The first chapter of Treasure Island establishes significant parts of the background, along with the protagonist and several other important characters. The main character, Jim Hawkins, is a teenage boy who helps his parents at the seaside inn they run. The adult male characters who are portrayed in strongly contrasting terms support a theme that there are many different ways to be a man.
Jim’s father is a conscientious, unimaginative, and rather mild-mannered man who is sick enough to need a doctor’s care. While his temperament is suited to taking care of guests, his reticence hampers his ability to collect payment and make the inn financially sound. The mysterious guest—the buccaneer of the chapter’s title, who will later be identified as Billy Bones—is ferocious, bold, and secretive and garrulous in turn. The third distinct type of man is represented by Doctor Livesey, a pleasant, bright-eyed man, who is as honest and straightforward as Mr. Hawkins. He greatly differs from the timid innkeeper in his forthright, self-assured demeanor. With only a few words and a look, the doctor—who is also a magistrate—silences the loud, long-winded pirate.
The chapter establishes how Jim is first exposed to the possibilities of adventure. The longer the old buccaneer stays at the inn, the less mysterious he seems; Jim grows less afraid and more intrigued. In the next few chapters, both his father and Bones will die, and Jim will be forced to make serious, adult-like decisions. As the novel develops, he sometimes regrets that he ever left home. By the end, he will come to value the kind of life that he once considered dull. Along with that new insight, he will also appreciate his father.