Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Part 3, Chapter 14 : My Shore Adventure (The First Blow) | Summary

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Summary

Having escaped Long John Silver, Jim is free to explore on the island. It seems uninhabited except for "dumb brutes and fowls" and the occasional snake. Jim comes to a broad, steaming marsh within sight of the Spy-glass hill and, moments later, hears voices, one of which is Silver's. Jim quickly hides but then decides he has a duty to sneak closer, to hear what is being said.

Slowly and steadily he crawls closer until he can see Silver standing face to face with a crew member named Tom, pleading with Tom to join the mutiny, but the man is honest and refuses. Abruptly, there are distant cries of anger, and then a horrid drawn-out scream catches their attention. With a smile Silver tells Tom the death cry has come from seaman Alan. Heroically, Tom tells Silver, "you're a mate of mine no more." He then turns his back on Silver and begins to walk away. With a yell Silver sends his crutch flying like a missile, striking Tom in the back; breaking his spine on the spot. Then "agile as a monkey," Silver is on the fallen man and stabs him twice.

The staggering violence of the scene overwhelms Jim, and he comes close to fainting. When he recovers, Silver is calmly cleaning his blood-stained knife on the grass. For a moment the event feels unreal to Jim, as if he had dreamed it. Crawling clear of his hiding place, he begins to run without thought.

Analysis

The savagery and greed of the pirates drives events in this chapter. Impatient for the mutiny to begin, the buccaneers can barely control themselves. Their mood turns ugly and rebellious, which threatens to undermine Silver's careful scheme for obtaining the gold and disposing of the honest men. Less barbarous characters would wisely exercise self-control and master their greed for the sake of the plan.

The moral ambiguity of Long John Silver is fully revealed in his handling of the honest sailor Tom. Silver knows right from wrong; good from evil. He knows Tom opposes the mutiny for honorable reasons. So Silver appeals to Tom's friendship, pointing out that he is risking his life talking to Tom rather than killing him outright. Silver may or may not be sincere. However, when Tom turns and walks away, Silver instantly shifts from civilized to savage. With no moral qualms he murders Tom.

Silver's physical prowess and agility were described as he moved about his tavern and maneuvered aboard the Hispaniola. Now he demonstrates formidable skill and strength in physical combat with Tom. The honest sailor underestimates Silver's ability to stop him, based on the pirate's physical limitations. The speed and accuracy with which Silver turns his crutch into a weapon and then leaps upon Tom to finish him off is fearsome. This explains why Silver can dominate the other pirates and foreshadows a time when he is challenged by them.

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