Costumes of English Literary Characters: Jim Hawkins

Figure 1.--The greatest illustrator who worked on Trasure Island was of course N.C. Wyeth. Here he has drawn Jim Hawkins with Long John Silver and his parrot.

Robert Louis Stevenson's Treaure Island is the most famous swashbuckling pirate tale ever written. It is the odyssey of English boy Jim Hawkins and his thrilling adventures on the high seas. Jim may have been the first English boy introduced to generations of American boys. The book was set in the 18th century. Jim is the hero of the book and his adventure with murderous pirates is a thrilling tale. It is Jim who finds the map and eventually saves everyone from the pirates. After many adventures on Treasure Island he returns to England with the treasure. Treasure Island was written in 1882 and was Stephenson's first major literary success. It was a marvelous yarn involving piracy, buried treasure, and adventure on the high seas. There have been many printings and several film versions. The original title in serialization was The Sea-Cook, arrousing little interested. Once the tile was changed to Treasure Island the books started flying off the shelves. It is of course a thrilling tale.

Jim Hawkins

Stephenson offers us a long list of interesting charactrs. The two most full developed characters are Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins. Jim of course is the hero. Treasure Island is the story of Jim's adventure with murderous pirates. And Jim himself narriates most of the book. It is a tall tale indeed. The pirate leader, Long John Silver summed up Jim Hawkins, "I never seen a better boy than that". And Jim is perhaps the best description in literature of the romantic ideal of boyhood. Jim is a teenager. He is honest, trutful, devoted to his mother, brave, independent, resourceful, and loyal to his friends. It is Jim who first finds finds the map and eventually saves everyone from the pirates. It is also Jim who sets up the basic tension in the book. The conflict he experiences between right and wrong and his deep affection toward the scoundral Long John. Jim is taken with Long John when they first meet. He muses that he will be "one of the best of possible shipmates" and Jim in his innsence has no inkling of evil. As the cabin boy, he is constantly with Long John--the ship's cook. He is shatered when he learns of Long John's intentions. Jim describes a "shidder" when Long John touches him. Long John saves Jim's life from his fellow pirates. Jim cannot prevent the feeling of affection between the two, "... my heart was sore for him, whicked as he was, to think on the dark perils that environed, and the shameful gibbet that awaited him."

Treasure Island

Stephenson originally titled the story Sea Cook meaning Long John Silver. It arroused little interest in serialization (1881-82). Once the tile was changed to Treasure Island the books started flying off the shelves (1883). It is of course a thrilling tale. Literary experts have likened it to a fairy tale as much as an adventure story, citing its dream-like character. The adventure begins on the English coast. It is there that Jim comes into possession of the treasure map. The map shows the location of a fabulous treasure burried by Captain Flint, a legendary pirate. Soon aboard the Hispaniolas, the action shifts to an unidentified island in an unspecified sea. Literary historians debate the actual location. Surely it has to be the Caribbean as there is no mention of rounding the Horn. One expert argues that it is an island off California, but I think the dense folliage precludes this. Jim Hawkins using his treasure map sets sail with Long John Silver aboard the Hispaniola to find the treasure on Treasure Island. Squire Smollett hides the real map. Jim learns of the mutiny and informs the Squire. Long John's mutiny fails to secure the map. Without it they do not know where the treasdure is burried. When they reach the island, the only person on the island is the half-mad Ben Gunn and he has hidden the treasure. After many adventures on Treasure Island, in the end, it is Jim who returns to England with the treasure. And Jim sums up his adventure, "It was all quite scary, but I quite enjoyed it. Can I do it again?"

Robert Louis Stephenson (1850-94)

Robert Louis (Balfour) Stephenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. His crative career was shortened by ill health. He had nted accomplishmentts as a novelist, poet, and travel writer. He contracted tuberculosis as a child. His family was noted for constructing famous lighthouses. A lighthouse was of grear importance before modern navigaional methods and radio communication. He at first worked as a lighthouse designer, but then turned to the law, although he never actually worked as a lawyer. He lived in Bourmouth, England where he wrote some of his famous stories. He finally moved to Samoa for his health and for a time lived on a plantation. Of course during all this he wrote his great works. plantation owner in Samoa, all this in addition to his literary career. His first great success was Treasure Island which he wrote in 1882. He had returned to Scotland from the South Pacific. He made friends with a school boy who enjoyed drawing. Stephenson to amuse his friend drew an island and then he explains the shape of the island "took my fancy beyond expression". Treasure Island is perhaps his best known book. In it Jim Hawkins battles pirates. His next book was Kidnapped in which another boy character, David Balfour, attempts to gain his rightful inheritance from a wicked uncle. David is Scottish so he perhaps should be on a list of Scottish chracters. Stephenson is of course also remembered for his wonderful poems in A Child's Garden of Versus. He married Fanny Osbourne, an American, who was a great support to both him and his work.


There have been many editions of Treasure Island published. Several illustrators have worked on these editions. The greatest illustrator who worked on Treasure Island was of course N.C. Wyeth. He did wonderful illustrations of a whole list of adventure stories, including Treasure Island. I remember the editioin I read as a boy had the illustrations by Wyeth and it is him images that still stick with me. We do not yet have information on other illustrators that have worked on this marvelous adventure story.

Classics Illustrated

Treasure Island was one of the many classic books that were done as comic books in the Classics Illustrated series. The cover comes from one of the N.C. Wyeth illustrations. While the classics illustrated drawings carry none of the energy energy of the Wyeth illustrations. They do, however, provide quite alarge number of images from the book. As in all Classics Illustrated editions, the comic book very closely follow the plot of the book.

Film Versions

The best loved film version of Treasure Island is the 1950 Disney version. Treasure Island. Jim is played by Bobby Driscoll. Long John Silver is played as a rather rapscallious pirate by Robert Newton, certainly the most memorable depiction of the claasic pirate character. This was Disney's first live-action film. The cast included Fred Clark, Finlay Currie, Walter Fitzgerald, John Gregson, Jim Hawkins, Geoffrey Keen, John Laurie, Gordon Mulholland, Robert Newton, Denis O'Dea, Leo Phillips, Basil Sydney, and Patrick Troughton. The director was Byron Haskin. The 1999 version of Treasure Islandstarred Jack Palance stars as Long John Silver. The film featured Patrick Bergin, Kevin Zegers, and Al Ashton. The director was Peter Rowe.

Reader Comment

An Australian reader tells us, "I read this book in grade 4 and became mad about pirates all my primary school. I wanted to be Jim Hawkins too. I also read Lord Of The Flies and The Silver Sword. Jan was my personal hero and a bit like me in wanting to really live in a nice big house with a warm fire too in winter and boy do I hate winter and I have never seen snow which annoying though."


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Created: March 28, 2003
Last updated: 12:22 AM 8/13/2011