Sunday, July 31, 2016
Treasure Island: Long John Silver
Posted by JaneGS
I just reread Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson for the first time in decades, and it was an absolute treat. There's a reason this is the definitive pirate story--RLS provided a prototype for a genre, and provided a lingo and a style and a swagger that is incomparable. And, it's a good story, with a wonderful boy hero, who is smart, loyal, brave, and tender-hearted. I just love Jim Hawkins!
Having finally read RLS's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde a few years ago, it was easy to compare the character of Long John Silver, the leader of pirates who charms his way onto the Hispaniola, the ship that conveys the treasure seekers to Treasure Island. Silver definitely is adept at wearing a mask under which he conceals his true nature, one which doesn't hesitate to lie, cheat, steal, or murder to further his own ends.
Unlike the premise behind the Jekyll and Hyde story, it's not that Silver has two personalities that struggle with each other for dominance, but rather Silver is able to completely hide his true pirate self when needing to ingratiate himself with non-pirates. This is not an uncommon trait, but Silver is so much better at it than is usual. Shows incredible self-control and self-awareness, actually.
Treasure Island was published in 1883, two years before Jekyll and Hyde, so perhaps the two faces of Long John Silver were in the forefront of RLS's mind when he started working Jekyl and Hyde.
I also really enjoyed the character of Dr. Livesey. He's outspoken, sarcastic, but takes his oath to heal seriously, even at personal peril. He is a match for the pirates and a good mentor to Jim.
This is my adventure classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge.