Discussion Topic

Details of Long John Silver's actions and fate in Treasure Island

Summary:

Long John Silver is a cunning pirate who initially poses as a friendly cook. Throughout Treasure Island, he manipulates both his pirate crew and the story's protagonists. Despite his treachery, Silver ultimately escapes with a portion of the treasure, avoiding the grim fate of his fellow pirates.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who is killed by Long John Silver in Treasure Island?

Long John Silver, with his parrot and his wooden leg, has become such a stereotypical figure of piracy that the reader is often surprised on returning to Treasure Island what a complex and individual character he is. To take one instance of the dichotomy between the stereotype and the character, Silver is not particularly bloodthirsty, nor is he a prolific killer. When he does kill one of his shipmates, however, it is with great suddenness and ruthless efficiency.

After the pirates have killed Alan, Tom steps forward and courageously defies Silver. He says that Alan was "a true seaman" and that he does not care if Silver and his accomplices kill him as well. Tom then makes the mistake of turning his back on Silver and walking away. Silver quickly hurls his crutch at Tom, striking him in the back. This blow may well have killed Tom, but Silver makes certain of his death by jumping on top of him, "agile as a monkey even without leg or crutch," and stabbing him twice.

As soon as he has killed Tom, Silver recovers his crutch and wipes his knife carefully on the grass. He appears perfectly cool and collected, paying no attention to the dead body of his shipmate beside him. While Silver does not seem to enjoy killing, it does not seem to bother him much, and Jim, the narrator, is horrified by his lack of compunction.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How did Long John Silver die in Treasure Island?

Long John Silver is one of those rare characters in fiction who seems always to have existed and who takes on an independent life outside the books. Fiction of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is particularly rich in such characters—Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan of the Apes, Ebenezer Scrooge—who may be said never to die and were, in fact, generally not easy for their creators to kill off even when they wanted to do so.

Long John Silver courts death a number of times in Treasure Island, but he finally escapes, with a small portion of his ill-gotten gains. Apart from Ben Gunn (who spends his treasure almost immediately), he is the only one of Captain Flint's former shipmates to recover any of his hoarded wealth. In the penultimate paragraph of the novel, Jim Hawkins reflects,

Of Silver we have heard no more. That formidable seafaring man with one leg has at last gone clean out of my life; but I dare say he met his old Negress, and perhaps still lives in comfort with her and Captain Flint. It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small.

Jim's wishes reflect his ambivalence and possibly also that of the reader about Long John Silver. He is clearly a villain, deserving of punishment. He has committed many crimes, including murdering Tom, one of his shipmates, in cold blood. Nonetheless, his good qualities and occasional kindness seem to have prevented Stevenson from wanting to kill off Long John Silver or even punish him for his misdeeds, and the retribution that awaits him remains uncertain to the last.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on