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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTER 26: Israel Hands
Jim learns the basics of sailing from Israel Hands. They settle down to have their meal when Hands tell Jim about jettisoning O'Brien's dead body. Jim tells him that he is not strong enough. Hands tries to justify O'Brien's death as a good thing but Jim refuses to accept his argument. Hands asks him to fetch him a bottle of wine from the cabin. Jim smells something fishy in his request but conceals his apprehension. Jim goes down below the deck to get the wine. His suspicion is proved right when Jim, peeping through the fore companion, finds Hands moving towards the bulwark. Jim realizes that Hands could move and that now he cannot be trusted. Except for one thing -- as they had a common interest to have the ship land safely.
Jim appears on the deck with a bottle of port wine. After taking a swig, Hands asks Jim to cut him some tobacco. Jim does so but tells Hands that cutting people's throat was a sin and he should atone for his sins like a true Christian. Hands rejects Jim's suggestion and tells him that he didn't fear dead men. Jim, on the other hand, appreciated Hand's ability to control the ship. He is also excited as he handles the helm.
All of a sudden when Jim turns his head, he sees Hands rushing towards him with a dagger. Hands makes his move and injures himself. Jim takes this opportunity to wriggle out of Hand's trap and notes that his pistols needs to be primed, so they cannot be fired yet. Both of them indulge in a dodging game when the Hispaniola staggers like never before, taking them by surprise. This gives Jim an upper hand. He quickly changes the priming of his pistol. Hands is dumbstruck when Jim points the pistol at him. Jim observes Hands moving his right hand over his shoulder, while telling Jim that they were fouled by the ship, when something as sharp as an arrow strikes Jim in a lightning speed and hits him on his shoulder. It is Hand's dagger. This startles Jim and he triggers-off his pistols. They drop from his hands. So does Hands who plunges into the sea, head first.
This chapter adds a new element to the character of the protagonist Jim, which doesn't have any relation to anything from the previous chapters. When he finds Hands talking about the dead man O'Brien whom he had killed, Jim talks about the other world where one has to atone for all the sins one has done on earth. Here we see Jim's Christian learning. His moral uprightness urges him to 'correct' Hands. Hands doesn't pay much attention to it and asks Jim to fetch him wine from the cellar. Jim finds this request unusual. Thinking he might be playing into a trap, he spies on Hands. This alertness saves Jim's life. For he sees Hands can move without any aid and that he had only fooled him. Jim now knows that Hands can't be trusted. Both of them want the ship safely anchored.
When Jim returns with a bottle of wine, Hands asks him to cut a quid of tobacco. Jim agrees but tells him that if he were a good Christian he would pray to god to grant him salvation from sins that he had committed. He says that he had also broken trust by killing O'Brien. This is an unusual characteristic of Jim. Stevenson, keeping in mind the target audience, for purposefully plans this scene.
Throughout the book the author evokes feelings through the protagonist. By developing Jim's character as a god-fearing lad, in this chapter, he directly reminds the reader about the tenets of Christianity. As the Hispaniola touches shore, Jim enjoys his maneuvers. Hands attacks Jim and in the scuffle that follows, Hands is killed - his death numbs Jim who has shot at him in self-defense. Hands' death also hints that the end of this adventure will be in Jim's favor. Here Jim is clearly the hero winning an important battle. This chapter not only sets the tone for the rest of the novel to proceed. It also adds a religious/moral dimension to the story.