Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Part 2, Chapter 11 : The Sea Cook (What I Heard in the Apple Barrel) | Summary

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Summary

From his hiding place in the apple barrel, Jim overhears Silver, Israel Hands, and a young crewman named Dick discuss how best to steal Flint's treasure. He's shocked to learn that Silver sailed with Flint as his quartermaster.

Talk then turns to what should be done with the ship's captain, the honest hands aboard, and the squire and the doctor. Dick insists on killing them, and Israel Hands agrees, quoting his old shipmate Billy Bones: "Dead men don't bite." But then Silver cautions patience; let the pirates wait for the last moment to do the deed. Suddenly the ship's look-out cries excitedly, "Land ho!"

Analysis

In the previous chapter Captain Smollett predicts that providing the crew with little luxuries like a barrel of apples is likely to spoil them. For once he is wrong. If not for the apple barrel, Jim would not have overheard the pirates plotting. It is pure luck that Jim is dozing in the apple barrel that evening, overhears the plot, and escapes detection by the pirates. Fate will seemingly interfere now and again throughout the story. The interference in this case tilts the balance of knowledge away from the mutineers. The honest men soon will know what the pirates intend.

Silver is clearly the ringleader and quite different from the genial tavern keeper that befriended Squire Trelawney and signed on as ship's cook. He is a ruthless villain whose motto is "Dooty is dooty." Far from the ideal of duty that guides Dr. Livesey and Captain Smollett, the "dooty" Silver refers to can involve murder.

Silver equates having money with being a gentleman. He labels himself a "gentleman of fortune," though this is only a fancy euphemism for a common pirate. In Silver's mind there is a connection between wealth and social rank—as one increases, so does the other. It is a variation on the rise in wealth and rank that Billy Bones recorded in his ledger. However, qualities of a true gentleman, as displayed by Squire Trelawney or Dr. Livesey, are meaningless to Silver.

In his still childish naïveté, Jim is unprepared for Silver's deceit. He experiences it as a personal betrayal. Coming to terms with the incident is another painful step on the road to maturity that Jim is forced to take.

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