Treasure Island: Novel Summary: Part 1
Part 1: The Old Buccaneer
Chapter I - Chapter VI
Chapter I: The Old Sea Dog at the "Admiral Benbow"
Treasure Island is narrated by Jim Hawkins. The events take place in southwest England and the Caribbean at some unspecified time in the eighteenth century. Jim is a boy who lives with his parents at the Admiral Benbow inn, in southwest England, near the port city of Bristol. An old seaman takes up lodging at the inn. No one knows much about him. He drinks a lot of rum but does not speak much, and he seems wary. He tells Jim to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg," and let him know when the man appears. Some people are afraid of the man they know only as the captain, largely because of the seafaring stories he tells about hangings and walking the plank and other horrors. When Dr. Livesey, the family physician, comes to attend to Jim's dying father, he encounters the captain. They quarrel, and the captain draws a knife on the doctor. The doctor calmly faces him down.
Chapter II: Black Dog Appears and Disappears
One January, a man arrives at the inn, asking about his friend named Billy. He means the old seaman, whom Jim still knows only as the captain. The captain is out for a walk, and when he returns, the stranger appears frightened. The captain identifies the stranger, who is missing two fingers from his hand, as Black Dog. They are old shipmates. They sit and talk, but soon quarrel, and Black Dog runs away. The captain calls for some rum. He appears to be wounded, and at that moment Dr. Livesey arrives. He says the captain has had a stroke, and treats him, telling him to stay off rum.
Chapter III: The Black Spot
At noon, the captain insists that Jim bring him some rum. He says that a number of men, including Black Dog, are after his old sea chest, but he does not say why. All the men are former crew members of Captain Flint, a notorious pirate. This includes the captain, whose name turns out to be Billy Bones. Bones was Flint's first mate. He fears the other men will give him the black spot, and when Jim inquires what this is, he merely replies that it is a summons. He means it is a notice of death.
Jim's father dies that evening. The day after the funeral, a blind man arrives at the inn wearing an old tattered sea cloak. Jim thinks he is a dreadful-looking man. He asks Jim to take him to the captain. His voice is cruel. When the two men meet, the blind man places something in the palm of the captain's hand. Then he leaves immediately. The captain is struck by a fit and dies.
Chapter IV: The Sea Chest
Jim and his mother go to the nearest hamlet for help. But when the people there hear the story, they are too frightened to give them much assistance. Jim and his mother return to the inn and decide to open the captain's sea chest. They also find the piece of paper that Black Dog gave to the captain. It is blackened on one side. On the other is written, "You have till ten tonight." It is still six o'clock as they open the chest, after finding the key on the captain's corpse. Mrs. Hawkins takes out some coins, which she keeps in payment of the captain's debt to her for his lodgings. There is a scare when the blind man comes to the door, but the door is locked and he leaves without entering. Expecting more men to come at any minute, mother and son flee the house. They do not get far before Jim's mother faints. Jim manages to haul her under a bridge, where they wait.
Chapter V: The Last of the Blind Man
Jim sees seven or eight men rush by, including the blind beggar, heading for the Admiral Benbow inn. Several men enter the inn and find that the captain is dead and the chest already opened. They are looking for something specific, other than money, but they do not find it. The blind man, whose name is Pew, orders the men to search for Jim and his mother. The men search fruitlessly, and then quarrel amongst themselves. The sound of galloping horses is heard, and the men scatter. Five men arrive on horseback. Pew inadvertently runs under the horse's hooves and is trampled to death. The riders turn out to be four revenue officers (probably men responsible for tracking down smugglers) that Dr. Livesey summoned to help. The other men escape by boat. Back at the inn, Jim believes he possesses what the men were looking for. It is agreed that Dr. Livesey should take possession of it. Jim accompanies the supervisor, Mr. Dance, back to Dr. Livesey's house.
Chapter VI: The Captain's Papers
At Dr. Livesey's house, Jim meets Squire Trelawney. The squire explains that Flint was a bloodthirsty buccaneer who operated in the Caribbean. Jim hands over the packet he saved from the chest. It contains a book and a sealed paper. The book contains Billy Bones's records of the acts of piracy committed under Flint's command, and how much his share of the treasure was. The sealed paper contains a map of an island. Three red crosses show where treasure is buried, and there are also some written directions on the other side of the map. The squire announces that he will go to the port city of Bristol and acquire a ship. Livesey will go as the ship's doctor, Jim as cabin boy. Three of the squire's own men, Redruth, Hunter and Joyce, will also go, and the squire will round up a crew. Livesey agrees, with the provision that strict secrecy by observed. He is concerned that the squire will talk too much about the new enterprise.
Analysis: Part I
Part I, which consists of the first six chapters, carries the story from the first eruption of danger at the quiet country inn to the moment the main characters decide to sail to Treasure Island in search of treasure. Part I also shows how Jim Hawkins is forced to grow up rapidly and begin to chart his own course in life.
The first chapter wastes no time in introducing the element of suspense and danger that will characterize the novel as a whole. Jim's life at the Admiral Benbow inn is uneventful until the captain arrives. But from then on, there are hints that another, more dangerous world is about to intrude itself. On the very first page, for example, we learn that the captain has a scar on his cheek caused by a saber cut, which suggests the violent life he has led. The element of danger is also conveyed by the frightening stories the captain tells. Interest and suspense are reinforced when it becomes clear that the captain wishes to avoid any seamen that pass by the inn. His particular interest in the seaman with one leg also creates suspense. This is of course a foreshadowing of the appearance of Long John Silver, and the thought of such a man gives Jim nightmares. More interest is created by Jim's mention of the big box that the captain keeps upstairs, that no one has seen open. It makes the reader wonder what is in it. Stevenson's technique here is a model of how to tell a good story and make the reader want to keep turning the pages.
In chapters II and III, the menacing appearance of Black Dog and the blind man, as well as the death of Jim's father, add to the feeling that life for Jim Hawkins will never be the same again. This is in fact a coming-of-age story. Jim is soon forced to make his own way in life. The death of his father leaves him without the guidance of an older man, and he will soon meet many other men, representing a variety of beliefs, professions and ethical values. Who will he choose to emulate?
But in Chapter III, it is clear that Jim is still a child. When the captain dies, the first thing he does is call to his mother and burst into tears. When they go for help in Chapter IV, it is Jim's mother who does the talking. But later in that chapter, Jim takes charge when his mother faints.
In Chapter V, Jim shows his sense of responsibility when he tells Mr. Dance that he would like to convey to safety the packet he saved from the captain's chest. It is this action that leads to Jim's meeting with the squire, and his opportunity to go on the first great adventure of his life. From being a young boy living with his parents he has become a person with responsibilities of his own.