Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Part 2, Chapter 10 : The Sea Cook (The Voyage) | Summary

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Summary

Just before dawn the crew hauls up the ship's anchor, and the voyage begins. Passage to the island goes smoothly with a few exceptions. The first mate, Mr. Arrow, is often drunk, and one night he disappears, most likely having fallen overboard while intoxicated. The boatswain, Job Anderson, moves up in rank to serve as mate, and the experienced coxswain, Israel Hands, fills in wherever he is needed.

Silver, whom the crew has nicknamed "Barbecue," continues to serve well. The men respect and even obey him, and he is always kind to Jim. Often he invites the boy to "come and have a yarn with John." He tells Jim about his parrot, Cap'n Flint, and her buccaneer past. From Israel Hands, Jim learns that Silver is well educated, "can speak like a book" if he pleases, and is no common man when it comes to strength and courage.

Jim's admiration for Silver grows, until one evening, Jim crawls into a large, nearly empty barrel of apples looking for a snack, dozes off, and is startled to hear Silver's voice just outside. With just a dozen words Silver reveals his true nature, and Jim realizes that "the lives of all honest men aboard" now depend on him.

Analysis

The chapter is a "cliff-hanger" that leaves the reader in suspense. What did Jim hear? The stage is set for the betrayal that will wound Jim and shock his companions. Jim's assessment of the situation while he's still in the apple barrel reflects a maturity not demonstrated until now. He sees and accepts that the safety of others will depend on what he does.

Up to now, Silver has been the model seaman, performing his duty, and always good-natured and helpful. His galley, like his tavern, is "clean as a pin." No one but a real cook would keep such a galley. Yet appearances can be deceiving.

Similarly, the parrot, Cap'n Flint, is a clue that Silver is not what he appears to be. Silver relates the parrot's long and violence-filled history. Her vocabulary reveals what she has heard all her long life: pirate talk. The question is, if she has been the property of pirates, what is she doing in Long John Silver's possession?

Aboard the Hispaniola there's another instance of a man whose true nature is not understood. Squire Trelawney continues to misread Captain Smollett. His antipathy toward the captain persists even though Smollett quietly goes about his duties, performing them well.

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