Treasure Island | Study Guide

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Treasure Island | Part 6, Chapter 33 : Captain Silver (The Fall of a Chieftain) | Summary



Before the other pirates can grasp that the treasure is truly gone, Silver turns his thoughts to surviving the situation. Instantly, he aligns himself with Jim once more. Passing a loaded pistol to the boy, he whispers, "Stand by for trouble." At the same time he quietly moves to put the hollow between them and the other five men.

Accusations begin to fly that Silver knew all along that the treasure was gone. Silver is cool in the face of the men's rising fury. Prepared to lead the charge, George Merry calls Silver an "old cripple" and swears to have Jim's heart. But as he raises his arm, the crack of a musket is followed by two more shots. One pirate falls dead, and Merry tumbles into the hollow, still alive. Silver instantly fires "two barrels of a pistol into the struggling man." Simultaneously, Dr. Livesey, Abraham Gray, and Ben Gunn emerge from the woods "with smoking muskets." The last three living pirates turn and run for it.

It becomes clear now why the doctor surrendered the stockade and turned over the map to Silver. As Gunn gleefully explains, he had found and shifted the gold to a cave two months before the Hispaniola's arrival. The cave was clear of the malarial swamp, and Gunn had stocked it well with salted goats' meat. From the doctor's point of view—and knowing Gunn's secret—moving his party to the cave in exchange for a useless map was the perfect solution.

Now, hiking to the beach, the party destroys one of the gigs and takes the other to retrieve the Hispaniola. As they sail past Gunn's treasure house, they cheer Squire Trelawney, who is standing guard. Leaving Gray to guard the ship, the others return to the cave. Inside are heaps of gold coins and mounds of gold bars glimmering in the firelight.


The theme of duty is again brought out in the chapter. Jim was initially cut out from Dr. Livesey's plans because he had deserted his duty. Yet, after learning the truth about Jim's desertion, the doctor feels duty-bound to protect him. Silver demonstrates his own selfish version of duty by switching his allegiance once again and siding with the honest men, who have the upper hand. However, as self-serving as Silver's motives are, his courage is never in question. He faces the five mutineers bravely.

Upon returning to Ben Gunn's cave, Jim finally sees the treasure and is struck by the untold blood and sorrow it had cost to amass. This touches on the theme of the consequences of greed as well as dreams versus reality. In all Jim's imaginings before the voyage began, he never considered the real-life horrors necessary to acquire such treasure.

At the end of the chapter Silver's remarkable ability to adapt to needs of a situation serves him well. A few short hours ago, he was the fierce, formidable leader of a pirate gang. Having rejoined the honest men, he transforms himself into the humble and helpful sea cook who shipped out from Bristol on the Hispaniola.

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