Monday, November 29, 2021

Treasure Island

Click to see Vol. I, Issue 5 of the newsletter in which this article first appeared.

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The Pirates of the Caribbean series of films--and many, many other books, films, and TV shows besides, as well as the ride at Disneyland--trace their origins to a common ancestor, the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson's 1883 Treasure Island, with its captivating villain, a pirate named Long John Silver.

Young Jim Hawkins works at his mother's inn in England. One night an old "sea dog" named Billy Bones lodges there, and tells Jim to watch out for "a one-legged seafaring man." Some of Bones's former confederates attack him and are run off, but Bones dies of a stroke. Jim and his mother take some of Bones's cash to cover his rent, and a mysterious packet that was in his sea chest.

In the packet, they find the map of an island where the notorious Captain Flint is said to have hidden his treasure. They seek the help of the local physician and a nobleman, who form an expedition under a Captain Smollett to recover the loot. Jim will go along as cabin boy.

Unfortunately, many of the sailors recruited for the voyage are former "mates" of Captain Flint. One of these, a one-legged cook with a parrot on his shoulder, is Long John Silver himself. Jim overhears the confederates' plan to mutiny after the treasure is recovered, and reports it to the captain.

On the island, Jim meets a marooned pirate named Ben Gunn. The pirates attack Smollett's men, who take refuge in an old stockade, but Jim reaches the ship and sets it adrift. With the help of a man on board, Israel Hands, Jim sails the ship to the other side of the island, but then Hands tries and fails to kill the boy.

Back ashore, Jim returns to the stockade, only to find that Silver and his men now occupy it; they also now have possession of the map.

When Silver and the other pirates find the site of the treasure--with Jim in tow--old Ben Gunn makes noises that cause the pirates to think the site is haunted. They discover the treasure is gone: it had been removed years before by Gunn, who has hidden it in a cave. The "good guys" capture the pirates, remove the treasure to the ship, and sail away, with Silver and his men in chains.

But at their first stop, still in Spanish America, Silver escapes with some of the loot. The party returns to England and divides up what they have recovered.


Vocabulary: Match the words to their meaning. Correct answers are in the first comment below.

  1. adrift
  2. captivating
  3. in tow
  4. loot
  5. marooned
  6. mutiny
  7. notorious
  8. recruited
  9. seafaring
  10. trace
  1. left behind; stranded
  2. being taken along
  3. rebel against a ship captain
  4. not tied down
  5. infamous; famous for being bad
  6. follow back in history
  7. signed up for service
  8. fascinating; attractive
  9. riches gotten illegally
  10. traveling on the ocean

Questions to Answer: Answer the following questions in your own words. Suggested answers are in the first comment below.

  1. What influence has Treasure Island had on popular entertainment?
  2. How did Jim Hawkins get involved in this pirate adventure?
  3. What was wrong with the sailors recruited for the voyage to find the treasure?
  4. Who helps Jim and his shipmates on the island?
  5. What happens to Long John Silver?

Questions to Think About: These questions do not have "right" or "wrong" answers. They only ask your opinion.

  1. Why do we find stories of buried treasure so fascinating?
  2. Long John Silver is the "bad guy." Why do Jim (and countless readers of the book) find him so captivating?
  3. What kind of life do you think Jim might have had after returning to England?

1 comment:

  1. Answers:
    Vocabulary: 1. D; 2. H; 3. B; 4. I; 5. A; 6. C; 7. E; 8. G; 9. J; 10. F

    Questions to Answer (suggested answers; yours may be written slightly differently)
    1. Many books, films, and TV shows were inspired by the book, as well as the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland.
    2. An old man named Billy Bones stayed at Jim's mother's inn, and Jim and his mother found Billy's treasure map.
    3. Many of the newly-recruited sailors had served with the pirate captain who buried it.
    4. Ben Gunn, a sailor marooned by Captain Flint, helped Jim and his shipmates.
    5. Long John Silver is arrested and put in chains, but he escapes with some of the loot while the ship is still in Spanish America.

    Questions to Think About do not have any single correct answer. However, any answers you give should be supported by what you read or by things you know ("I think... because...").