Monday, August 29, 2011

Jim Hawkins and the Pirates of Treasure Island

“One more step, Mr. Hands, and I’ll blow your brains out.” - Jim Hawkins

In Bodrum we lay out by the Turkish Sea and watched the clipper ships pass for parts unknown. The water was so crystal clear, it actually sparkled like champagne, and we dove deep and came up with shards of smooth glass and colorful little pebbles we laid out on the wooden table in the shade.
“Dead me don’t bite, you know?” -Israel Hands

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no seafarer. I’m no man adrift on the waves of his own mind, I’m grounded as a father and teacher. I understand very well what my life is about and what I want and can have. I’m no pearl diver or treasure seeker, but that wasn’t always the case.
“I have only one thing to say to you, sir.. if you keep on drinking rum, the world will soon be quite of a very dirty scoundrel!” -Long John Silver

As a boy, one of my favorite books was Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I mean, it might as well be THE book for a boy. What more does a boy need than to lose himself in page after page of pirate’s tales and tavern yarns.
“Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest. Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” -Pirates singing aboard the Hispaniola

Treasure Island is narrated in first and third person by the resilient young Jim Hawkins (who along with Scout Finch, Nathaniel Hawkeye, and Robin Locksley, is one of my absolute most favorite characters in all of literature ). Hawkins’ parents are the owners of the Admiral Benbow Inn, and who have taken a sickly old lodger, named Billy Bones, on as a helper until one day a shabby looking fellow named Pew gives Bones a white piece of paper with a black dot, and he dies the very next night of apoplexy. Upon searching Bones’ room, Hawkins finds well… you guessed it, a treasure map wrapped in an oilskin.
“Pieces of eight. Pieces of eight.” -Cap’t Flint, Long John Silver’s parrot

This leads him to the irrepressible Dr. Livesey and his squire Trelaway, who immediately decide they must hire a vessel to take them to the island. They travel to Bristol where they encounter a disheveled and beaten-down, one-legged old dog, John Silver at the Spy Glass Tavern (yes, I love that name). He helps them raise a crew and the Hispaniola sets sail into the Caribbean Sea.
“I was no sooner certain of this than I began to feel sick, faint, and terrified.” -Jim Hawkins

Of course, little do they know that this one legged man is actually, Long John Silver, a ravenous scalawag who sets off a mutiny as soon as the Hispaniola hoists anchor because he is also in search of the treasure. Naturally, Jim Hawkins hears of this while hiding in, what else, an apple barrel.
“If ever a seaman wanted drugs, it’s me.” -Billy Bones

As soon as they land on Captain Flint’s island, the mutiny begins, and Jim escapes the gunfire, only to run into the half-mad cast-away, and surprising cheese-lover, Ben Gunn, who has been stranded on the island for three years protecting the treasure.
“Now, that bird… is maybe two hundred years old, Hawkins…” -Long John Silver

My favorite scene in the book is when Jim swims his way back onto the ship, only to be chased up the mast by the murderous Israel Hands (what great character names this book has!). With knife in his hand, young Jim Hawkins loads a pistol and aims it right between the pirate’s eyes, shooting him dead just as Hands is about to kill him with the blade.
“Doctors is all swabs… and that doctor there, why, what do he know about seafaring men?” -Billy Bones

Jim then runs the Hispaniola aground, and returns to Dr. Livesey, only to be taken hostage by Long John Silver, who actually saves Jim from being killed by the other pirates in a rare display of sincerity.
“All the crew respected and even obeyed Silver. He had a way of talking to each and doing everybody some particular service. To me, he was unwearidely kind…” -Jim Hawkins

A final fight ensues, with Silver losing, only to escape in a small dingy with much of the treasure and his trusted parrot, rowing out to sea. Jim’s finals thoughts are hoping that Long John makes is safely away, back to his negress wife (how cool is that?). What a great, great book!

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