Even if you haven’t read Treasure Island (which I hadn’t until now), or watched one of the countless adaptations, chances are you know a lot about it. Treasure Island has formed the majority of our schema (mental images and associations) related to pirates. It is the story of Jim Hawkins who embarks on a journey to a foreign island to find treasure, after discovering a map amongst the possessions of an old sailor who dies at his parents’ inn.
The story has everything you would possibly imagine when you think of pirates: mutiny, a talking parrot, a high rum consumption and lots of gold (and ‘pieces of eight’). The characters are more complex than your typical protagonist/antagonist style. Long John Silver, the captain of the mutineers, flicks between trustworthy and untrustworthy more than I thought considering I knew him as the ‘villain’ of the story. Stevenson has managed to give even the most ruthless of pirates in his book a real humanity as his true fears and lack of confidence is shown to Jim at one point in the story. I remember watching the Muppets film of Treasure Island when I was younger and finding Silver quite scary in it. I found the original Silver to be much less scary and more human.
The story is told predominantly by Jim, however there is a section in the middle of the book that is told by the doctor who acts as a guardian to Jim, as he is in fact quite young when they go off on the journey. As the book progresses, Jim appears to grow up. It has a slight feeling of a coming of age story as Jim begins the journey as a fascinated, naïve child and returns as a man. I feel this is reflected through the actions Jim makes, but also the narration itself.
Overall, I’m glad I finally got round to reading this classic text, and only wish I had done it sooner!
The reason I read this book was because a few weeks ago I stumbled upon Penguin’s biannual magazine The Happy Reader (pictured above). This season’s edition was about Treasure Island so whilst I waited for my magazine to arrive, I quickly read Treasure Island on my Kindle. The magazine was divided into two halves. The first was an extended interview with actor and entrepreneur Lily Cole and the second half was made up of short articles all related to Robert Louis Stevenson, his famous book and piracy.
I had never read a magazine dedicated to books so I absolutely enjoyed it. I really liked the process of reading a particular book in preparation for the magazine because although the articles could have been read without full knowledge of the book, it helped. This winter’s edition is based on Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian novel We, which I’ll definitely have to check out later this year.