Social Sensitivity

In his emphasis on adventure as a formative influence on Jim, Stevenson shows a marked ambiguity toward the Victorian domestic virtues of his age. Domestic life is dull not only for Jim, but also for Squire Trelawney and Doctor Livesey, both of whom are quick to abandon their domestic and professional responsibilities to search for buried treasure on a remote island. Stevenson hints that adventure is the crucible of adulthood, and it seems that the adventure, not the gold, is the real purpose of the quest.

Stevenson focuses on violence and suspense, two essential elements of the adventure tale. Treasure Island shows the seamy side of seafaring life, and depicts the victimization of the innocent by the strong and ruthless. Jim himself barely escapes death when Israel Hands pins him to the mast with a knife; he survives by coolly shooting the pirate with a pair of pistols. By the end of the novel Jim has been initiated into a brutal world of violence, murder, greed, and treachery. He has certainly matured during the course of his adventures, but whether Jim learns any lasting moral lessons-aside from his loathing of the treasure-is uncertain. The experience itself, it seems, has been his primary gain.

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