Not only is Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island one of the most popular children's books in history, it's had a major influence on popular culture portrayals of 19th-century pirates. It tells the story of young Jim Hawkins, cabin boy on a ship bound for an island where the treasure is believed buried. He encounters pirates who seek to overthrow the ship's officers in a mutiny.
Published as a series in the magazine Young Folks between 1881 and 1882, Treasure Island is notable as a children's book because of the moral ambiguity of many of its main characters; the "good guys" are sometimes not so good, and its most memorable character, Long John Silver, is a classic anti-hero. The story has captured imaginations for more than a hundred years and has been adapted for film and television more than 50 times.
Questions for Study and Discussion
- Why do you think Jim goes on the journey as a cabin boy?
- How does Robert Louis Stevenson reveal the characters' motivations in Treasure Island?
- Knowing that this was a serialized story when it was first published, do you have a sense of whether Stevenson plotted out the entire story before writing, or do you think he changed elements of the plot as he wrote each individual section?
- What are some symbols in Treasure Island?
- Is Jim Hawkins consistent in his actions? Is he a fully developed character?
- What about Long John Silver--are his actions consistent?
- How easily can you identify with Jim's feelings? Do you think this portrayal of a young boy seems dated, or does it stand the test of time?
- If this novel were written in present day, what details would have to change?
- Discuss how Long John Silver is or is not a father figure to Jim.
- Which of the characters surprises you the most?
- Does the story end the way you expected?
- How essential is the setting to the story? Could the story have taken place anywhere else?
- Besides Jim Hawkins' mother, there are very few women in Treasure Island. Do you think this is important to the plot?
- What would a sequel to this novel have looked like? Would it be possible to continue the story?