Jim begins to hear rumors about the black spot from the very beginning of Treasure Island, but only gradually does he come to understand what it means. When pirates want to depose their leader, they burn a piece of paper until it’s charred with a black spot and then hand it to their captain, usually giving them a period of time until their authority is no longer good. This happens to both Billy Bones and Long John Silver over the course of the novel. While the black spot is thus a real, material object, it also serves to represent the entire logic and system by which the pirates organize their lives. In many ways the pirates are outside society, escaping (as much as they can) the laws and restrictions governing civilized life, but the black spot is their way or ensuring some kind of order and standards in their own, independent realm. At the same time, however, the black spot can also portend disorder and destruction—not only danger for the leader, who is about to lose all authority, but also for all the other pirates, since it signals discontent and resentment and may lead to violence for all.
The Black Spot Quotes in Treasure Island
Now, if I can't get away nohow, and they tip me the black spot, mind you, it's my old sea-chest they're after; you get on a horse—you can, can't you? Well, then, you get on a horse, and go to-well, yes, I will!—to that eternal Doctor swab, and tell him to pipe all hands—magistrates and sich—and he'll lay'em aboard at the 'Admiral Benbow'—all old Flint's crew, man and boy, all on 'em that's left. I was first mate, I was, old Flint's first mate, and I'm the on'y one as knows the place. He gave it me at Savannah, when he lay a-dying, like as if I was to now, you see.