Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Character Analysis


Jim Hawkins

Jim Hawkins's parents own the Admiral Benbow. Still living under their influence, Jim is immature and unworldly. He does as he is told and is a pawn in the game of hide-and-seek between Billy Bones and his former shipmates Black Dog and Pew. Jim begins to shed his innocence when his father suddenly dies. Then with Billy's shocking death, Jim begins an adventure and the difficult process of growing up. Over the course of events, Jim is "adopted" by several characters. Dr. Livesey takes charge of Jim on the voyage. Long John Silver becomes a father figure to him for a time. Even the fugitive black slave Ben Gunn latches onto Jim and promises to make him a man. From Dr. Livesey, Jim learns the value of unwavering ethics, courage, duty, and honor. From the morally ambiguous Silver, Jim learns resourcefulness and self-reliance, as well as the painful consequences of deceit and betrayal. Naive about the realities of the world, Jim often acts impulsively, endangering himself and others. Yet fate seems to favor him, and his missteps turn out for the best. Over the course of the story, he grows notably more independent, confident, and capable. His maturity is most evident when he selflessly acts on behalf of his friends. By story's end, though still young, Jim understands and has learned to negotiate the adult world with success.

Dr. Livesey

Dr. David Livesey is both the local doctor and district magistrate. Jim Hawkins describes him as a "neat" man with "bright, black eyes and pleasant manners" who always wears his powdered wig "white as snow." The doctor's appearance contrasts sharply with that of ragged and dirty Billy Bones when they meet at the Admiral Benbow. The doctor once served in the British army. He is courageous, cool headed, trustworthy, and devoted to duty—useful characteristics as the adventure unfolds. His unfaltering courage and devotion to duty are first evident when he is dealing with Billy. Aboard the Hispaniola, the doctor shows a knack for staying calm in a crisis when Jim brings news of a threatened mutiny. He counsels the others to wait and watch, and show no fear. At the stockade, before and during battle, he is similarly calm and clear eyed as to what must be done, and takes responsibility for the loyal party when Captain Smollett is wounded. Dr. Livesey's apparent trustworthiness earns the loyalty of Ben Gunn. Even double-dealing Silver trusts the doctor to keep his word. The sick and injured pirates trust him as well. When his devotion to duty compels him to treat the men, they submit as meekly as children. Jim respects Dr. Livesey and values his wisdom. However, the doctor pales as a father figure compared to the more exciting Long John Silver.

Long John Silver

Long John Silver is the "clean and pleasant-tempered landlord" of the Spy-glass tavern in Bristol. He has lost a leg, reportedly while serving in the Royal Navy. Silver befriends Squire Trelawney, guides his choice of crew for the voyage to Treasure Island, and signs on as ship's cook. Silver makes a good first impression, especially on Jim, who describes him as tall and strong, with an intelligent, smiling face—far different from other seafaring men in Jim's experience. In turn Silver takes a liking to Jim, claiming to see something of himself in the lad. He assumes a fatherly role as the voyage begins, teaching Jim about ships and seafaring, and telling him tales of the sea. In truth, Silver is a cunning, treacherous buccaneer who will betray anyone to get what he wants. Silver is also resourceful and clever, ever ready to meet the demands of a changing situation. His ultimate goal is to acquire wealth enough to live out his remaining years as a gentleman. To this end he looks out for himself first, and sides with whatever party seems to be winning.

Squire Trelawney

Squire John Trelawney is a good-natured, honest, wealthy landowner. Jim describes him as more than six feet tall and broad in proportion, with "a bluff, rough-and-ready face," lined by an active life. When Jim acquires the map, Trelawney is captivated by the idea of a treasure hunt and insists on organizing the expedition. The squire's enthusiasm stems more from the notion of adventure than from a desire for gold. His true passion lies in the idea of going to sea. The squire's natural integrity is jeopardized by his dreadful inability to keep a secret. Though he promises to be "as silent as the grave" about the purpose of the voyage, he can't seem to help letting out the secret. This puts the entire venture at risk when he unwittingly hires a crew of pirates to man the ship.

Captain Smollett

Captain Alexander Smollett is hired by Squire Trelawney to captain the schooner Hispaniola on her voyage to Treasure Island. He is experienced, honest, and devoted to duty, yet stubborn and temperamental, which often puts him at odds with other characters. Although a man of few words, he expects his order to be obeyed and will loudly berate anyone who neglects his duties. At the outset of the voyage, he makes it clear that he distrusts the crew and disapproves of treasure voyages. His suspicions are prophetic and foreshadow later events in the story. During the voyage, Captain Smollett manages the ship and crew with great skill and brings the Hispaniola safely within sight of Treasure Island.

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