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Good And Evil In Treasure Island - With A Free Essay Review



I. Flanders; Ms. Schoolfield; ENG-1100-060; 4/20/2012

“Treasure Island” is an engrossing tale about pirates, adventures at sea and the complexities of good and evil. It would be difficult to find anyone who enjoys literature who does not know the names Jim Hawkins or Long John Silver, particularly the latter. The story has a real knack for capturing the imagination, but where it really shines is its ability to compellingly blur the lines between good and evil. Jim Hawkins is a relatively good man, but moments break through where it can be seen that he has an inner dark side. Compare this to Long John Silver, a reprehensible man who is shown to be capable of compassion, love and even the desire to be a father figure. These two characters break out of their established mold just enough to disorient the readers perception of these characters, and thus force the reader to reinterpret and reestablish his view of these personalities. It is through this process of analyzation that the reader can find there is a lot to be said of the parallels of good and evil.

Jim Hawkins is the representation of good in “Treasure Island”. He is kind hearted, has a capacity for empathy and mercy as well as willing to go out on a limb for his friends. He is generally unwilling to stoop to the level of the bad guys and a reader would normally look at this and see him as what we quantify as a good guy. However, there are times when darkness boils over in slight degrees and we see Jim is not as innocent as he is portrayed. A good example of this is when he kills Israel Hands in cold blood. It is self defense, but Jim still goes an extra mile that he does not have to and seems to express neither regret nor hesitation over it in the manner which he kills him. This is the sort of thing Long John Silver would’ve done with similar ease, creating an interesting reflection upon Jim’s character. Jim will have these moments of darkness, but he is devoted to his friends and he has the right intentions. Another moment that contradicts the idea of his inherently good nature is how he will not heed the captains words, yet he seems to want to maintain a loyalty to Silver. This in itself could be seen as a bit of his darkness coming through, communicating the idea that he finds Silver to be a more preferable man of company than Smollet. It is true that Jim develops a father/son attachment to Silver, but he still cannot embrace Silver without embracing what Silver has done and who he is. Jim ultimately tends to be a good guy, but actions like this make it to be seen who he becomes in the future.

Long John Silver is definitely Jim’s antithesis and yet he too exhibits qualities that turn him into a walking contradiction. Silver is ruthless, conniving and something of a snake in the grass. This is often derailed though, when he develops his fatherly affection for Jim. When it comes to things that will potentially do harm to Jim, Silver seems almost incapable of going the full mile. He often shows hesitation when it matters for him to have no fear or concern for anyone but himself if Jim is involved. This bit of characterization alone shows that Silver has good within him and is capable of it. Who knows, maybe Jim has effected Silver in a way that will affect him for the rest of his life. It’s unlikely, sure, but maybe he will change. Stevenson intended Silver’s ultimate fate to be a mystery after all. It is definitely hard to believe though that this change would occur. Silver double crosses and kills many, his only saving grace being that he is obviously the most intelligent of the pirates. There is no doubt at first glance to the reader that he is an evil, despicable man. But is he truly? His ability to have the affection for Jim that he does is a strong testament against this.

Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver develop a complex, nuanced relationship throughout “Treasure Island” that serves as an excellent realm for exploring the intersections of good and evil. As demonstrated earlier, while these characters have an obvious leaning toward one or the other, neither of them are quite to the point of being full on good or evil. One thing that is interesting to note is what the purpose of these deviations from character seem to be purposed for. Long John Silver is driven to defy his own self by one thing; Jim Hawkins. No matter how evil Silver is, he is unable to go all the way if it will cause Jim to come to any harm. The capacity for this kind of adoration of someone is certainly a direct contradiction to his original characterization. This forces the reader to ask the question of how does a man this despicable and conniving go from that to being a loving father figure? It’s quite intriguing and it comes with a great deal of psychological implications concerning Silver.

“Treasure Island” upon a deeper look presents itself to be more than a simple good versus evil and coming of age story. It presents the nuanced complexity of human nature, and how even when there are clear sides drawn, the particulars can sometimes blur the lines. The fact that Stevenson fits all of this specifically into two characters, Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver, is really a literary feet to behold. It’s for reasons like this, that “Treasure Island” will continue to be a celebrated work of literature in our culture.

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ESSAY REVIEW

Your argument is that Hawkins is good with a dark side and Silver is evil with a good side. Your introduction complicates this argument with a further claim about the effect of such characters on the readers: "These two characters break out of their established mold just enough to disorient the readers perception of these characters, and thus force the reader to reinterpret and reestablish his view of these personalities." That would be an interesting complication of the thesis if you were really attempting a study of readers' responses to reading the text, but in that case you should also explain what you think the the purpose of such manipulation of the reader might be. It sounds like you might be attempting to do that with the last sentence of first paragraph, which offers this additional complication: "It is through this process of analyzation [?] that the reader can find there is a lot to be said of the parallels of good and evil." But that is not specific enough. The phrase "there is a lot to be said" is just a throwaway banality here and weakens the thesis as a whole.

The most interesting claim in the second paragraph, where you demonstrate the moral complexity of Jim, is the claim that Jim "cannot embrace Silver without embracing what Silver has done and who he is." I think it would be a good idea to elaborate that idea, perhaps as a topic of a distinct paragraph, since much of what you say elsewhere in the paragraph goes without saying. It doesn't go without saying, perhaps, that the killing of Israel Hands reveals a darker side of Jim (if only because Israel Hands is really just a dirty rotten pirate!) so you are right to assert that Jim does more than merely kill him. Still, saying that he "goes an extra mile" is pretty vague, and is also unsupported by any direct reference to or quotation of the text.

Given the nature of the argument that you want to make about these characters, it seems odd that you would begin your next paragraph with the claim that Long John Silver is "definitely Jim's antithesis." "Antithesis" seems like the wrong word if you want to claim that there is something of each in the other. In any case, this paragraph too suffers from a lack of direct reference or quotation, and I don't really see the value in the speculation that begins with the phrase "Who knows."

In the final body paragraph you rightly ask "what the purpose of these deviations from characters" is. (Note that the way of posing the question is awkward: "what the purpose ... is purposed for." You haven't quite arrived at an answer to that question yet, leaving it up to your reader to try to figure out what the "great deal of psychological implications concerning Silver" might refer to.

Finally, you rely a little too much on proverbial or colloquial expressions to carry your meaning. The habit makes for an informal essay style which some teachers would not find appropriate. (I am referring to expressions such as "go the extra mile," "snake in the grass," "going the full mile," "full on," and "go all the way.")

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: TheMadIsraeli
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