What makes Stevenson’s Treasure Island a realistic work is the careful use of details, the simple language, and verisimilitude.
Stevenson’s careful use of details can be best spotted in his description of the pirates. Let us take the example of Billy Bones. The writer gives a full description about his looks, outfit, habits, manners, lingo, and even his tattoos and the type of sword he carries (a type specifically used by pirates). All these details are carefully picked, and ultimately accumulate to form the character of a real pirate.
One we are led to feel familiar with. This kind of generous description is what makes the characters come to life. Stevenson wants us to believe that these pirates do exist.
The use of simple language also proves as an element of realism in Treasure Island. It is natural for Stevenson to use an ordinary language since the narrator of the story, Jim Hawkins, is an ordinary character. As most realists, Stevenson fits his style to that of his characters.
For instance, Long John Silver speaks his own language, has a ‘pirate’ popular style of his own (he uses idiosyncratic phrases such as “you may lay to that”) and the language becomes his identity (Stevenson, Treasure Island: Chapter XXIX).
Ben Gunn uses incorrect spelling to illustrate perhaps his illiteracy. Therefore in dialogues, we notice that pirates talk differently from non-pirates, and the educated talk differently from the uneducated. Overall, Stevenson’s abstinence from using fancy language and exaggeration makes the story more relatable to reality.
Most importantly, Stevenson made sure to add truthiness to the story so the reader can taste a true zest of adventure. The description of real settings, the use of navigation jargon, and the historical reality all confirm verisimilitude in the novel. The description and the location of Treasure Island was inspired by a real life island in Scotland that Stevenson once had visited.
Furthermore, the novel was written to parallel the true historical events of the author’s time. The historical background of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel goes back to the 18th century, at the end of the Georgian era, leading the way to 19th century Victorian England. It was a time of piracy and big ships as well.
Henceforth, Stevenson’s attention to historical facts and specific details only adds to the sense of verisimilitude in his fictional work.
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