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Black And White In Treasure Island - With A Free Essay Review

Robert Lewis Stevenson's famous novel Treasure Island is a study of good and evil, youth and maturity, knowledge and naïvety. Jim Hawkins' dealings with the fierce pirates have taught him the values of camaraderie and the twists and turns of the human mind. Whereas Jim had only known sweet and mild people at the novel's opening, he is suddenly thrown in with some of the most terrible individuals of the time, forcing him to face the deepest valleys of human nature. Much happens throughout the course of the novel that exposes Jim to the daily dealings of the human race; violence, greed, disregard for life, and deception abound. After his adventure to Treasure Island, young Hawkins will never be the same naïve lad that he is at the beginning of the novel.

Long John Silver's mendacious and duplicitous nature reveals to Jim the deceptive aspect of human nature. Silver is harmless and friendly when it serves him, and vicious when no one is looking. In his previous years at the Benbow Inn, the people that Jim encountered didn't manipulate to reach their ends. This methodology was foreign to Jim and is what prevents him from turning his back on Silver entirely. However, by the end of the novel, he has learned to spot such trickery. This deceitful nature is shown clearly several times throughout the novel. The first incident is when Silver's plan to overthrow Captain Smollett and the others is revealed. Silver had been a gregarious and willing servant in the voyage's beginning, this facade quickly falls away when Jim hears that he plans to take over the ship. Like a wolf throwing off a sheepskin, Silver makes a seamless transition from servant to ruthless outlaw. The second clear incident is when Silver meets with Smollett on the island after the two parties skirmish with the goal of striking a deal. Initially, having dropped the happy sea-cook facade, he marches up as Captain Silver. Smollett loses his temper and instantly Silver changes back into the sea-cook, submissively addressing Smollett as “captain.” From these acts Jim learns what expert manipulation looks like, forever changing the way that he will choose to accomplish his ends.

Young Hawkins' encounter with Billy Bones at the start of the novel is his crash course in avarice and violence. Bones sweeps into the inn of Hawkins' parents, the Admiral Benbow, and instantly his presence is a terror to everyone inside. He curses and spits, drinks excessively without paying, and bullies the residents into submission. In the beginning, Jim is taken aback by this. In time, though, not only does he become used to this behavior, he adopts it to a degree, as seen in his dealings with Israel Hands. First, he proclaiming himself irrefutable captain over the mutineer, then later shoots him and tosses his body overboard. Bones serves as foreshadowing for the course of the novel, mostly in his violent dealings and his selfish, complete disregard for the people of the inn. These traits prove to be routine for the pirates. Jim adapts, as most anyone would, by being a little selfish and violent himself. He steals Gunn's coracle along with some provisions from Smollett and the others and attempts to run away. In the course of this misadventure, he shoots the coxswain Israel Hands.

Through Ben Gunn's story of marooning, Jim learns of the coldness of people. Marooning, or the act of leaving a disobedient shipmate on an abandoned island with little to no provisions was considered “...the most dreaded of all punishments...,” according to Cindy Vallar. Ben Gunn is revealed to be an old shipmate of the infamous Captain Flint, left to die on Treasure Island after promising the ship he was sailing with Flint's treasure. Not long after the ship arrives, the crew give up the search, and flippantly leave Ben behind. His crew casts him off as though he were a pest, displaying complete disregard for Ben's life. When Jim meets Ben, the marooned buccaneer is only half-sane, teaching Jim the effects of such isolation and callousness. There are some characters in the novel that deserve being marooned, Ben certainly isn't one of them. While cunning, he proves to be basically harmless and somewhat cowardly. Why this unassuming man is chosen to waste away on a faraway isle while the more barbarous crew mates run free proves the human propensity of brushing aside the guileless members, instead letting the savage ones succeed.

Stevenson's famous novel Treasure Island deals with good, evil, and the ambiguous. Young Jim Hawkins spends the first part of his childhood in relative isolation to the vice and violence propagated by people on other people. When Jim first encounters a pirate, he is appalled; but as the story progresses, he becomes used to this behavior, even picking up some aspects of it himself. Long John Silver introduces him to a most artful form of deceit, Billy Bones is violent and rough, and Ben Gunn's tragic story is a beacon of humanity's derision toward its own kind., Impressionable and naive, Jim's response to these figures and their behavior will forever shape him. While he adopts some bad habits, he also develops some good ones, both from his companions Smollett and Livesey and, surprisingly, the pirates. However, the story's protagonist experienced more evil and treachery than goodness, and will leave a lasting impression.

Written by Eden Flanders 04/25/2012

(I am supposed to provide two outside sources for this essay and I am not sure what I should use. Any suggestions?)



Your essay is largely a summary of those parts of the novel relevant to understanding Jim's exposure to violent and criminal behavior and the impact of that exposure on him. The summary is generally well written, and the references to the novel are many and specific. You make it very clear what kinds of evils Jim learns about.

Your account of the impact of this acquired knowledge on Jim is a bit less compelling, however. For instance, at one point you say that "Jim learns" from Silver's dealings with Captain Smollett "what expert manipulation looks like, forever changing the way that he will choose to accomplish his ends." In the paragraph that this sentence concludes, you've given a good account of the nature of Silver's manipulative character, but the essay doesn't really explain just how "the way that [Jim] will choose to accomplish his ends" changes as a result. You do refer, in the next paragraph, to the killing of Israel Hand, and suggest that his actions of that time are a consequence of his learning selfishness and violence from Bones. That's a reasonable argument, but you don't provide enough information about the circumstances to allow the reader to decide whether his actions are comparable to those of Bones.

In the next paragraph, you discuss the case of Ben, the marooned buccaneer, claiming that Ben's story teaches Jim "the effects of ... isolation and callousness." In this case, again, you don't specify what impact this acquired knowledge has on the development of Jim's character, and conclude the paragraph instead with a general comment about the "human propensity of brushing aside the guileless members." That seems like a reasonable conclusion, but it's not clear how it relates to your overall argument about the novel, and you don't specify how it so relates.

So, again, I think you write well, and your essay is close to being a good essay, but I don't think ultimately it delivers on its promise, which I took to be some insight into what the novel teaches us about how a naive and apparently innocent person is transformed under the pressure of his encounter with evil or barbarism. Your implicit argument seems to have to do with the nature of habituation to vice. I think your essay would be stronger if you made that argument more explicit from the outset (I note that you refer to his becoming "used to this behavior" in the conclusion) and more obviously the focus of each paragraph (i.e., make it the thing you want to prove). I think you also need to leave the reader with a strong sense of exactly how Jim changes in the novel, but instead you end with a vague statement about how Jim's experiences "will leave a lasting impression." You need to specify what that lasting impression really is.

Best, EJ

P.S. I am not very familiar with critical readings of Treasure Island. Perhaps the easiest things at this stage would be to consult anthologies of such criticism (in any good university library). Note for the future: It might be a good idea to consult criticism before completing your first draft.
Submitted by: RadicalECat

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