Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Part 6, Chapter 30 : Captain Silver (On Parole) | Summary

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Summary

Jim awakes the next morning to the sound of a voice crying, "Block-house, ahoy! Here's the doctor." Indeed, Dr. Livesey has come to treat the ill and injured buccaneers, and it seems he is expected.

When he is finished, Dr. Livesey asks to have a private word with Jim. At first the doctor condemns Jim for deserting the camp, calling the act "downright cowardly." Through tears of shame, Jim explains what good fortune—recovery of the ship—resulted from his recklessness. The astonished doctor soon softens his criticism. When he encourages Jim to take this chance to escape, Jim staunchly refuses.

Before leaving Jim with the pirates, Dr. Livesey warns Silver in secret not to be in a hurry to find the treasure. The doctor then asks Silver to take care of Jim. If he does so, the doctor promises he will do what he can to save Silver from the gallows once they get off the island.

Analysis

Duty and honor as well as courage are the driving forces behind Dr. Livesey's visit to the stockade and Jim's refusal to escape. The doctor feels duty-bound to treat the pirates, though they are scoundrels and he is in mortal danger. It is the same sense of duty that drives him to help Billy Bones. He also considers it a point of honor to keep the mutineers alive, if possible, for a proper trial in England.

When the doctor encourages Jim to take a chance and flee the stockade, it is yet another test of courage, which Jim passes. This time his moral courage is on the line. Jim has given his word to Silver that he won't try to escape. Therefore, as tempting as it might be, Jim feels he must honor that promise and remain a prisoner.

Silver's chameleon-like ability to adapt to the needs of a situation is highlighted when he overrides his men's objections and lets Dr. Livesey speak privately with Jim. Silver intimidates the pirates with roars and curses, yet moments later, speaks with trembling earnestness to Dr. Livesey. Each performance is designed to get Silver what he wants. The effect is a complex, ever-shifting, and untrustworthy character whose identity and motives are always in doubt.

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