What is the black spot in Treasure Island?

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The Black Spot is enough to send veteran pirate Billy Bones into a fatal downward spiral of a alcoholism. So what is it?

The black spot is literally just that, a black spot. It consists of a round piece of paper with a blackened spot on one side and a message on the other. It represents a condemnation of one pirate by his crew. If given to a captain, it means that his crew has lost faith in his ability to lead is forcing him to step down from his command. In the case of Billy Bones, the message on his black spot is a demand that he appear before his former crew. It is presumed that failure to comply with a black spot could result in the death of the recipient.

In a way, the use of the black spot represents the democratic nature of pirate crews. Anyone can earn the censure of his shipmates and be called to task. Even captains are subject to them. Long John Silver receives a black spot that threatens to depose him. Only his cunning, manipulation, and shrewdness allows him to retain command.

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The black spot is an age-old pirate tradition, though it was actually invented by Robert Louis Stevenson himself. What happens is that, when members of a pirate crew are dissatisfied with their captain, they present him with a piece of paper with a black spot printed on one side. This is a warning that the captain in question is about to be overthrown, or maybe even killed. Either way, the pirate captain who receives the black spot has been put on notice that he's in serious danger of losing his ship's command as well as his life.

As one can imagine, receiving the black spot can be a pretty scary experience. But it doesn't work with everyone, though. Long John Silver himself receives a black spot, but he's unconcerned. For one thing, his black spot has been drawn on a page crudely torn from the Bible. Pirate folklore states that that will bring bad luck to whoever it was that tore out the page.

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