Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Part 2, Chapter 9 : The Sea Cook (Powder and Arms) | Summary



As soon as Jim, Dr. Livesey, and Squire Trelawney are aboard the Hispaniola, the ship's captain, Smollett, asks to speak with the squire. Captain Smollett bluntly states that he has misgivings about the cruise, the crew, and his first mate, Mr. Arrow. He is disturbed by the fact that the purpose of the cruise is supposedly secret, but everyone knows about it. It troubles him that the crew is storing the gun powder and arms where they can be easily obtained.

Dr. Livesey appreciates the captain's candor and judges that he is one of the two honest hired men aboard—the other being Long John Silver. On the other hand Squire Trelawney dislikes the captain intensely, labeling him "an intolerable humbug." Nevertheless, upon Captain Smollett's advice, the powder and arms are moved to a more-guarded location.

As the work continues, Smollett notices that Jim is unoccupied. Sharply he orders the boy below, to help Silver with the cooking. "I'll have no favorites on my ship," he explains to the doctor firmly. At that moment Jim decides he hates the captain deeply.


The theme of duty is underscored by Captain Smollett in this chapter. Duty is central to his character, and he takes to heart his responsibility for the lives of the people on his ship. Honesty prevents him from directly accusing the crew of intending mutiny, but duty compels him to relay his concerns to the squire. When Trelawney takes offense, the captain is unmoved.

The confrontation between Captain Smollett and Squire Trelawney highlights the squire's less admirable qualities: occasional arrogance, stubbornness, and naïveté. He does not like having his judgment questioned, especially by a man he considers a subordinate. He stubbornly refuses to consider that the captain may be right. And he naïvely underestimates the dangers posed by a crew hungry for gold.

The doctor, on the other hand, appears coolheaded and willing to consider Captain Smollett's concerns. As a magistrate, he is used to listening to both sides of an argument before making a decision. He will act as a buffer between the squire and captain.

The captain plays no favorites in irritating the people aboard his ship. His command that Jim get busy and help the cook does not sit well with the boy. For the first time Jim expresses resentment at being told what to do by an adult—a sign that he may be starting to grow up. It also indicates that, in Jim's dreams about the voyage, he never imagined the reality of having to work.

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