But mark my words here: I’m an easy man—I’m quite the gentleman, says you; but this time it’s serious. Dooty is dooty, mates. I give my vote—death. When I’m in Parlyment, and riding in my coach, I don’t want non of those sea-lawyers in the cabin a-coming home, unlooked for, like the devil at prayers. Wait is what I say, but when the time comes, why let her rip!”

Related Characters: Long John Silver (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

As John continues to spin his yarns among the crewmen, one of them asks what they are to do with the captain and those loyal to him after they mutiny and take over the ship. Here, Silver shows just how cold and vicious he can be—an attitude that Jim has never yet witnessed, and which he might not have believed if he weren’t hearing it himself. Silver claims that he’s willing to kill them all, just in order to ensure that no one will be able to testify against him or the other pirates at court one day—murder, then, is the safest bet.

This declaration convinces Jim that the man he so admired is in fact a terrifying criminal, causing his respect for Silver to evaporate. Still, it’s impossible to know, after reading the entire novel, how sincere anything Silver says could be. He can indeed be ruthless and calculating—he’ll kill men in cold blood on the island—and he may well have little concern about murdering the whole crew. But it’s also possible that Silver is very aware of the other pirates’ own thirst for blood and taste for violence. In order to ensure their loyalty to him, rather than to the captain, it’s important for him to convince them that he’s just like them, and such a speech could well function to do precisely that.

Chapter 12 Quotes

“Hawkins, I put prodigious faith in you,” added the squire.
I began to feel pretty desperate at this, for I felt altogether helpless; and yet, by an odd train of circumstances, it was indeed through me that safety came. In the meantime, talk as we pleased, there were only seven out of the twenty-six on whom we knew we could rely; and out of these seven one was a boy, so that the grown men on our side were six to their nineteen.

Related Characters: Jim Hawkins (speaker), Squire Trelawney (speaker)
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

Jim has just finished relating to the squire, doctor, and captain what he overheard in the apple-barrel. It’s thanks to him, therefore, that the rest of the crew is aware of the planned mutiny at all, and the squire is obviously grateful for this. For most of the sea voyage, Jim has been grateful in turn for being treated like more of a man than a boy. Now, though, he’s realizing just what that means when graver challenges arise than sailors’ tasks on deck. Jim is learning to plot and plan just like Silver, but here his reasoning only makes him more concerned, since it underlines how disadvantaged his side is against the pirates—especially since, as he now reminds himself, he’s only a boy. Jim is still in the process of learning what it means to have courage in such times of danger.

Chapter 13 Quotes

Then it was that there came into my head the first of the mad notions that contributed so much to save our lives. If six men were left by Silver, it was plain our party could not take and fight the ship; and since only six were left, it was equally plain that the cabin party had no present need of my assistance. It occurred to me at once to go ashore. In a jiffy I had slipped over the side, and curled up in the fore-sheets of the nearest boat, and almost at the same time she shoved off.

Related Characters: Jim Hawkins (speaker), Long John Silver
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

The ship has neared the shore of Treasure Island, and the captain, aware of the plans of mutiny, has decided to allow only some of the pirates to go ashore, hoping that this will tame their restlessness and give him and the others enough time to hatch a plan of defense. With only six aboard the ship, as Jim now realizes, his side has little chance of defeating the pirates, but nor would the pirates be able to wipe out the captain and crew. As a result, he reasons his way into finding it an excellent idea to leave and explore the island.

Jim often finds ways of justifying his desires for adventure and exploration by appealing to a more generous cause. Often, indeed, his adventures do prove useful and even life-saving to others. This passage helps clarify, nonetheless, that one of Jim’s most salient characteristics is a boyish adventurousness, motivating him to seek out new things and places, and preparing the way for bravery when the stakes later become higher.

Chapter 14 Quotes

I now felt for the first time the joy of exploration. The isle was uninhabited; my shipmates I had left behind, and nothing lived in front of me but dumb brutes and fowls. I turned hither and thither among the trees. Here and there were flowering plants, unknown to me; here and there I saw snakes, and one raised his head from a ledge of rock and hissed at me with a noise not unlike the spinning of a top.

Related Characters: Jim Hawkins (speaker)
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

Jim has left the Hispaniola and paddle ashore on a small boat, where he is able to explore and wander alone, with none of the daily chores and responsibilities of life as a sailors’ hand. That this is the first time Jim has felt the “joy of exploration” reminds us that, until this sea voyage, he (like many young boys who have only read adventure stories, not lived them) had seen very little of the world outside his town. Here Jim is impressed by anything that is new and novel, and he is thrilled rather than afraid—a response that helps make sense of his personality. Even while Jim’s love of exploration makes him somewhat more mature than many other children, his carefree joy at being left alone without responsibilities makes him not quite an adult either.

Chapter 20 Quotes

“Now you’ll hear me. If you’ll come up one by one, unarmed, I’ll engage to clap you all in irons, and take you home to a fair trial in England. If you won’t, my name is Alexander Smollett. I’ve flown my sovereign’s colours, and I’ll see you all to Davy Jones. You can’t find the treasure. You can’t sail the ship—there’s not a man among you fit to sail the ship. You can’t fight us—Gray, there, got away from five of you. Your ship’s in irons, Master Silver; you’re on a lee shore, and so you’ll find. I stand here and tell you so; and they’re the last good words you’ll get from me; for, in the name of heaven, I’ll put a bullet in your back when next I meet you. Tramp, my lad. Bundle out of this, please, hand over hand, and double quick.”

Related Characters: Captain Smollett (speaker), Long John Silver, Abraham Gray
Page Number: 107-108
Explanation and Analysis:

Long John Silver has come to the log-house bearing a flag of truce, and wanting to strike a bargain with Captain Smollett: he has proposed that the captain and his crew allow the pirates to find the treasure, and they’ll win a safe passage back. But here, the captain refuses to be cowed by Silver and, instead, makes a proposal of his own. He shows that he too can play Silver’s game of cold bravery and rational, logical calculation: one by one, he goes through all the reasons that his side, in fact, possesses the advantage.

Just as Jim has learned certain postures and behaviors from Silver, he can now witness the captain’s courageous speech and and be inspired by it in turn. Earlier, Jim had found the captain overly strict and authoritarian: now, though, he can see the advantage in the captain’s attitude.

Chapter 22 Quotes

As for the scheme I had in my head, it was not a bad one in itself. I was to go down the sandy spit that divides the anchorage on the east from the open sea, find the white rock I had observed last evening, and ascertain whether it was there or not that Ben Gunn had hidden his boat; a thing quite worth doing, as I still believe. But as I was certain I should not be allowed to leave the enclosure, my only plan was to take French leave, and slip out when nobody was watching; and that was so bad a way of doing it as made the thing itself wrong. But I was only a boy, and I had made my mind up.

Related Characters: Jim Hawkins (speaker), Ben Gunn
Page Number: 118-119
Explanation and Analysis:

In the slow, boring waiting periods between battles, Jim has grown restless, not to mention jealous of the doctor, who has slipped out to meet with Ben Gunn. Gunn had told Jim that he’d hidden a small boat under a large white rock by the shore, and this gives Jim the seeds for a plan, even if he doesn’t think about what he’ll do after he finds the boat. As he’s looking back on his younger self, the Jim narrating the story recognizes that this desire to slip out secretly and betray the others was immature and not worthy of a man who had responsibilities to others. But he also implicitly forgives his younger self for his immaturity, suggesting that he was still in the process of growing up. Jim’s actions can also be forgiven because he’s clever enough to hatch ideas that might prove useful to the others—he can think creatively and act courageously in a way that older men sometimes cannot.

Chapter 28 Quotes

“I was in the apple barrel the night we sighted land, and I heard you, John, and you, Dick Johnson, and Hands, who is now at the bottom of the sea, and told every word you said before the hour was out. And as for the schooner, it was I who cut her cable, and it was I that killed the men you had aboard of her, and it was I who brought her where you’ll never see her more, not one of you. The laugh’s on my side; I’ve had the top of the business from the first; I no more fear you than I fear a fly. Kill me, if you please, or spare me.”

Related Characters: Jim Hawkins (speaker), Long John Silver, Israel Hands, Dick
Page Number: 153-154
Explanation and Analysis:

Jim has reached the log-house but, instead of finding his friends there, he has been taken captive by the pirates. Long John Silver has then once again attempted to use all the rhetorical skills at his disposal to trick Jim into joining their side, suggesting that he would be rejected by his friends as punishment for sneaking away. Here, however, Jim objects to Silver’s attempts to use and manipulate him. He wants Silver and all the other pirates to know that he’s learned from some of the most powerful authority figures on board to hide, scheme, and plot just as well as they can. He may be only a boy, but, as he lists his actions here, he’s been central in thwarting the pirates’ desires, and so he demands to be treated as that importance suggests. He may not be feeling as brave as what he says—he certainly hopes they’ll spare him and not kill him—but the posture of courage is, he’s learned, just as important as true courage.

“Understand me, Jim,” he said, returning. “I’ve a head on my shoulders, I have. I’m on squire’s side now. I know you’ve got that ship safe somewhere. How you done it, I don’t know, but safe it is. I guess Hands and O’Brien turned soft. I never much believed in any of them. Now you mark me. I ask no questions, nor I won’t let others. I know when a game’s up, I do: and I know a lad that’s staunch. Ah, you that’s young—you and me might have done a power of good together!”

Related Characters: Long John Silver (speaker), Jim Hawkins
Page Number: 156-157
Explanation and Analysis:

Long John Silver was impressed by Jim’s show of bravery, which has convinced him even more to abandon the side of the pirates and join the squire’s team (although this also may have more to do with his own recognition that the pirates are growing restless under his watch). Understanding that Jim has hidden the Hispaniola somewhere, Silver also recognizes that his best chances for leaving the island lie with Jim and the others, so he’s willing to switch sides entirely with no concern for loyalty or trust.

Silver also expresses some regret that he and Jim weren’t on the same side for longer. He implies, even, that Jim might have been a successful pirate if Silver had been able to convince him to join forces. In general, however, Silver seems to see some of himself in Jim, from his stubbornness to his ability to trick others to his courage in the face of danger. Indeed, it’s been from Silver that Jim has learned many of these traits, even if his view of Silver is now far more compromised than ever before.

Chapter 30 Quotes

“There is a kind of fate in this,” he observed, when I had done. “Every step, it’s you that saves our lives; and do you suppose by any chance that we are going to let you lose yours? That would be a poor return, my boy. You found out the plot; you found Ben Gunn—the best deed that ever you did, or will do, though you live to ninety.”

Related Characters: Doctor Livesey (speaker), Jim Hawkins, Ben Gunn
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

Just as the pirates had recognized that Jim was crucial in working against them, the doctor now understands more fully that Jim has saved the lives of the captain’s loyal men, despite being only a boy. The doctor has a far better developed sense of loyalty than does Long John Silver, for instance: to him, it is only fair that he now work to save Jim’s life in turn. In congratulating Jim, the doctor also muses on the workings of luck and fortune in such events, and the ways in which Jim happens to be present at every moment of danger, thus giving them all a greater chance of survival. The doctor is impressed by Jim, just as Jim has in many ways learned how to act and which values to espouse from the doctor.

Chapter 33 Quotes

In a far corner, only duskily flickered over by the blaze, I beheld great heaps of coin and quadrilaterals built of bars of gold. That was Flint’s treasure that we had come so far to seek, and that had cost already the lives of seventeen men from the Hispaniola. How many had it cost in the amassing, what blood and sorrow, what good ships scuttled on the deep, what brave men walking the plank blindfold, what shot of cannon, what shame and lies and cruelty, perhaps no man alive could tell.

Related Characters: Jim Hawkins (speaker), Captain Flint
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

Finally, after a near-endless search, Jim has laid his hands on the treasure. His first reaction is one of amazement and awe. Soon, though, Jim’s thoughts turn to the violence and destruction enacted by the pursuit of such fortune, both that he has witnessed and that has taken place before his time. In the novel, this reality does not exactly make the fortune less worth seeking: indeed, it is a triumph for the captain and his crew to have gotten their hands on it. But it is powerful in part precisely because it is so connected to the fortunes of other people. In surveying such wealth, Jim learns one final lesson about the sacrifices and suffering that can stem from single-minded pursuits in adulthood—pursuits that are no less worth seeking, nonetheless, for it.

Chapter 34 Quotes

Of Silver we have heard no more. That formidable seafaring man with one leg has at last gone clean out of my life; but I daresay he met his old negress, and perhaps still lives in comfort with her and Captain Flint. It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small.

Related Characters: Jim Hawkins (speaker), Long John Silver, Captain Flint (parrot)
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

Long John Silver had escaped from the crew at the port where they docked after leaving Treasure Island. As Jim thinks back on the pirate, he imagines a life for him in a characteristic mix of fondness and suspicion. Such mixed feelings have characterized Jim’s attitude towards the pirate for much of the novel. Initially idolizing Silver, Jim soon realized the depths of his evil character, but then came to understand that his cruelty coexisted with bravery, quick wit, and remarkable pragmatism. Although Jim has not followed in Silver’s footsteps himself, and has no desire to become a pirate like Silver, he recognizes that there’s much that Silver has taught him—including the skills of deception and secrecy that help make Silver such a troubling figure.