I’ve completed my first book for the Back to the Classics reading challenge! I started the year off with an epic adventure of pirates, murder, treasure, and escapades on the high seas; in short, none other than Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island fills category 6. Adventure Classic.
I’ll be honest, I’m not much of an adventure reader. My tastes are more in line with historical fiction (especially westward expansion) and girl’s coming of age stories – best matched together in my favorites Little House on the Prairie and Caddie Woodlawn, along with the Kirsten series and a huge portion of Ann Rinaldi’s work. If it hadn’t been for this challenge, I probably wouldn’t have picked up Stevenson until it came up in the Ambleside curriculum. I’m glad I did though! I was on the edge of my seat, reading well into the night to see what Jim Hawkins would come up with next.
I can sum up Treasure Island in one word: Greed. Greed drives the decision making of nearly every character nearly the entire way through the book. When greed isn’t the primary motive, it is greed’s close cousin selfishness.
For those not familiar, Treasure Island is the story of Jim Hawkins. At the beginning of the novel, his family keeps an inn along the coast in England. A rough old pirate boards with them, terrorizing them with his anger and drunkenness. After Jim’s father passes away, pirates descend on the inn. The resident pirate dies of rum and fright. Although Jim and his mother at first run away, they return to sort through the pirate’s chest and claim the money that is due them for his stay – “how I blamed my mother for her honesty and her greed,” Jim states. When they hear the pirates returning they sprint from the house taking with them an oilskin packet they don’t have time to open.
Once in safety, this packet is opened to reveal a map to Treasure Island where the infamous Captain Flint buried his vast riches. The squire of the area and Jim’s friend Dr. Livesey decide to buy a ship and follow the map to claim the treasure. Jim will attend them as cabin boy. The squire heads to the seaside to begin preparations. After Jim and Dr. Livesey join him, it becomes clear the squire has been a bit too free with his conversation – although they have hired some good sea hands (especially the honorable Captain Smollett), they have also found themselves with some unsavory characters. Even before they have left port, the thought of mutiny is on everyone’s mind.
From here on there may be spoilers! Don’t read on if you don’t want to know!