Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Part 6, Chapter 31 : Captain Silver (The Treasure Hunt—Flint's Pointer) | Summary

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Summary

Silver commends Jim for sticking by his word and not running off. This has, in essence, saved the pirate's life, as his men would surely have turned on him as a result. Silver stresses that he and Jim must stick close during the treasure hunt.

They join the buccaneers for breakfast. When Silver declares that when Jim will no longer be useful and will get what he deserves, the boy is not sure that the pirate is really bluffing. He knows that Silver still has "a foot in either camp," and might choose at any time to betray him.

Shouldering picks and shovels, the pirates set off on the treasure hunt. Silver has secured Jim to himself by a length of rope. The group reaches Spyglass Hill and begins scouting for a conspicuously tall tree, as described on the map.

Studying the strange pose of a skeleton they come across, Silver realizes that the bones are a grisly pointer left by Captain Flint and are aimed at the treasure. This strikes the other pirates as a bad omen. Six men died at the hands of Flint, and their number is also six.

Analysis

Stevenson adds a teaser to the chapter title, signaling the reader that here, at last, is the Treasure Hunt. Prior to setting off, the pirates enjoy an extravagant breakfast that reflects their "live for today" attitude. It's the same attitude that allows them to recklessly squander the wealth they acquire through pirating. Silver says nothing, though his personal history sets him apart from these men. Rather than reckless, he is careful and calculating. The buccaneers' excesses, whether with food, rum, or money, are symptomatic of their lack of discipline and their decadence.

As the treasure hunt progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that keeping the pirates under control is going to be a tough job for Silver. In their excitement, they are exceptionally undisciplined as they run to and fro, shouting, in search of clues. When they stumble upon the skeleton, their spirits plummet to a dangerous low. Only the reminder that vast quantities of gold are somewhere up ahead gets them moving again.

Silver's fluid and self-serving sense of morality is a source of worry for Jim. He knows the pirate is playing a new game that will pit him against his five deadly comrades. Even so, there is every chance that Silver will alter the game, if it pleases him. For this reason Jim cannot depend on Silver keeping his promise to Dr. Livesey.

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