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So you’re going to teach Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, Stevenson’s adventure novel has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. Studying Treasure Island will give your students unique insight into ideas about cultural acceptability and methods of characterization, as well as important themes surrounding loyalty, morality, and courage. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1883
  • Recommended Grade Level: 7-9
  • Approximate Word Count: 68,000
  • Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Country of Origin: United Kingdom
  • Genre: Adventure, Historical Fiction, Bildungsroman
  • Literary Period: Victorian
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Society
  • Narration: First Person
  • Setting: England and the Caribbean, 1700s
  • Dominant Literary Devices: Suspense, Foreshadowing, Imagery
  • Mood: Mysterious, Exciting, Tense

Texts That Go Well with Treasure Island

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) was Mark Twain’s first novel. It describes episodes in the young Tom Sawyer’s life, which include witnessing a murder and finding stolen treasure. Exceptionally for the children’s literature of its time, the protagonist of Tom Sawyer is not uniformly well-behaved and does not necessarily provide a strong moral example for its readership. Comparing and contrasting the narratives of Tom Sawyer and Jim Hawkins offers a useful perspective on nineteenth-century adventure novels for young readers.

Anne of Green Gables (1908), by Lucy Maud Montgomery, is a coming-of-age novel about Anne Shirley’s adventures in the town of Green Gables. Anne’s childhood and adolescence is affected by her spirited nature but also by friendships, love, hatred, and tragedy. A bildungsroman, Anne of Green Gables offers a different type of protagonist than Treasure Island. Whereas Jim’s character development is mostly catalyzed by violent actions and dangerous situations, Anne’s character is developed through her fantastical perspective and social experiences in her small town.

Peter Pan (1911), by J. M. Barrie, is another classic work of children’s literature. The pirates that populate the fantasy world of Neverland were directly inspired by those of Treasure Island, and Stevenson’s fictional Captain Flint is referenced by name. The novel deals explicitly with the concept of growing up through a narrative in which a girl, Wendy, is whisked away by fairies to the magical realm of Neverland. Students can discuss how characters in Peter Pan—namely Wendy and Peter—differ from or are similar to Jim Hawkins.

The Secret Garden (1911), by Frances Hodgson Burnett, follows protagonist Mary Lennox as she grows from a sour and unhealthy young girl to a spirited and happy girl with a love for gardening. Mary’s discovery of a secret garden and her love for plants and gardening help change her sickly cousin, Colin. Eventually, she and Colin become healthy and happy children who bring joy and change to their home and Colin’s previously depressed father.

Under a Painted Sky (2015), by Stacey Lee, is an adventure novel that offers more diverse perspectives than Treasure Island as regards both race and gender. It is about two teenage girls who, disguised as boys, travel the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s. The girls find themselves in treacherous conditions and desperate survival situations. Through it all, they form a loyal bond of friendship and prove their own bravery and perseverance.

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History of the Text