A Gentleman Chosen

January 7, 2021 by Essay Writer

One particular climax in the story “Treasure Island” occurs when Jim Hawkins unwittingly stumbles into enemy camp and is captured by Long John Silver and his pirates. This passage is of particular importance because it ultimately allows Jim to make a choice between the “gentlemen born” and the “gentlemen of fortune.”From the first moment Jim is captured, Long John Silver tries to win Jim over to the “gentlemen of fortune” and get him to side with the pirates. Silver is keenly aware of Jim’s need for acceptance, and asks him, “Hawkins, will you give me your word of honor as a young gentleman for a young gentleman you are, although poor born your word of honor not to slip your cable?” (749). This is Silver’s not-so-subtle way of telling Jim that, although he may choose honor over dishonor, he will never truly be a “gentleman born.” Silver plays on Jim’s need for acceptance and deftly lets Jim know that he will be accepted as a “gentleman of fortune.”Silver has a variety of motives for making this statement to Jim. I believe his ultimate motive is to win Jim’s loyalty because he wants Jim to join the pirates. But why does he want Jim to join the pirates?First of all, Long John Silver realizes he needs Jim on his side to help protect him from the other pirates. The other pirates are mutineers who have somewhat lost their trust in Silver. And while Silver has been able to regain the upper hand with the pirates, he knows he will never be able to turn his back on them or they are bound to rise up against him. With Jim on his side, Silver will have one more set of eyes and ears to keep tabs on the mutineers.Secondly, Silver realizes that he needs Jim to help protect him from the gallows. Jim has already given his word to Silver that he will act as a witness when they get back to England to protect Silver from the gallows. Perhaps Silver is testing Jim’s integrity to see if he will keep his word and “not slip his cable” (749). This, in turn, would indicate that Jim would keep his word as a witness for Silver.More importantly, Silver realizes that if he wins the allegiance of Jim, he will win a victory over the “gentlemen born,” Smollett and Livesey. Until this point, Jim has been loyal to the gentlemen born despite all of Silver’s flattering talk and approval. The capture of Jim by Silver and the pirates marks the first time an enemy has been caught by the opposite side. However if Jim chooses to stay on the pirates’ side by his own volition, Silver has won a moral victory over Smollett and Livesey. This would mean that Jim has rejected the good guys and embraced the bad. It would also mean the gentlemen born would have one less person to fight on their side, thereby reducing their manpower and strengthening the pirates’ chances for victory in battle.Finally, perhaps Silver has a need for acceptance as well. Up until this point, Silver has really been the most prominent father figure to Jim, as he is the only one who truly understands Jim’s need for adult approval. Silver has already told Jim, “I’ve always liked you, I have, for a lad of spirit, and the picter of my own self when I was young and handsome” (740). While this is most likely false flattery from Silver to try to win Jim over, perhaps there is an element of truth to what Silver says. It is possible that Silver does truly see himself in Jim as a young boy. We are not aware of Silver’s history; perhaps as a young boy Silver also needed adult approval for his own self-esteem, and as an adult there is still an element of that need for approval. It is also possible that Silver enjoys playing the father figure to Jim, as Silver has no son of his own. Perhaps he truly does want Jim to accept him to fulfill his own need for love from a son.Ultimately Jim does choose the moral route. He does indeed keep his word to Silver, but not because he chooses the “gentlemen of fortune.” Jim keeps his word to prove that he is indeed a gentleman, if not a “gentleman born,” and with this he attains his full moral stature.Sources:Stevenson, Robert Louis, “Treasure Island.” A Custom Edition of Classics of Children’sLiterature, Fourth Edition. Ed. John W. Griffith and Charles H. Frey. Bloomington: Prentice-Hall, 1996, 647-765.

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