Characters

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

James “Jim” Hawkins

Jim is the narrator and protagonist of Treasure Island. While his exact age is not specified, it can be inferred that he is in his early teens, as is customary of cabin boys in the eighteenth century. Accustomed to a dull and tedious life at the Admiral Benbow, he meets the prospect of a sea voyage with naive excitement.

Apart from his naiveness, Jim is also prone to boyish impulses. He takes the oilskin packet from Billy Bones’s sea-chest, explores Skeleton Island on his own, and single-handedly attempts to recover the Hispaniola from the mutineers. While reckless, however, Jim proves to be successful in all his efforts—in no small part due to his courage and sharpness of mind. Indeed, the novel largely presents Jim’s brash initiative as a virtue rather than a vice.

Since he is the youngest of the cast of characters, Jim is afforded a privileged position. It is his diminutive size which allows him to sneak around, spy on the mutineers, and eventually gain critical tactical advantages. Instead of emulating Dr. Livesey or Captain Smollett, he plays to his own strengths and is thus able to deftly navigate the world of duplicity and violence into which he has been thrown.

Billy Bones / The Captain

The arrival of Billy Bones, a menacing seaman with a saber cut across his cheek, sets off the events of the novel. He had been the first mate to Flint’s captain, and he inherited the captaincy and the treasure map after the latter drank himself to death in Savannah. His demise parallels that of Flint’s, as he suffers two consecutive strokes due to his drinking. Despite claiming not to have even liked Billy Bones, Jim finds himself mourning the pirate’s death tearfully.

Black Dog

Black Dog, described as a pale man with a three-fingered left hand, is the first of Captain Flint’s original crew to visit Billy Bones at the inn in pursuit of the map. Jim encounters him once more at Silver’s tavern, but Black Dog is able to elude capture.

Blind Pew

The second of Captain Flint’s men to visit Billy Bones at the inn, Pew delivers to him the black spot—a note, blackened on one side, which signaled a pirate’s imminent death or violent displacement from his position. Pew meets his end early on in the novel, falling down a ditch near the Admiral Benbow inn.

Dr. David Livesey

Dr. Livesey first makes his appearance as the only man at the Admiral Benbow unfazed by Billy Bones’s intimidating antics. He is a magistrate as well as a doctor, and he takes pride in the fact that he served in the military under the Duke of Cumberland. While he is the only character in the novel to have obtained a formal education, he also displays fair skill at battle and a roguish cunning rivaling that of Long John Silver.

Jim’s bond with Dr. Livesey is the deepest among his companions; he feels guilt and shame for abandoning the doctor at the stockade. Even though Dr. Livesey reprimands Jim, however, he never ceases to treat the latter with much concern and affection.

Squire John Trelawney

Jim meets John Trelawney at Dr. Livesey’s residence, describing him as a broad man over six feet tall. As a member of the landed gentry, Trelawney is by far the highest ranking among the characters in terms of social standing. Prone to thoughtlessness, he readily informs Silver of their treasure-hunting plans and trusts the sea cook to obtain for him a crew for the Hispaniola. Despite his brashness and gullibility, however, Trelawney exhibits a cool restraint under pressure. He is the best marksman among his allies.

Captain Alexander Smollett

The novel establishes Captain Smollett’s stern, no-nonsense nature from his very first appearance. Before the Hispaniola even sets sail, he takes Trelawney aside and tells him directly that he cares neither for the crew nor for their treasure-hunting aspirations. This inspires extreme dislike in Trelawney and Jim. However, the doctor sees the value in Captain Smollet’s uncompromising righteousness. Indeed, under the threat of violence at Skeleton Island, the three end up depending greatly on Captain Smollett’s leadership. While taking refuge at the stockade, the captain hoists the Union Jack flag—a fitting symbol of his gentlemanly values amidst the lawless and isolated Skeleton Island.

Benjamin Gunn

Although Ben Gunn only appears in the latter half of the novel, he plays a prominent role in the crew’s success against the mutineers. Jim describes his appearance as that of a ragged beggar, the result of having lived alone in the wilderness for over three years. Benn Gunn presents himself as a penitent sinner, and he even insists to Jim that, despite his crimes, he has not forgotten his catechism. Despite still possessing the rough and clumsy qualities of a pirate, he redeems himself by helping Jim and his crew outwit the mutineers.

Long John Silver

While configured as the novel’s villain, Silver is far from the conventional figure of the cutthroat, bloodthirsty pirate captain. Jim first meets Silver at the latter’s own tavern and judges him to be “a very different creature” from the buccaneers Black Dog and Pew. Affectionately nicknamed “Barbecue,” the sea cook proves himself charming and an excellent judge of character. Time and time again, he is able to successfully make his case and sway the opinions of those around him.

Although crippled, Silver displays exceptional agility and strength. As Israel Hands explains to Jim, Silver obtained good schooling, unlike most of the pirates whose company he keeps. Before learning of Silver’s deception, Jim basks in the sea cook’s kindness and almost fatherly affection. Even after the mutiny, Silver recognizes that he and Jim have much in common, remarking that, given the chance, he and Jim “might have done a power of good together!”

Israel Hands

Israel Hands, the Hispaniola’s coxswain, is a pirate in his thirties whom Jim first describes as an “experienced seaman who could be trusted at a pinch with almost anything.” As Captain Flint’s original gunner, his skills as a sailor are only rivaled by his aim—he shoots and ends up killing Redruth as Dr. Livesey and his allies are fleeing the schooner.

Tom Morgan, Dick Johnson, and George Merry

Morgan, Dick, and George are three of Silver’s men and part of Captain Flint’s original crew. Both Dick and George perish during the ambush at the site of the treasure, the latter being shot by Silver himself. Tom Morgan survives but is subsequently marooned on the island.

Thomas Redruth

Redruth is Trelawney’s gruff old gamekeeper. Hands shoots him dead while he and his company are fleeing the Hispaniola, and he requests that he be prayed over in his final moments.

John Hunter and Richard Joyce

John Hunter and Richard Joyce are another two of Trelawney’s servants. They both perish during the mutineers’ assault on the stockade.

Abraham Gray

Abraham Gray is one of the Hispaniola’s forecastle hands who joins Captain Smollett and his allies. He is able to survive until the end and get his fair share of the treasure.

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