Episode 23: A First Look at Treasure Island

The other day I went by the library and renewed my search for more books that were relevant to my research. Having given up on finding awesome graphic novels in the campus library, I decided to look for the fun and classic pieces in my reading lists. FYI, my outside professor from my major committe has given a thumbs up to my current version of reading lists. ust remember to continue to bribe him with tostones at some point in the near future. Anyway, as I mentioned in an earlier post that Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island was serialized and earned a spot so I decided to pick it up. There’s something eerily satisfying about picking up a book in the library and being the first person to take it out. Reading pace is not at its best and doing about 20 pushups in between the equivalent of each installment keeps me interested and awake but my random chest pains have come back with a vengeance so let’s not try that particular form of a serial reading experience again. I’m only about halfway through but here are my thoughts so far. Oh and in case it wasn’t obvious spoiler alerts from here on out are implied.

First off, the plot seems pretty familiar and pirates are cliched to the point of parody. That is the first impression that you will get until you remember that it is a classic for a reason. This book has inspired just about every book, film, and whatever about pirates and finding lost treasure (Johny Depp’s eye shadow not included). If it wasn’t in the public domain, I’m pretty sure that lawsuits would have been made on a regular basis. Also, a lot of forms of serial fiction have done the Treasure Island episode at least once so don’t feel surprised if you have literally seen these events before. Also, movie versions are quite common, most famous of course are The Muppet’s version and multiple Disney versions including the animated one done *insert booming echo voice here* IN SPACE! with Treasure Planet. Don’t remember seeing either so still good.

Reserach into the book shows that it actually was not well received as a serial but became super famous as full novel. It makes some sense in that a lot of the better cliffhangers occur at the end of chapters but not at the end of installments. The action is surprisingly good and you can see why it’s considered a page turner even back in the day. There has only been one illustration so far and it came in the middle of a chapter, browsing through the book I found a few more. Need to check if my version is the only one that does this or if original publication also lacked images. Things you notice very quickly:

1) if he looks like a pirate, he is a pirate and is actually evil. Expect betrayal/mutiny within the next few chapters.

2) The 11 year old protagonist Jim Hawkins is apparently an integral and competent part of any plan done by any responsible adult within sight. I don’t know why but I am getting a Lisa Simpson vibe from him.

Things that make you freak out if you are old enough/know wnough obscure trivia about seafaring: Jim is brought on board the ship looking for the titular island/treasure as a cabin boy. At first you think he does odd jobs, keeps moral up, and genuinely helps out in little ways while learning about different duties around the ship. I would believe the same thing except for a weird English class I took several years ago about “Films of the Sea” where they explained cabin boy. Not to go into graphic detail but remember how ancient Greek/Spartan/Roman soldiers would have a young apprentice of sorts and a homosexual relationship was implied if not completely factual. Now imagine that but in a boat and the ratio of man to boy being exactly what you would imagine . Let’s just say that doing barrel or peg duty is not what it sounds like. The book never even suggests anything like that but man did I want to call the Victorian Chris Hanson when i heard that he was hired as cabin boy for the voyage.

Plot wise: Expect anyone to die and be revealed to be evil, not necessarily in that order. Let me give you a brief history of death in this novel. First was Jim’s dad who died of mysterious illness, thus elevating Ji to man of the house and suddenly responsible and expected to bring in money for is mother. Then there was mysterious old man, later revealed to be Bill Bones, who is actually a pirate, who was evil and buried a treasure and died from wounds sufferred after Black Dog, also revealed to be a pirate, who once worked for Capt. Bones. Then old blind guy, named Pew who is (you guessed it) a former pirate who is looking for the map but his crew ends up abandoning him and then he slips and dies, because he was blind and it was dark out when he stumble over a cliff or something. Wait was darkness actually partly responsible for this book? A few chapters later once the mutiny starts, redshirt good guy who just got a name Alan dies off screen. Not two pages later, another good guy Tom was killed in gory detail. The details are actually awesome and worth talking about. Long John Silver (yes, THAT Long John Silver) who has a really big peg leg lets Tom walk away after he says that he does not want to get involved. From about 15-20 feet away, the old crippled dude removes his peg leg, throws it like a javelin, hits the guy in the back in a way that apparently shatters his spine. He then hobbles/hops rather nimbly until he jumps on the guy and stabs him repeatedly. Freakin awesome.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll report the ending.

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