Main Message in Treasure Island Novel

Categories: Treasure Island

A Treasure With A Hidden Agenda

The novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson tells the tale of a young boy named Jim Hawkins. After the death of the old sea captain Billy Bones, he finds an old map in his chest. Jim takes the map to Dr. Livesey and Squire Trelawney who tells Jim the map is the location of hidden treasure buried by a well-known pirate, named Captain Flint. Trelawney gathers a crew and they set off to Treasure Island in search of the treasure.

After a long journey, full of many obstacles and challenges, they find the treasure. His appreciation for the treasure is apparent, but he is happy about it for other reasons than its exchange value. Throughout the novel and its symbolic uses of coins, we see how Jim matures from a boy to a young man.

After finding the treasure the crew loaded the loot onto the ship. When Jim receives the coins he reacts differently than his counterparts exclaiming, “I never had more pleasure than in sorting them” (Stevenson, 220).

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This is particularly notable because his simple seeming want to sort contrasts with what gold usually represents for people. His humble joy in sorting something that holds so much power proves that the coins symbolize something much more than a monetary value for Jim and the readers.

After this he goes on to give a detailed description of all of the markings and pictures he sees on each one. In general, people would be too distracted by the wealth to notice these minute details that bring Jim Hawkins pleasure.

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Jim describes the coins from the treasure: “…oriental pieces stamped with what looked like wisps of string or bits of spider's web, round pieces and square pieces, and pieces bored through the middle, as if to wear them round your neck…” (Stevenson, 220). When Jim compares part of the coins to spider webs it gives the reader a visual of coins and their fragility. Jim even believes they are beautiful enough to be worn around your neck. His fascination with the small details and his inquiry that it may be worn as a necklace shows once again his intrigue in something more than monetary value. He doesn’t care about the wealth as he does about the opportunity it supplied him to define himself. He enjoys the beauty of the coins as he enjoys the beauty of the journey. The journey Trelawney, Jim, and the crew took to find the treasure was not only for the prize, but for Jim it was a coming of age journey because it proved to himself, his dad, and others that he could do it. He survived, something a dependent child couldn’t do.

When Jim is sorting through the treasure he begins listing all the different types of coins. He elaborates, “English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Georges and Louises, doubloons and double guineas and moidores and sequins…nearly every variety of money in the world must, I think, have found a place in that collection” (Stevenson 220). Jim goes into detail in his description of the coins and other objects in the treasure, but not once does he mention their value. This reinforces his ignoring of the wealth they supply him with, and appreciating them for their beauty. Also, by listing all the different kinds and countries he shows his experience. It shows his knowledge and maturity. And, as the coins signify adulthood and maturity for Jim, the variety of countries in the collection then must signify the different kinds of person and attributes that make him an adult. It emphasizes the possibilities Jim sees himself have now; possibilities that were disguised or unseen when he was defined as a fatherless boy who hid behind his mother.

In the beginning of the novel, we learn that Jim’s father owns an inn. A man named Billy Bones stay the night for much less than he owes. For the short time Jim’s father appears in the novel, we only see him as a pushover. Later, Jim stands up for his father. He asserts to, “I want none of your money… but what you owe my father. I'll get you one glass, and no more” (CITE PAGE NUMBER). This piece of evidence is significant as a starting point from when Jim strays from his father’s past. As the story proceeds Jim shies away from the family business and makes the choice to hunt for treasure. Therefore, when Jim finds it, it is evidently symbolic to the reader as him succeeding in not becoming his father. He didn’t want to be known has a pushover. By going to Treasure Island, Jim is proving that he is capable of being his own person.

Throughout the novel Jim’s opinion of finding the treasure changes many different times. At the beginning of the story readers see Jim’s childish side as he daydream that he will “mount at once and ride for Dr. Livesey” (Stevenson, 63). He is clearly interested in the glory that is associated with the treasure, much like the pirates are. However, as the story progresses, Jim is introduced to the corrupted life of piracy, due to money and treasure. Therefore, his hunt becomes more about changing his life and the lives around him through goodwill than being controlled by money, like the pirates are. Especially after losing his father, Jim realizes how finding he lost treasure would greatly benefit him and his mother. He is torn between the right and wrong thing to do. He then decided to fight for what his father deserved by going to Billy and asking for the money toward his stay at the inn.

Jim begins the narration of the story after it began, as a retrospective narrator. This allows the readers to see how Jim felt during crucial moments in the story, as well as emphasizes his maturity. Instead of being told by him when he is undergoing the transformation from kid to adult, it is told as he is already grown up. His style of narration is calm and mature as opposed to a story that is dramatic, exhilarating and glamorous. This contrast, his calmness amidst a outrageous story, shows how Jim has become who he is now. It emphasizes the journey’s importance in evolving him. It shows how the journey is more coming of age than it is about the glory of the treasure and jewels.

When Jim returns home the audience is able to see his transformation from boy to man. The journey was an eye opening experience that being a pirate is not everything. The lives they live are very immodest and cruel, which is not the type of person Jim was raised to be. Jim now understands how much cruelty there is in the world and that adventures are not as exciting and easy as they are made up to be, which is something a logical, mature adult would acknowledge. Readers see this realization when Jim says, “oxen and wain-ropes would not bring [him] again to that accursed island” (Stevenson, 224). He is acknowledging the realization that the adult lifestyle requires more responsibility and less glamor. He isn’t willing to sacrifice his life and his loved ones for a bunch of pretty pieces of metal. The treasure is a representation of not only his journey at sea, but his journey into adulthood.

Jim Hawkins begins his narration at the beginning of novel speaking of an adventure that happened in the past, sequencing his first loss of innocence. His changing vocabulary about treasure, adventure, piracy, and life in general chronicles his conversion from an unknowing, yet hopeful child to a responsible, and grateful adult. Robert Louis Stevens use of language, imagery and perspective show us the change in Jim’s character throughout this novel.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Main Message in Treasure Island Novel. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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