Treasure Island – Chapters 1-3

From N.C. Wyeth’s illustrations, 1911.

In general:

Treasure Island was Stevenson’s first real success. It first appeared in serialized form in 1881/1882, and the novel was published in its entirety in 1883. Stevenson noted that he borrowed a number of ideas from authors and their works, including Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, The Pirate by Sir Walter Scott, and Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories. Learn more about Robert Louis Stevenson here.

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Discussion questions:

1. Treasure Island begins with a vivid description of a man, who we later find is named Billy Bones. In fact, we learn more about him in the first chapter than about the person narrating the story. Why do you think Stevenson used him to start his story?

2. After the confrontation with Black Dog, Bill tell Jim he won’t “peach” unless he gets the black spot. What is the black spot, literally and figuratively?

3. Stevenson gives each one of his chapters an actual title. What do you think about this?

4. All three sailors – Billy Bones, Black Dog, and Pew – have some sort of disfiguration or injury. Does that correspond to their personality? How?

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Notes and Quotes:

  • “A tall, strong, heavy, nut-brown man; his tarry pigtail falling over the shoulders of his soiled blue coat; his hands ragged and scarred, with black broken nails; and the sabre-cut across one cheek, a dirty, livid white.”

(I love the detail here; the description of the scar makes me want to know what happened!)

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  • “‘And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly four-penny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.'”

(Jim isn’t sure that his recompense for keeping an eye out for the one-legged man is worth his nightmares.)

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  • In chapter three, Stevenson really makes good use of sound: the blind man’s cane tapping and his sing-song voice when he arrives, and then later Jim remarks on the man’s voice being “so cold, and cruel, and ugly.” Watch (Listen!) for more sound elements in the next few chapters.

 

More:

When Billy Bones spends time talking to Jim, we hear him speaking in “pirate” lingo. For fun, you can check out the pirate-speak lesson on Mango Languages! You just need your Library card.

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