Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Part 5, Chapter 23 : My Sea Adventure (The Ebb-Tide Runs) | Summary



Jim takes Gunn's coracle (small round paddle boat) and heads out to the Hispaniola. The coracle proves hard to manage, but Jim eventually reaches the hawser—a thick rope mooring the schooner to her anchor.

Once the hawser is cut, the ship immediately begins to spin with the current, yet no watchman aboard seems to notice. Maneuvering to get the coracle out of danger, Jim's hand encounters a light cord trailing down from the ship. On impulse he pulls himself up to peek into the main cabin. A glance shows him Israel Hands and a sailor wearing a red stocking cap "locked together in deadly wrestle, each with a hand upon the other's throat." Jim drops back into the coracle. Moments later, the schooner lurches violently, alerting the two watchmen to the danger.

Jim suddenly realizes that the ship is not drifting toward shore but out to open sea. The current is dragging along the coracle, as well.


Jim knows that, if the pirates sail off on the ship, the honest men will be marooned. In his decision to cut the schooner free of her anchor (with the hopes that she will beach herself), Jim acts independently, yet on behalf of the group, with the goal of saving them. As has happened before on this adventure, Jim breaks the rules. This time, however, it is the self-directed, measured action of an adult. He breaks the rules for a precise reason and for the greater good.

Jim's later peek through the Hispaniola's cabin window serves him well. As usual, climbing the rope is an impulsive act, compelled by curiosity. Yet, his glimpse of Israel Hands and the red-capped man shows him how things are going with the pirate crew. This will prepare him for a later encounter with Hands.

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