What is the significance of the rebel figure in children's literature and in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island?
In children's literature, there is always a message for the reader to take away and so rebel characters can provide role models which children must decide to either emulate or reject. The reader gains insight into the characters and is able to recognize character traits that are admirable and those that are less than acceptable. A child reader is also given an opportunity to consider whether the good outweighs the bad and that not judging others is, in itself, an admirable quality.
In Treasure Island, Long John Silver, is the one that Jim Hawkins aspires to. Not knowing how to judge character, a child reader often takes a character at face value only to realize that the character has serious flaws that threaten to undermine everything. Such is Jim Hawkins' plight when he overhears Silver's mutinous plans. Silver's manipulative personality ensures that he always associates himself with what he perceives to be the best option. However, his genuine fondness for Jim ensures that Jim survives, surrounded by mutiny. Equally, Jim's loyalty to Silver and his refusal to break his word, guide a young reader towards a more complex understanding of relationships. The fact that Jim Hawkins learns fast and is able to recognize good from evil and right from wrong whilst taking risks brings excitement and a sense of reality to the reader who can imagine his or her own part in the story.
Long John Silver is a dominant character who drives the plot forward but Jim Hawkins is able to ensure his own contribution and prove that a boy can learn from someone like Silver without actually being like him and that the charismatic Silver respects Jim's goodness and strives to protect it.