Analysis of Treasure Island

Subject: Culture
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 11
Word count: 2889
Topics: Book, Cognitive Psychology, Fiction, Linguistics, Symbolism, Teamwork


The book, Treasure Island, was authored by Robert Stevenson, who was born on 13th of November, 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland (Daiches, n.p.). Stevenson is a writer of many feathers, having been recognized for his different works of literature as an essayist, poet, and author of several books, before he died in his adopted island of Samoa on December 3, 1894 (Benfey, n.p.). Stevenson has largely been known for his creative writing of fictional and travel stories, which has ranked him among the best known early writers in Scotland. His interest in writing showed up early, when he started mimicking great writers in his teenage and by his early youth, he had written his first published work, The Pentland Rising (Daiches, n.p.). Stevenson was born as the only son to his parents, Thomas and Margaret Stevenson, and his early life was characterized by a rough childhood, which was characterized by ill health that made it difficult for him to attend school.  Nevertheless, Stevenson attended the Edinburgh Academy before then proceeding to Edinburgh University at age 17, expected to take up a career course in engineering, just like his father (Benfey, n.p.). Nevertheless, Stevenson had no interest in the Engineering career, thus he agreed with his father to instead pursue law as a compromise.  He disliked his father’s practical career attitudes and started depicting rebellion and thus even after passing his bar, he never practiced law. His interest were to escape his father’s strict practical career emphasis, resulting in his heightened interest for travel, and also informing his theme of the book, Treasure Island, which demonstrates the contrast between a respectful gentleman on the one hand,  and the carefree pirates on the other hand (Daiches, n.p.).

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Critical Reception

The critical reception of the book, Treasure Island, has largely been positive. Most of the literature critics have categorized the book as being creative, adventurous, imaginative, thrilling and fun, and more specifically as “an amazing adventure, one that every one dreams of since childhood” (Pereira, 27). In The Guardian, bunkbedbobby, a well known books and literature critic for children books categorizes the book as one that brings the whole family together with its ‘gripping and fun stories’, while describing the book as suitable for readers who like exciting, fun, thrilling and adventurous stories (Bunkbedbobby, n.p.). The Wall Street Journal review agrees perfectly with the opinion that the book, Treasure Island, is perfect for children, when an article reviewing the book in the Journal states, “If this don’t fetch the kids, why, they have gone rotten since my day” (Beck, n.p.). The same view has been held by the early literature critics of the 20t century, who fund that despite many readers not knowing who was Robert Stevenson, they appreciated that “a new and fresh power had arisen in English literature” (Dury, n.p.). In an article published by The Atlantic back in 1902, the Atlantic held that contrary to many writers who were before Stevenson, Stevenson knew his life’s business from childhood was to write (Torrey, n.p.). Thus, Stevenson devoted time to develop the writing apprenticeship skills, resulting in his work of perfect work of literature, Treasure Island, in which he “aims at perfection,–perfection for its own sake” (Torrey, n.p.). The New York Times review of the book, Treasure Island, also holds that ranging from his adventure in the darkness into concealing the secrets of the main characters crime, Stevenson has emerged as the writer with the “most imaginative claim” (Benfey, n.p.).

Point of View (Narration)

The point of view of the book, Treasure Island, is the first person, where the reader learns things based on the protagonists continue to narrate and unfold the story. The First-person narration point of view of in the book has been applied as a way of allowing the reader to learn the story from an insider’s perspective, as opposed to being told about the story from a third party’s observational perspective. Jim Hawkins is the protagonist and the main character in the story and the reader gets to learn most of every event and happening of the story based on what Jim Hawkins himself sees and then informs the reader (SCHNEIDER, 41). The essence of the first person narration point of view in a work of fiction is to make the work seem more realistic, considering that the events and happenings in the story are unfolding from an insider’s perspective, thus increasing the believability. The first person narration also creates a strong bond between the reader and the narrator in the storey, because the reader has to follow and rely on the narrator’s learning of the events of the story, which the narrator then conveys to the leader. In this respect, the reader learns things in the story at the pace of the narrator’s learning or experiencing them. In the book, Treasure Island, the reader learns to rely on the main character, Jim Hawkins from the very opening of the book, where Jim Hawkins categorically states “these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end” (Stevenson, 5).

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Style (language)

The dominant language applied by the book, Treasure Island, is the distinctive and unique pirate language, which is reminiscent of the early colloquial English, which is largely non-straightforward. The essence of the application of the distinctive and unique language that is specific to the pirate in the sea is to take the reader back to the ancient days, when the English language was not perfected in grammar and structural sense, since it is the time when pirates were popular in the high seas. The language applied takes the form of unnecessary inclusion of articles within the sentence as well as the overall reversal of the sentence structure, in a way that makes the language seem alien to the common English reader, and thus only suitable and specific to the pirates in the sea. For example, ‘this is the berth for me’ has been applied as a reversal of the common English form ‘this is my berth’, while the phrase ‘head up there for to watch ships off’ instead of ‘head up there to watch ships off’ (Stevenson, 6).

The other aspect of style and language applied in the book, Treasure Island, is the dialogue style, where in most of the sections of the book, dialogue between the different characters in the story is dominant. The intension of application of dialogue as the main style in the book, is to give the reader enough opportunities to get acquainted with the new and exotic world of the pirates, and open the reader’s access to the mindset and personal characters of the pirates, which the reader is only able to discern through the pirates actually talking and expressing themselves in dialogue. For example, when ‘Now, look you here, Jim Hawkins,’…‘you’re within half a plank of death’, is a dialogue that opens up the reader to the actual character of Long John Silver, and his threats to Jim Hawkins then becomes real and even more scary (Stevenson, 288).


Jim Hawkins, a young boy is thrown into the unusual and exotic world of the pirates by an unfortunate incidence that occurs in his parents lodge. The Billy Bones dies within the lodge, after confessing to Jim that there are some sea pursuers who are coveting the content of his sea chest, when he told Jim “it’s my old sea-chest they’re after” (Stevenson, 28).  Following the visit of Black Dog first, and then of the blind beggar seamen, which frightened Billy to his death (Stevenson, 34). Jim and his mother swiftly open the captain’s sea chest, to find that it had within it some valuables such as money, written records and a map (Stevenson, 42). Jim takes the map to some friends, Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesey, who proposes following the map to find the treasures that were the reason the old captain was being pursued by the seamen (Stevenson, 69). However, due to their naivety in matters of sea expedition, Jim, Dr Levesey and Trelawney are tricked by the same pirate gang that was pursuing the old captain into a negotiation that saw the three proceed to seek the treasure with the pirate gang, only to discover in the course of the journey that they had already been tricked. The entire treasure seeking expedition then turns out to be a dangerous affair of war between the pirates and rest of the crew, where several people die, while most are left marooned on the island. The arrival at the treasure site brings even more shock to the team loyal to Jim Hawkins, because the treasure had already been excavated. Nevertheless in the end, the treasure is found, some stole in the course of the travel back home, but it is split among the Jim Haskin’s crew for each to use as they please,  “wisely or foolishly, according to our natures” (Stevenson, 330).


Jim Hawkins is the protagonist and the main character in the story, who is in his early teenage, thus very excited about the pursuit of the treasure. His excitement almost gets him in deep trouble with the pirates, but his keen sense of wisdom and the moderate pursuit of heroism always found him a way to stay away from the danger (Stevenson, 288).  Jim Hawkins is the overall narrator in the story and the reader gets to understand the developments of the story through Haskin’s experiences in the story. His character is best suited for the protagonist, because his is sufficiently brave and courageous to start a course and see it through to the end.

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Dr. Livesey is another important character in the story, who, teams up as the family doctor of Jim Haskin’s father and also serves as a magistrate. Although e does not present himself as a sophisticate man that would be expected of a doctor, his wisdom and practical approach to issue is well demonstrated.  Dr. Livesey can also be strict, daring and even fearless when the circumstances demand, and even when the old captain threatens him with a knife, the “doctor never so much as moved”, while opting to speak to the captain in just calm and steady tone (Stevenson, 13). The doctor plays an important role in advancing the story and also acting as the glue holding the crew together against the pirates, when Jim Hawkins is out and about trying to spy.

Long John Silver is another important character in the story, acting as the leader f the prates gang, who is both deceitful and disloyal, and always ready to kill and eliminate anyone who stands in his way of laying hands at the treasure (Pereira, 27).The other characters in the story include Squire Trelawney, who is the chief architect of the treasure searching expedition, always coming out as naïve in matters of seafaring. Captain Smollett is another character who is both loyal and very wise in matters of seafaring, thus able to maneuver all the challenges of the sea pirates and steadily bring his crew back home. The old captain, Billy Bones, starts off the story and acts as the sign board directing to where the story is going.

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The setting of the book, Treasure Island, is the 18th century, a time which the book does not specifically situate, as a way of making the book fell and remain timeless (McDermid, n.p.). The setting of the book in the 18th century is significant, because it plays the role of underlining the possible challenges the seamen and pirates had to maneuver through the high seas, in order to meet journey objectives. The setting of the book in the 18th century has also been backed up accordingly by the kind of language that the pirates and the seamen speaks in the book, as a way of presenting the pirates and seamen world as very distinctive and exotic from the normal daily human life. The activities and events in the story also occur at different times of the year and varied times of the day, which specifically matches with the kind of the event. For example the death of both the old captain and Jim Hawkins father occurs during the early morning, in a setting that is characteristically foggy, frosty afternoon, to match with the sad, somber and mournful environment created by the deaths (Stevenson, 30). Further, the setting of the book in the high seas is also important, because it symbolically manifests the turbulence of the lives the crew and the pirates must experience in the treasure searching expedition, which is represented by the windy and highly turbulent environments of the sea (David, n.p.). Most fundamentally, the setting of the bulk of the book at the island where the treasure was hidden matches perfectly with the title of the book, Treasure Island.


The book, Treasure Island, applies different symbols to advance the narrative. The black color is a major symbol that has been applied in the story, as a way of manifesting the actual somber mood of the story (McDermid, n.p.). The characters creating trouble in the story are also associated with the black color, such as the ‘Black Dog’ and the Black Spot’, to indicate the nature of their characters as negative to the course of the story. The other symbol that has been intentionally applied in the story is the ‘the coracle’, a small boat that was previously constructed and used by Ben Gunn, which was later discovered and used by Jim Hawkins to spy on the pirates (Stevenson, 208). The essence of the coracle as a symbol is to represent both a small boat being used by a small boy, to defeat the might pirates in a mighty ship.  The treasure map is another symbol applied in the story to depict materiality, which can send humans into a course of danger and risking their lives, even though the material things might be very useless in the end (David, n.p.). The treasure map awakened the desire to search for the treasure in Jim Hawking, Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesey, who were never even part of the whole seafaring process and in the process attracted the pirate, but in the end, the treasure found was subdivided and used in ways that mostly did not help those people (Stevenson, 330).

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The major theme in the book, Treasure Island, is the theme of coming of age (David, n.p.). The whole story surrounds around the teenage boy, Jim Hawkins, whose young excitement with the possibility of finding valuable treasure recruits a whole lot of unrelated people into a dangerous course that see some end up dead. The theme of coming of age is therefore advanced in the form of how young minds can bring unprecedented change into the direction of life of the society. The story teaches that the excitement of life associated with coming of age is also a dangerous force, is not well checked.

The other theme advanced by the story is the theme of uselessness of materiality. It is most often that people embark n very arduous tasks and journey of seeking material things, but in the very end they do not gain much from the materialism. Equally, the book, Treasure Island, cautions against embarking on the dangerous journey such as that taken by Jim Hawkins and the crew, and later find that the material things are really useless, whether used “wisely or foolishly, according to our natures” (Stevenson, 330).

Adventure is another theme advanced by the book, Treasure Island, with adventure being glorified and also warned against in equal terms. Adventure can really be good if embarked with a noble course. However, it can also be very dangerous, if the reason for the adventure is wrong, such the desire for treasure (McDermid, n.p.).

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Personal Response

The book, Treasure Island, has demonstrated adequate thought-out process of writing. The title of the book has been adequately matched with the setting of the book, with the bulk of the occurrences and events in the book happening at the island where the treasure was hidden, which is very compatible with the book’s title, Treasure Island. Additionally, the setting has also helped to advance both the themes and symbols applied in the book, with the high degree of use of the ‘color black’ throughout the book being applied to define the actual mood and nature of events occurring in the book, where mostly death and danger remain prevalent. The plot of the book has also been adequately and systematically applied to build, with each chapter effectively paving way for the next, since the different chapters are left hanging to allow the continuation of the story through a series of mini-adventures, from the begging to the end.

Language is another element of the book that has served its purpose very well in the book, with most of the language applied throughout the book being distinctive, unique and exotic, reminiscent of the pirates and the life in the high seas.  The use of the language is also effectively tied to the setting of the book in the 18th century, where the English language variation of the time clearly remains different from the modern English. The extensive application of dialogue as the major style in the book, Treasure Island, is also effective in advancing the character traits unfolding.

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  1. Beck, Stefan. “Of and For All Ages”. The Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2014. Web. April 29, 2017 <>
  2. Benfey, Christopher. ‘Myself and the Other Fellow’: Treasure Island . The New York Times, NOV. 6, 2005. Web. April 29, 2017 <>
  3. Bunkbedbobby. “Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – review”. The Guardian, 17 November 2014.  Web. April 29, 2017 <>
  4. Daiches, David. “Robert Louis Stevenson British author.” Encyclopædia Britannica, October 29, 2015. Web. April 29, 2017 <>
  5. David, Mosley R. “Book Review: “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson”. The Warden’s Walk, September 14, 2012. Web. April 29, 2017 <>
  6. Dury, Richard. “The Robert Louis Stevenson Archive: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Critical Reception”, n.d. Web. April 29, 2017 <>
  7.  McDermid, Val. “Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, book of a lifetime: A captivating story full of suspense”. Independent, 12 September 2014. Retrieved from:
  8. Pereira, Andreia. Treasure Island: historical background and literary analysis. Marta Cristina Baptista Vilar, n.d. 27-33. Print.
  9. SCHNEIDER, Chantal. Pirates as Heroes: Moral Ambiguity in Teenage Fiction. Lamadelaine / Pétange, 2010. 1-154. Print.
  10. Stevenson, Robert L. Treasure Island. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.
  11. Torrey, Bradford. “Robert Louis Stevenson”. The Atlantic Monthly, June 1902. Web. April 29, 2017 <>
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