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Treasure Island - a Mirror of Robert Louis Stevenson's Childhood?

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Essay title: Treasure Island - a Mirror of Robert Louis Stevenson's Childhood?

Treasure Island - A Mirror of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Childhood?

Often there can be seen many parallels between a writer’s life and experiences and his or her works. A biographical approach to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island is not easy, as at first sight the characters don’t have much in common with the author and up to the time the story was written, Stevenson hadn’t visited the West Indies or other exotic places. But there still are possibilities to link Stevenson’s biography with his work.

Robert Louis Stevenson was born on 13th November 1850 as the only child of Thomas Stevenson, a lighthouse engineer, and Margaret Isabella Balfour, a minister’s daughter. From his early childhood on R.L. Stevenson suffered from a poor health. During his long periods of illnesses his parents and his nanny sat by his bedside and told or read out stories to him. His nanny for example used to read out from the Bible, as she was a very religious person and his father even invented stories for him. According to David Daiches, Thomas Stevenson �had a romantic imagination, and put himself to sleep nightly with stories of ships, roadside inns, robbers, old sailors, and commercial travellers before the era of steam.’ (David Daiches, Robert Louis Stevenson and his world, p. 8) He entertained his small son with similar stories which certainly had a great effect on the young boy.

R.L. Stevenson was barely six years old when he dictated to his mother �A History of Moses’, a mixture of accurately remembered biblical language and a child’s narrative style. Growing he became more and more interested in literature. Because of his frequent sickness his attendance at school became fairly sporadic and in general he was regarded as a rather solitary boy who spent his free time reading and writing, who made up games for himself and who lived very much on his own imagination. He also often accompanied his father to the seaside. This seemed to have a fascinating impact on him and soon he learned to cope with sand and sea.

Maybe Jim Hawkins and his adventures were already part of his imagination at that time. Or maybe he even represented a counterpart, an ideal I, of the sick little boy and reflected his wishes and dreams.

Jim Hawkins is an only child as well yet he is of a completely different social background than the author. His family lives at the seaside and his parents own an inn called “Admiral Benbow”. After his father’s death, which occurs right at the beginning of the book, Jim has to help his mother to run the inn. Coming from a rather simple family Jim doesn’t seem to be highly educated and he isn’t a bookworm either. But this is not very important as he nevertheless is a clever and competent young boy who cannot be easily intimidated and who has enough courage to deal with the frightening Billy Bones at the inn, to go for some sea adventures and cope with mutinying pirates.

At the beginning of the book the reader learns that it is Jim who tells the story and thus it represents his perceptions, his point of view and his outlook on the adult world. One can hardly say how the author percepted the world as a young child. But it is highly probable that Jim’s outlook is based on Stevenson’s own experiences, as all in all he still is a realistic, down to earth character. He might be clever and daring, but he also knows that he depends on other peoples’ help like for example Dr. Livesey’s after the destruction of the Admiral Benbow, and he also admits that he is scared sometimes (e.g.: Jim is haunted by Billy Bones in his dreams, p.3).

Furthermore he is not all alone on his journey. He is accompanied by or rather he accompanies Dr. Livesey, who embodies a fatherly friend and whom Jim apparently admires, and Squire Trelawney, who initiates the journey. But in spite of his company it is Jim and not the older, more experienced men on the journey who uncover the pirates’ plan for mutiny, find Ben Gunn and enlist him in their cause, and steal the Hispaniola and return it to captain Smollett. Thus one can say that even if Jim didn’t initiate the journey himself, he plays the main part.

In his account Jim proves to be a very good observer. He doesn’t only give a detailed description of the people he meets (for example Billy Bones, p. 2, or Long John Silver p. 48)

and of the atmosphere prevailing (e.g.:p.24:

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