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The discovery of a treasure map sets young Jim Hawkins in search of buried gold, along with a crew of buccaneers recruited by the one-legged Long John Silver. As they near their destination, and the lure of Captain Flint’s treasure grows ever stronger, Jim’s courage and wits are tested to the full. Robert Louis Stevenson reinvented the adventure genre with Treasure Island, a boys’ story that appeals as much to adults as to children, and whose moral ambiguities turned the Victorian universe on its head. This edition celebrates the ultimate book of pirates and high adventure, and also examines how its tale of greed, murder, treachery, and evil has acquired its classic status.
Matt Markgraf says:
In honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day this week, I wanted to share some thoughts on a great, timeless classic: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Many classics can be somewhat of a chore: a feeling like one “should” or “ought” to read rather than for enjoyment. Not the case here. The book is a breeze. It has a rich, brooding atmosphere comparable to the works of Edgar Allen Poe, particularly in describing Jim Hawkins’ fearful distance from the pirates and relief when overcoming obstacles. What’s working here is Stevenson’s ability to scale back, carefully revise and penchant for atmospheric flair.
This masterful narration brings to life the foreign, fantasy-like setting of Treasure Island and aboard the Hispaniola. He makes you feel like you’re there: “The glow of the sun from above, is a thousandfold reflection from the waves, the sea-water that fell and dried upon me, caking my very lips with salt, combined to make my throat burn and my brain ache.” G.K. Chesterton famously wrote that Stevenson “seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a man playing spillikins (pick-up sticks).” Read the first page of Treasure Island, you’ll agree.
The best part of all is, of course, the pirates. Inspired by both facts and folklore, Stevenson’s pirates are shanty-yodeling, rum-soaked scoundrels with peg-legs, parrots and an affinity for saying “Arrr!” The characters, Black Dog, Billy Bones, Israel Hands, Ben Gunn and last but not least Long John Silver, are as memorable as their 21st century descendents in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Not a line of their dialogue goes by without that gravelly, swaggering tenor, especially when they break out into a “yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” song. You know you want to sing it… Go ahead.