Treasure Island


Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island: Genre 1 key example

Explanation and Analysis:

Written during 1881 and 1882, Treasure Island is considered a work of Victorian literature. Victorian literature typically depicted the lives of ordinary, common people and offered moral lessons to the reader. However, Treasure Island is interested in adventure, too, so the novel takes an otherwise ordinary character (Jim) and brings him into the seedy world of piracy. Many Victorian authors, Robert Louis Stevenson included, were fascinated by pirates, a nostalgic tendency that reflected their anxieties about the industrialization of Britain and the rigid norms placed on them by Victorian society. 

Treasure Island was originally serialized in the children’s weekly Young Folks Magazine. It is a children's adventure novel; at the time it was published, due to restrictive Victorian norms, the novel was considered to be "only for boys." Treasure Island is also a coming of age story. Although Jim aligns himself with a number of men in the novel, he eventually learns how to rely on himself, an achievement that signals his transformation from a child to an adult. By the novel's end, Jim adopts a pragmatic attitude that allows him to survive. 

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, considered by some to be the first English novel, also inspired Stevenson as he wrote Treasure Island. Defoe's story also takes place on a Caribbean Island and features pirates and a shipwreck. Other notable literary influences on Treasure Island are Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Since its publication, Treasure Island has had a huge influence on depictions of pirates in literature and popular culture. Many of the novel's elements, such as Captain Flint's treasure map and Long John Silver's parrot, have become common tropes.