Treasure Island


Robert Louis Stevenson

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Treasure Island can help.

The Black Spot Symbol Analysis

The Black Spot Symbol Icon

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

The Treasure Island quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Black Spot. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fortune and Greed Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Treasure Island published in 1999.
Chapter 3 Quotes

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.

Related Symbols: The Black Spot
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Treasure Island LitChart as a printable PDF.
Treasure Island PDF

The Black Spot Symbol Timeline in Treasure Island

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Black Spot appears in Treasure Island. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3. The Black Spot
Fortune and Greed Theme Icon
Deception, Secrecy, and Trust Theme Icon
Courage, Adventure, and Pragmatism Theme Icon
...after his old sea chest. The captain says that if he ever gets the “ black spot ,” Jim should tell Livesey to find a crew and follow the instructions in the... (full context)
Chapter 4. The Sea-Chest
Deception, Secrecy, and Trust Theme Icon
Courage, Adventure, and Pragmatism Theme Icon
...captain was clutching a blackened piece of paper, which he imagines to be the “ black spot .” It says, “You have till ten tonight.” It’s now six in the evening. (full context)
Chapter 29. The Black Spot Again
Fortune and Greed Theme Icon
Deception, Secrecy, and Trust Theme Icon, where one pirate slips something into Silver’s hand and then steps back. It’s the black spot —Silver declares that he’s not surprised, but they’ve cut the paper out of a Bible,... (full context)
Father Figures and “Becoming a Man” Theme Icon
Courage, Adventure, and Pragmatism Theme Icon
...Merry that he’ll have to wait his turn a little longer. Silver tosses Jim the black spot to examine: one side contains a verse from Revelations, including “Without are dogs and murderers,”... (full context)
Chapter 30. On Parole
Deception, Secrecy, and Trust Theme Icon
Courage, Adventure, and Pragmatism Theme Icon that Jim will tell him how Silver saved his life and was given the black spot for it: he hopes the doctor will take this into account in judging Silver. Never... (full context)