Literary Qualities

Stevenson is a master storyteller who knows how to construct an engrossing tale. In Treasure Island, he makes skillful use of plot, Setting, atmosphere, and character development to craft an enduring story of high suspense. Every episode in the novel is carefully developed to sustain the drama of the narrative.

Most of the tale is told from Jim’s point of view, although Stevenson shifts the narration to Doctor Livesey for three chapters to give the reader a different perspective. What at first appears to be a conventional moral framework for the book-heroes on one side, villains on the other-soon reveals itself to be far more complex. Long John Silver is a more sympathetic character than any member of the loyal party save Jim, and Jim himself matures only by violating traditional moral norms. He frequently sneaks away from his more timid companions and takes matters into his own hands, stretching the limits of proper behavior in the pursuit of a greater good.

Stevenson captures the exotic atmosphere of the age of high-seas piracy. His prose recalls an era when British privateers and cutthroats, such as Captain Kidd and Bluebeard, were encouraged by the Crown to prey upon Spanish merchant ships returning from the New World laden with gold and silver. Stevenson shows a curious ambivalence toward the pirates, condemning their cruelty and ruthlessness while admiring their pluck and bravery.

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