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shewhomust

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The pirate with no name [Mar. 5th, 2017|12:32 pm]
shewhomust
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One more book post, because every day is Book Day in this establishment.

At the pub quiz, we have a 'book of the moment', on which there is one question each week, running through the book more or less in order: which is why I have for some time been reading Treasure Island slowly and carefully. (I recommend it, by the way: it stands up even to this treatment.)

Reading with particular attention to names, numbers, places, the sort of things it's easy to ask questions about, I noticed something a bit odd, and I'd appreciate any thoughts anyone might have on the subject: one of the pirates has no name. Strictly, more than one remains unnamed: Stevenson's too good a writer to swamp you with the names of a cast of thousands. Gradually as the Hispaniola sails towards Treasure Island, Jim starts to refer to individuals by name, although others remain anonymously in the background.

But by the time that Jim - oh, wait, this is a spoiler - returns to the stockade, and finds that his friends have handed it over to the pirates, there are only six pirates left, including Long John Silver: surely in such close proximity to such a small number, they will all be named? We learn the names of Tom Morgan (no suggestion he's related to the famous buccaneer Henry Morgan), George Merry (the malcontent who constantly challenges Silver), Dick Johnson (who has a Bible, and "had been well brought up ... before he came to sea and fell among bad companions.") Then there's the man with the head wound (which takes the place of a name) - and that's it. There's a sort of immediacy in the narrator's avoidance of names that his younger self has not yet learned, so that there is a transition by which Jim describes "one of the men" as "this fellow, a long, ill-looking, yellow-eyed man of five and thirty" and the next time simply as "the long man with the yellow eyes". In the next sentence Silver addresses him as "George", and immediately after he is George in the narrative, too - and eventually Silver gives him his full name.

Finally, the treasure seekers are ambushed at the site where the treasure was once buried: Merry and "the man with the bandage" are killed, and "the other three" run away. In doing so, they shed what individuality they once had,for from now on they are simply "The three" - mutineers, buccaneers, pirates, even fellows. That last "fellows" expresses a certain sympathy for the men who are about to be marooned, but the decision to leave them behind is shown to be justified, for at the last one of them " - I know not which it was - " fires at the departing ship. I could speculate that it probably wasn't the well brought up Dick Johnson, but was it Tom Morgan who had been a member of Flint's crew, or was it the other man, with one last reminder that we still don't know his name?

I could tell you the name of the parrot...
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: sartorias
2017-03-05 01:15 pm (UTC)
Is there some coded class stuff going on there?
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2017-03-05 03:22 pm (UTC)
If there is, it's too deeply coded for me to spot! What are you seeing?
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2017-03-05 03:58 pm (UTC)
I'm just wondering about that 'well brought up' name, as opposed to obviously lower class people who in period literature or newspapers were more likely to be identified by epithets or work-related nouns ('died in the bombing were Thomas Somebody, a chemist from Jersey, and two laborers also from Jersey'). In other words, pirates who had come down from a certain level were likelier to have names than ones who'd always been at the bottom of the heap.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2017-03-05 05:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, I see. Yes, that's certainly a thing, but I don't think it's what's going on here. For one thing, Stevenson is very good at maintaining the voice of his narrator as the young lad who is quite swrpt away by his adventure. For another, if anything, Dick is being patronised because while several of this group are hard core pirates, who served together under Captain Flint, Dick is one of the ordinary sailors who were persuaded to join the mutiny. He is quite superstitious about his Bible, and is upset when Silver says that cutting a page out of it (to make a Blck Spot) will bring him bad luck.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2017-03-05 05:56 pm (UTC)
Ahah! Yeah, that was a total long shot guess.
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