Laughter and books make life a little easier

Day 10 – Favourite classic book: Part 2

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

 

And here is part two about my favourite classic book! It is also about a second book because I simply couldn’t choose between this and Sherlock Holmes.

 

I loooooove Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. You know how paperbacks start getting little white lines running down their spines after being bent too much? Well, my copy of Treasure Island has a spine that is basically all white by now: it’s getting kind of hard to make out the title! I’ve read it as e-book several times as well. Maybe that’ll spare my hard copy a little, because I have no intention of getting rid of it.

 

I’m not quite sure what it is that makes me love this book so much. Pirates? Check. Fantastic escapes? Check. Treasure maps? Check. Long John Silver? Check. Exotic locations? Check. Whatzisname? (Wow, Elana, that was descriptive.) What was his name? Ah yes, Dr Livesey. He’s wonderful and I can’t believe I had to look up his name. But I must add that I think Long John Silver makes this novel. He is, to me, one of the most memorable characters in literature, with all his double-crossing and double-crossing on top of that and crossing again on top of that. He may be disabled, but he is certainly not a lame character!

 

Pirate stories have always fascinated me and I loved treasure maps, chests and “X marks the spot” as a kid. Well, maybe I should confess that I still do. I still love a good treasure hunt and I can’t seem to stop from rereading Treasure Island just one more time. Yeah right. It is never just one more time and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it, as the spine of the book testifies.

 

Is this the archetypal pirate story? Is this where pop culture about “the pirate life” started? Is this were the image of the one-legged seaman with a parrot on his shoulder started? Wikipedia seems to think so. If so, then there would be no Captain Jack Sparrow without Long John Silver. There would be no Dread Pirate Roberts. As a kid and probably like most other kids, I thought these kinds of stories romantic. I thought that this looked like a grand life. I read many other of these kind of “shipwrecked” tales, two of the other ones I love being Swiss Family Robinson (which I will post about later) and The Coral Island. I dreamed about these exotic locations and it made my love books even more. (Heck, to me, even England is exotic.)

 

Then I grew old enough to see the moralisation in Treasure Island. I grew old enough to see that it is not only a romantic tale to feed to children. It also contains criticism of the pirate lifestyle and warnings that it is not all fun and games. Actually, it is mostly not fun and games. People die – brutally. People get sick. Life on ship is not fun and it is not heroic to be a swashbuckling pirate. Lots of people die – I said that already – and not all of them deserve it. Actually, it also asks the question whether anyone ever deserves to die. But what I mean to say, it is not only the bad people who die. There are also the unfair deaths, the deaths of beloved characters. In that you can see the harshness of life and it so undercuts the romanticism of the novel.

 

The scene with Jim Hawkins and Israel Hands on board ship remain one of my favourite scenes and I often seem to recognise it in other books. It seems to have had as great an impact on authors as it had on me.

Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest —
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest —
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

So true and so sad. It truly was drink and the devil, and probably pure idiocy that killed so many pirates. It’s not a nice life and Jim Hawkins was wise to stay on the land at the end, I’ve always thought. I’m glad he found the treasure, but I’ve always kind of questioned their motives in sailing off to some only-imagined-before location after treasure. That’s stolen money. Doesn’t that make you an accomplice in the crime? Ah well, but even the protagonists are not perfect characters. They also display bad judgement and greed. Nobody is perfect and maybe laws were a bit different in the days of this book.

 

Don’t spoil your Bible, don’t drink too much, don’t try and camp in a swamp where the malaria can get you… The lessons of Treasure Island are many, but perhaps the most important of all are the morality lessons of Long John Silver and the undercutting of the romantic image of pirating.

It’s wonderful.

 

Tomorrow I’ll post about a book I hated.

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10 responses

  1. Actually, this is one of my favorite books too.

    July 1, 2012 at 17:51

  2. I’ll be reviewing this book relatively soon-ish, having finally reread it for the first time since, oh, third grade or so. It really is a masterpiece of storytelling, but not in a pretentious sort of way. Pirates were popular before Stevenson’s book was published (see Daniel Defoe’s A General History of the Pyrates (1724) and Alexander Exquemelin’s Buccaneers of America (1678), but my impression is that he really defined their fictional image. And you’re right, while he is writing a tremendously romantic adventure, the story actually does destroy the idea of the romantic pirate. We tend to forget this because Silver is so sympathetic, such a tragic case of a man who wants to be good but is unwilling to give up his sin. The pirates in the book aren’t freedom-fighters or good-natured rogues, as in Pirates of the Caribbean and similar swashbucklers. They’re dirty, vile, violent men, criminals through and through, and their livelihood is destroying them. I’m amazed that Stevenson was able to convey such a message in a book that’s so fun and not depressing or “gritty” in the modern sense.

    July 4, 2012 at 23:18

    • Mind giving me a link to your review?
      Yes, that’s exactly what I thought: Stevenson was not the first to write pirates, but that he defined the fictional image, like you said.
      Very true, and you put it very well. 😉 Thank you! 🙂

      July 20, 2012 at 01:20

      • I haven’t written the review yet — I’m kinda slow when it comes to things like that. But it WILL come. And I’ve got lots of other interesting neat stuff to keep you occupied until it shows up. +)

        July 20, 2012 at 02:58

      • Don’t worry, I’m slow like that too! It’s cool, I’ll wait! 😉

        July 21, 2012 at 00:28

  3. “He may be disabled, but he is certainly not a lame character!”
    Made me giggle out loud! 😀 I love it! And I love this book! Been ages since I’ve read it, but it’s a wonderful adventure. 🙂 You forgot to mention that without it there would be no Treasure Planet or Muppets Treasure Island, either!! Two of my favourites! 😀

    July 15, 2012 at 04:32

    • I was wondering whether I wasn’t pushing it into the offensive with that comment, but decided that I can’t always be super politically correct and left it in. 😉
      Oh, how could I forget? I love Muppets Treasure Island! 😀

      July 20, 2012 at 23:43

  4. Carole

    Thank you very much for your links. Cheers

    July 21, 2012 at 02:14

    • No problem! 🙂

      July 25, 2012 at 19:04

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