Treasure Island is one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s most popular novels. With pirates, a treasure hunt, and colorful characters like one-legged Long John Silver, there is enough excitement here to please even the most reluctant reader. This study guide can be used by students, teachers, or parents. Click here to download a free Treasure Island study guide.
Image Credit/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Four Major Themes
There are four major themes in Treasure Island: a man’s word is his bond, the dangers of drunkenness, the power of faith and religion, and the value of saving versus irresponsible spending. Let’s examine some examples from the story.
Image Credit/Captain Bill Bones/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
- Jim Hawkins faces torture rather than break his bond to Long John Silver about not trying to escape. Silver, the consummate liar, is loyal only to himself.
- Billy Bones drinks himself to death, Israel Bones and Hand fight because they are drunk, and Ben Gunn is able to kill some of the pirates because they are drunk.
- Jim Hawkins witnesses to Hands, who is on his death bed, imploring him to repent. Silver appears to be religious, and warns his men about defacing the Bible, but in his religiosity is suspect.
- Most of the pirates spend their money as quickly as they get it, but there are some examples of thriftiness: Captain Smollet, who saves enough to retire, and Gray, who earns enough to advance and better his family’s situation.
Treasure Island Summary
In Treasure Island, Stevenson tells a tale of pirates, buried treasure, and the coming of age of the young protagonist, Jim Hawkins. Hawkins and his mother find a treasure map in the belongings of the pirate, Bones, who dies without paying for his rooms in their lodge.
Image Credit/Long John/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Hawkins, Dr. Livesey, and Squire Trelawney form an alliance and travel to Treasure Island to look for the treasure. The treasure belonged to Captain Flint, and his crew is searching for it also, so the story is full of action and adventure as the two groups vie to be the first to find and claim the treasure. In the end, both groups find the treasure has been discovered by others, and Hawkins travels back to England and his mother.
How to Study the Book
Study Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island by focusing on the plot, characters, and key facts of the story. By knowing these elements, students are prepared for quizzes, tests, and other lesson activities. In addition, the major story elements provide many teaching opportunities, and ways for teachers and parents to help kids obtain a deeper understanding of the novel. Let’s examine a list of the key characters.
Image Credit/Jim Hawkins and Ben Gunn/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
- Jim Hawkins is the protagonist. He is searching for the treasure to help his mother recoup a debt.
- Dr. Livesey is the pragmatic authority figure of the novel. Faith and loyal, he mentors Jim with a firm, logical hand.
- Billy Bones is the Hawkins’ lodger who refuses to pay his bills. Always on the lookout for a “one-legged seaman,” his sudden death leads to the discovery of the treasure map in his sea chest.
- Squire Trelawney furnishes the money for the treasure hunt, and hires Captain Smollett to head up the crew.
- Long John Silver is the ship’s cook who secretly plots a mutiny.
- Other important members of the pirates are: Ben Gunn, who was marooned on Treasure Island by Captain Flint, and Israel Hand, whose drunkenness and dereliction of duty sets the ship adrift.
By using this Treasure Island study guide, students are familiar with the story line and the interaction of the various characters and their motivations. Teachers and parents love having a concise guide to major themes and characters. For more lesson plans based on the books of Robert Louis Stevenson, read “Teacher Lesson Plans Unit Lesson Plans for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”