established the pattern of the classic adventure tale for young people in that it features an adolescent hero who narrates his own story. This was standard practice in adventure magazines for young readers when it was first published. Yet the quality of the writing and the appeal of the themes make Stevenson’s novel an international enduring success.
Jim Hawkins helps his parents operate an inn called the Admiral Benbow on an unfrequented stretch of English seacoast. An old, tyrannical seaman, Billy Bones, takes up residence there, terrorizing everyone. Dr. Livesey attends Jim’s father, who is gravely ill, and stands up to the ruffian alone. One day, another wayfarer who happens by forces Jim to bring him to his "mate Bill." After driving him off, Bill collapses from a massive stroke, from which he recovers slowly. In the meantime, Mr. Hawkins suddenly dies. The same day, a blind man, Pew, arrives to summon Bill to a meeting. Bill suffers a second stroke and dies. After searching the chest, Jim and his mother barely escape before the pirates attack. While they are ransacking the inn, the watch surprises and scatters them. In the melee, Pew is ridden down and killed.
One of the items salvaged from the chest turns out to be a map of an island, complete with latitude and longitude, and a notation reading "bulk of treasure here." Squire John Trelawney immediately proposes that he and the doctor commission a ship and find the treasure. He invites Jim to be cabin boy. The squire leaves for Bristol, where he purchases a ship, the Hispaniola, for the voyage. In due time, he calls Jim there, and hires Long John Silver, the proprietor of a pub and former seaman who wears an artificial leg, to raise a crew and act as cook and agent of his interests when the ship gets under way. Some things seem vaguely suspicious. Captain Alexander Smollett has just replaced Captain Flint as skipper, and he objects to everything about the enterprise. His first order is to stow the arms and powder where the crew cannot get at them.
The voyage to the island is uneventful. Then, just before landfall, Jim climbs into a barrel to get an apple, and from within he overhears Silver plotting mutiny with other former members of Captain Flint’s crew. At that moment, the island comes into view. Jim reveals his secret to the captain, who permits the crew to go ashore the next morning. Jim slips away with them to spy.
On land, Silver kills two of the sailors who refuse to join the mutiny, stunning them with his peg leg and then impaling them with it before shooting them dead. Attempting to escape, Jim runs into the old man of the island, Ben Gunn, marooned three years before. He leads Jim to the island stockade, where the outnumbered captain and crew have been forced to seek refuge. The Hispaniola now flies the Jolly Roger skull and bones.
The loyalists hold off the first attack, after which Jim joins them. Their supplies are dangerously low.
Silver calls for a truce, offering liberty in exchange for the map, but the captain scorns him. Before long, the pirates mount a full attack, which is just barely repelled. The doctor then sets off to find Ben Gunn, and Jim decides to reconnoiter on his own. After finding Ben’s homemade boat, he paddles it to the Hispaniola’s portage, and cuts the ship adrift to deprive the pirates of a means of escape. A gale swings the vessel about, however, and with billowing sails it makes headway directly in the path of Ben’s little boat, which it destroys. Jim clambers aboard the ship again, and beaches it to keep it safe. He strikes the sails, but not before shooting its one remaining sailor, who wounds Jim with a knife.
Jim returns to the stockade, where he is captured by the pirates, who have captured it. The company, meanwhile, has taken refuge in Ben Gunn’s cave. When Jim tells them he has taken the ship, the men reject Silver’s authority and plan to kill him. Silver, however, is able to win them back andsave Jim’s life. Dr. Livesey appears the next morning to treat the ill and wounded—part of a pact with the pirates. Although the doctor encourages him to do so, Jim refuses to try escaping— he has given his word. Silver vows to protect Jim, and the doctor in return promises to do what he can to keep the pirate from hanging. Ben Gunn intimates to Dr. Livesey that, early in his stay on the island, he had stumbled upon the treasure and brought it to his cave. Livesey gives the worthless map to Long John Silver, warning him for the sake of appearances not to use it.
The pirates will not leave the island without the treasure. At first, the signs of finding it seem good: They find a skeleton deliberately laid out as though to act as a pointer. Then Ben Gunn holds them up for a bit by playing the ghost of Flint. Finally, they arrive at the site, only to find it empty. Fearing retaliation, Silver arms Jim and saves his life again. The doctor and his company kill two of the pirates and drive the others to flight. Squire Trelawney’s party returns to Ben’s cave, captures the prize, and makes for the ship accompanied by Long John Silver and Ben Gunn. Three of the buccaneers are deliberately marooned on the island. During the return voyage, the Hispaniola anchors briefly in the West Indies, where Long John escapes with a sack of coins. The rest arrive safely in Bristol, where they fare variously.