The Purpose of Words

This is one of the types of books that must be adored or despised.

Treasure Island was written by Robert Louis Stevenson in1881 Anno Domini. Originally it was a story that he told to his young relatives while they were in Scotland for a rainy late summer vacation. This is where he wrote the first fifteen chapters. Many members of his family joined in the writing especially his father and stepson. Later that year he finished it and found a place that would publish it.

It was first published in a youth magazine one single chapter at a time, finishing in January of 1882. The fact that it took him only a year to write it is painfully obvious.

Also obvious is the fact that it was originally a story he told to his nieces and nephews, a child's story for the comprehension of children. Such things when considered to be for adults are insipid and foolish.

As a children's story it contains themes and morals for the young especially as it pertains to codes of conduct. The first and most apparent example is Chivalry.

Chivalry is of course presented in one of its more idealized incarnation's with such fantastical creatures as brave, loyal cabin boys, religious pirates, and honest mercenaries. Examples from the story would be the main character Jim Hawkins, Captain Smollet, and Long John Silver.

Holders of this code are seemingly only motivated by their own consciences but if they break this self-imposed rule they are held in contempt even by their most amoral companions. Though their reasons for breaking with their code might be mundane the consequences are viewed by the characters to be very severe, almost anything fatal from hanging to divine retribution.

In speaking of the divine another question arises about exactly how realistic (or non realistic as the case may be) the portrayals of people and humanity in general are in this book. How can it be that pirates who without a second thought killed old crew members, captains, and friends can be shown as God fearing and religious? One would think that would be extremely difficult to write but he manages it with great panache. Because of this great and inexplicable dedication to religion which it seems the audience must accept on faith these pirates who have just mutinied, and killed several crew members are scared because someone tore out of piece of the book of revelation to make a black spot. As far as punishment for trespassing on the sacred book rebuke and divine retribution seem to be given and expected.

In conclusion it must be accepted that the following are true. That Robert Louis Stevenson is incapable of properly explaining human nature in any satisfactory manner. But most importantly is the fact that to portray characters of low character and worse morals as adherents to such lofty ideals does not raise a reader's estimation of them but rather it demeans these codes of conduct. It brings them down to the human level and instead of having them as unattainable ideals as they should be it makes them common place and bitterly, depressingly human. Chivalry and Scripture are two things that the pursuit of is both a goal and a journey, following one or both to the best of our abilities make us better people simply because there will always be another step we can take on the road to a perfection we can never have. Such things as chivalry and religion require dedication, loyalty, and time. One can not profess to follow them without these things.

They are not things to be used and discarded and to show them as such defeats the very purpose this book was written.