Treasure Island
Robert Louis
Contributed by Sherie Debus
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Chapters 22-24

Summary: Chapter XXII

Perceiving no additional signs of attack by the pirates, Smollett and his group enjoy a bit of leisure time within the stockade. Gray is surprised to see Dr. Livesay set out walking amongst the trees with the map. Gray asks Jim whether Livesay could have gone mad. Jim says that Livesay is about to speak to Ben Gunn. Jim is left in the stockade to clean up the bloody mess left by the earlier attack. He becomes impatient. Jim wants to do something more heroic in nature.

Jim starts to act on whimsy again. He decides that he will go to look for the boat that Ben had said that he had constructed. While on the shore, Jim sees Silver and his group laughing and talking. He then hears a strange scream coming from Cap’n Flint, Silver’s parrot. After looking around for a bit, Jim is able to find the boat. It is a coracle. A coracle is a kind of boat once sailed by the ancient Britons. Jim plans to sail the boat out to the Hispaniola and then cut it adrift. After darkness falls, he lifts the coracle onto his shoulders. He then heads in the direction of the water.

Summary: Chapter XXIII

Jim discovers that the coracle is difficult to sail. It is unreliable in its steering. However, he is eventually able to reach the anchored ship. He takes hold of the anchor rope, also called the hawser. He then uses his knife to begin cutting, being mindful not to allow the cord to snap at whim when it finally breaks. Jim has to wait for the wind to weaken so that the rope’s tension is lessened before he can finish cutting it. He sits and hears drunken nonsense and vulgar oaths emerging from the pirates’ ship. Someone is singing a sad sea song. It is about a ship starting with a crew of seventy-five and then coming home with only one person alive.

When a breeze finally comes, Jim cuts the remaining fibers of rope. The Hispaniola is successfully set adrift. On another whim, he holds the trailing rope and pulls himself to the level of a window. He looks in to see why it could be that no one has noticed that the ship is suddenly moving. He sees that the pirates are clearly distracted. There is a wrestling match between Hands and another sailor. Jim suddenly finds himself pushed to the back of the coracle. Jim is surprised to discover that he has drifted towards the shore and that he is near the pirates’ campfire. Certain that he will be killed, Jim commends his soul to God. He then falls to sleep still in the coracle as he dreams of home.

Summary: Chapter XXIV

When Jim awakens, he finds that he has drifted to Treasure Island’s southwest end. He cannot paddle in the direction of the shore as the rocks would dash him to death. Jim resolves to try to find his way to a more hospitable shoreline located to the north. After a great deal of effort, he is finally able to get to the cave he wanted to reach. He finds himself so thirsty that his throat burns. He sees the Hispaniola aimlessly drifting. This makes him think that the crew must be very drunk or that they have left the ship.

Jim comes up with a plan to attempt to board the Hispaniola, which is drifting wildly. He recognizes that he will be able to overtake the ship if he sits up and paddles as hard as he can. He is at risk of being spotted, but he imagines that the idea has a heroic air about it. Jim starts paddling. When he finally gets to the ship, he gets on board and looks for water because he is so thirsty. He hears sounds that indicate that the coracle has been destroyed. He realizes that he has no means of escape from the ship.


Jim continues to show his tendency to go along with whimsical ideas in these episodes. His sense of discontent and restlessness when he is cleaning up the mess from the earlier fighting are easy to understand. The reader can sympathize with this wish to do something more heroic. He does not only dream of a heroic act. Later on, he actually does something heroic when he sets off to search for Ben Gunn’s boat. This decision to find and use the boat is an entirely private one. He does not inform anyone about his plans. The private nature of his actions is highlighted by the reality that Jim is the sole character who is present at all in Chapter XIV. In focusing on Jim in such an exclusive way here, the author calls attention to the fact that Treasure Island is a true coming-of-age story instead of a simple tale of adventure. While the story does involve many adult and experienced men, it is primarily propelled forward by the private whims of one boy.

The pirates are reckless and immoral yet fascinating. This characterization further develops in these chapters. The author depicts the pirates as entirely incapable of being responsible for their own lives in any way. When Jim approaches the Hispaniola, the ship is drifting significantly from side to side. It is also slowing down and speeding up intermittently. The wild way the ship is moving reflects the disorderly and chaotic lives of the people who have taken it. The pirates are unable to master or control themselves in any meaningful way. They have shown themselves entirely unable (or at least unwilling) to use reason in guiding their actions. They do not notice that their ship is moving because they are so distracted with a wrestling match. This is another example of their focus on violence. When Jim sees the Hispaniola veering, he assumes that the pirates must be drunk. While he is wrong about this, the rum the pirates love so much clearly symbolizes their wild existence. It is interesting to note that the pirates seem to have some awareness of their own self-destructiveness. They seem to understand that the mad way they live their lives may have deadly consequences. When the pirates sing, the choose songs about ships with entire crews that are lost and chests belonging to dead men. It is in this way that they seem to sing their own demise. It almost seems as if the pirates are acting in accordance with some sort of innate tendency to gradual self-destruction.

Jim facing death in Chapter XIII causes the tale to be cast in a new light. This development asks us to think about the spiritual part of adventure. When Jim discovers himself to be close to the pirate’s campfire, he lies down within his boat and “devoutly recommend[s] his spirit to its Maker.” While it seemed that Jim had awareness of death before this point, this is the first occasion in which he displays any real indication of religious awareness. It is the first time that he prays in the story. When he wakes up and finds himself safe in the next chapter, it seems as if his prayers were heeded. The author alternatively may have meant to communicate the idea that God helps those who help themselves. Jim uses reason to try to calm himself and shows how quick-witted and courageous he is when paddling his boat to the ship and climbing aboard. It is as Jim develops in maturity, courage, and self-awareness as he also seems to gain a greater awareness of the spiritual realm.

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