Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Part 6, Chapter 28 : Captain Silver (In the Enemy's Camp) | Summary

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Summary

The pirates are in possession of the block-house and Jim is their captive. Counting Silver, there are only six buccaneers left. Silver is still in charge, though to Jim, he looks paler and sterner than before. Silver compliments Jim on being "a lad of spirit," and says the boy has no choice now but to join him and the pirates.

Jim gleans from the conversation that his friends are still alive and only half believes Silver's story about their anger. Silver goes on to tell the boy that he spared the lives of his friends in exchange for the block-house and everything in it.

Jim feels the threat of death hanging over him but tries to keep up a brave front. Brashly he tells Silver that he won't join the pirates, and that he is the one who cost Silver his ship, the treasure, and his men; he is the reason the "whole business has gone to wreck." Furthermore, he recounts his exploits of the previous 24 hours. Then Jim challenges the pirates to kill him or spare him as they please. However, if they spare his life, he promises to save theirs by testifying in their favor if they are tried for piracy.

The pirates are all for killing Jim, but Silver reminds the men that Jim will be more valuable alive than dead.

The men ask permission to confer together outside. As soon as they leave, Silver warns Jim that he is in danger of death and "what's a long sight worse, torture." But the pirate promises to stand by Jim and save his life, if Jim will do the same for him. A bargain is struck.

Analysis

Now that Jim is in the enemy's camp, his courage is put to a different kind of test. He is at the mercy of the pirates, with no hope of fighting free of them, so physical courage means nothing. It is his moral courage that is tested. With the threat of death hanging over him, it seems the safest, easiest path to follow is to join the mutineers, as Silver suggests. With a fine show of courage, Jim refuses. His main concern is that Dr. Livesey be informed that he died honorably. This is a praiseworthy indication of Jim's developing maturity. Like the honest sailor Tom, Jim would rather die than behave dishonorably.

As Silver sketches out Jim's precarious position now that he is among the pirates, Jim demonstrates another skill that speaks to his maturity: he listens carefully to Silver in order to discern whether his friends are still alive, while distrusting all that Silver explicitly tells him.

After Jim makes known his role in the wreck of the mutineers' plans, Silver demonstrates both courage and moral ambiguity. With a show of bravado, Jim dares the pirates to kill him. Silver may or may not be impressed, but the intimidating effect of Silver's raw courage and force of will subdues the other men. Yet, Silver is no fool, and he realizes that the honest party, with Jim's help, has destroyed his plan. The ship is gone, and there's something funny about the ease with which Dr. Livesey gave up the map. More importantly, Silver can read the dangerous mood of his men. Without a twinge of regret, he decides to switch sides in order to save his own skin. As his men hold a council with the goal of ousting Silver as their captain, the pirate smoothly begins to set things up. He aligns himself with Jim, in a bargain for their mutual safety.

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