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Gentry in the Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ Essay

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Updated: Jan 19th, 2022

Introduction

The upper class at the end of the 19th century was usually well-schooled and good-mannered. This was often a result of the influence of hired teachers and books that contained stories of noble knights and honored people. Raised on these ideals and taught to be gentlemen, male gentry, as portrayed by Stevenson, often exhibited noble traits and overall served as a role model for the young generation. Nonetheless, if such people are placed in a dangerous environment and surrounded by treacherous and low people, the price of all the chivalry can quickly plummet. In the hunt for treasure the practical use of idealism, good manners, and adherence to codes appears to be dangerous and can lead to death.

Squire Trelawney

One of the main positive characters in the book is Squire Trelawney who funds the adventure and finds the team of pirates to join them in the search for treasure. He is not as highborn as a baron but still belongs to the wealthier class. He is a typical well-mannered aristocrat with a kind heart and generous nature. Sadly, though, he is far too naive. Being a gentleman himself, he seems to believe that everyone around him will give him the same treatment. This vulnerability would often put him and other positive characters in grave danger.

At the very beginning of the adventure, Trelawney hires an old brothel-keeper, who claims he lost his leg sailing under the banner of Admiral Hawke, a famous British navy officer, and has no pension. That alone could raise some suspicion, but Trelawney genuinely believes him and takes him aboard with his companions. He even pities John Silver for having no pension exclaiming, “Imagine the abominable age we live in!” regardless of the fact that the pirate holds a public house (Stevenson 55). This excessive faith causes a whole range of misfortunes to rain down upon the people who trusted him with their lives.

However, this blind confidence in people does not provoke a reader to regard him as a fool with a negative connotation. The reason for this is that he realizes his mistakes and does not have all that lordliness, which allows him to repent even before his servant. That devotion to his ideals of righteousness and justice seems to rehabilitate Trelawney.

Doctor Livesey

The fact that Livesey, apart from being a medic, is also a judge in his hometown can indicate that he is of higher social standing. Even though he was not born into high society, he can certainly be deemed a noble person by the way he honors his duty as a doctor. Near the end of the book, Livesey offers his medical skills to the three pirates left on the island, should there be a need for them. He wishes to follow his code of a doctor even at risk to his “own carcass” (Stevenson 262). That devotion puts him and all his companions in danger because there may have been a time when Jim, captain or Trelawney were in need of his assistance. Pirates could have used that and lured the doctor into a trap.

Capitan Smollett

There is no information about Smollett’s origin but the fact that he achieved the rank of a captain could speak to the fact that he has some ties to the nobility. If it is not true, then his qualities can certainly advocate for his right to be put on a par with them. Nonetheless, his rigidness and strict adherence to discipline and duty did more harm and well. The situation when Captain insisted on the crew to raise the English flag in the fort could be qualified as either bravery or silliness. On the one hand, he had a wartime duty of an officer to remain loyal to the crown and spread the word of the fame of English soldiers by acting bravely even in the face of danger. On the other hand, there are serious safety considerations.

Captain Smollett’s first duty as the highest-ranking officer in the crew is to keep his subordinates alive. That often requires placing logic before honor. After the first battle with pirates, Smollett’s injury temporarily relieved him from his authority as a commanding officer, which allowed Jim to succeed in his reckless but much-needed venture of stealing the ship from pirates.

Captain’s over-attachment to following the rules and codes makes him a nobleman, but the situation they found themselves in required cunning more than rules. Placing companions in danger does not qualify for an advantage in the confrontation with pirates. Bravery and adherence to the moral code are certainly good and admirable qualities but not at the expense of someone’s life.

Conclusion

All things considered, Gentry in the Stevenson’s Treasure Island was illustrated by its true representatives in the names of Squire Trelawney, Doctor Livesey, and Captain Smollett. However, their noble qualities in the setting where treachery and death were omnipresent seem to be disadvantaging them. Not only were their efforts of showing their good side not admired by the pirates but also often put their lives and the lives of their comrades in danger. However, those qualities are still considered admirable in society, and Stevenson used them to juxtapose good characters from the villains.

Works Cited

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. 1883. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Gentry in the Stevenson’s 'Treasure Island'." January 19, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/gentry-in-the-stevensons-treasure-island/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Gentry in the Stevenson’s 'Treasure Island''. 19 January.

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