'Treasure Island' Study and Discussion Questions

The Story of Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins

Skull sitting on top of two books on top of a treasure map next to an old pistol.

volfdrag / Pixabay

Not only is Robert Louis Stevenson's ​"Treasure Island" one of the most popular children's books in history, but it's also had a major influence on popular culture portrayals of 19th-century pirates. It tells the story of young Jim Hawkins, a cabin boy on a ship bound for an island where a treasure is believed to be buried. He encounters pirates who seek to overthrow the ship's officers in a mutiny.

Published as a series in the magazine "Young Folks" between 1881 and 1882, "Treasure Island" is notable as a children's book because of the moral ambiguity of many of its main characters. The "good guys" are sometimes not so good and its most memorable character, Long John Silver, is a classic anti-hero. The story has captured imaginations for more than a hundred years and has been adapted for film and television more than 50 times.​​

Study Questions About 'Treasure Island'

  • Why do you think Jim goes on the journey as a cabin boy?
  • How does Robert Louis Stevenson reveal the characters' motivations in "Treasure Island?"
  • Knowing that this was a serialized story when it was first published, do you have a sense of whether Stevenson plotted out the entire story before writing, or do you think he changed elements of the plot as he wrote each individual section?
  • What are some symbols in "Treasure Island?"
  • Is Jim Hawkins consistent in his actions? Is he a fully developed character?
  • What about ​Long John Silver — are his actions consistent?
  • How easily can you identify with Jim's feelings? Do you think this portrayal of a young boy seems dated, or does it stand the test of time?
  • If this novel were written in the present day, what details would have to change?
  • Discuss how Long John Silver is or is not a father figure to Jim.
  • Which of the characters surprises you the most?
  • Does the story end the way you expected?
  • How essential is the setting of the story? Could the story have taken place anywhere else?
  • Besides Jim Hawkins' mother, there are very few women in "Treasure Island." Do you think this is important to the plot?
  • What would a sequel to this novel have looked like? Would it be possible to continue the story?