Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Part 6, Chapter 29 : Captain Silver (The Black Spot Again) | Summary

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Summary

The buccaneers conclude their council and return to the block-house. They hand Long John Silver a piece of paper marked with a black spot and the word Deposed. Silver reminds them of the rules in these matters and demands a chance to hear and reply to their grievances.

George Merry obliges, laying out four grievances. Silver coolly replies to all four points and then dramatically whips out the treasure map and throws it on the floor. Snatching up the chart, the buccaneers hungrily study it, their grievances forgotten. Silver hotly tells them he's resigning, but they unanimously cry, "Barbecue forever! Barbecue for cap'n!"

Analysis

Upon receiving the black spot, Silver demonstrates cleverness and superior ability to win in a battle of wits. Silver is cool, calculating, and a good judge of men. His observation, "Well, you've about fixed it now, among you ... You'll all swing now," shifts the dire meaning of the black spot away from Silver and toward his men. In this, the wily Silver shows he is clearly most fit to be the leader.

The buccaneer version of duty ("dooty") is a prominent feature of the chapter. The pirates, as duty demands, hand Silver the black spot "in full council." They are also duty bound to state their complaints and allow Silver to answer them. As lawless as they are, the pirates have rules to follow when they choose. In this instance their fear of Silver may be at heart in their devotion to "dooty." If they prove their case for ousting him, perhaps he will go without violence. As for Silver, he uses the rules to outmaneuver his men with arguments and to retain his position.

At the end of the chapter, a touch of moral ambiguity is expressed by Jim. However, it is not self-serving. He expresses mixed feelings about Long John Silver. On the one hand, he knows the man is wicked. On the other, he pities the future Silver likely faces—death by hanging.

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