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ROBINSON CRUSOE BOOK REVIEW
Robinson Crusoe is a classic narration written by Daniel Defoe. This book first published in 1719 displays a thrilling experience of a young man washed up into deserted island. Defoe characterizes the experience of Robinson Crusoe, a story that is thought to be inspired by experiences of Alexander Selkirk. This Scottish sailor sailed in the sea in 1704. There are speculations that when Defoe was writing the book, he had interviewed Selkirk. However, this has been left in the circles of debate. Defoe has built the story while adding a colourful embellishment, thus creating a novel that has become famous in English Literature. This paper, therefore, is a critical analysis of Robinson Crusoe (Clark 64-67). This novel narrates about a man who is left alone in a island for a period of 28 years. With the supplies that he salvaged from the wrecked ship, Robinson finally creates a fortress and a kingdom by taming wild animals, hunting, and growing crops.
The book is a collection of adventures of all sort involving pirates shipwrecks, mutiny and cannibals. The book is also biblical through different themes presented throughout the narration. This story is likened to that of a prodigal son who runs away from home only to find calamity. There are elements of the story of Job when Robinson succumbs to illness. Robinson cries to the Lord for deliverance from his distress. There are notorious instances where he questions the Lord about his distress. In his 20 years stay in the island, Robinson encounters cannibals: the first human in the island. Robinson escapes when a ship of mutineers sails to the island. Together with his colleagues, he assists the captain to take control of the ship. He goes home after being in the land for 28 years, 2 months and 19 days. The story concludes well with Robinson being a wealthy man.
Robinson Crusoe is an impulsive wanderer who defies his parents and sets in for a voyage in the sea. He gets involved in a series of upheavals in the sea, and the captain warns him that he should not be a seafaring man. Being ashamed to return to his parents, he boards another ship and returns to a successful trip setting his journey to Africa. He meets bad luck and is taken as a prisoner in Sallee. He is sent to fish and uses this as an advantage to escape. He starts a new adventure after being rescued by a Portuguese ship. He lands in Brazil where after some time he owns a sugar plantation. He hopes to amass more wealth by buying slaves; he joins other planters and plans for a trip in Africa to buy more slaves (Defoe 45). He faces the worst when he finds himself in the midst of a storm. He is thrown to the shore by the waves only to find that he is the only survivor.
Finding himself alone, he makes immediate plans for shelter, food and protection from wild animals. As aforementioned, he salvages anything within his vicinity to construct a shelter. Survival is of the essence in the island; thus he develops skills, which will provide him with the necessities. After being cut off from the rest of humanity, he begins communicating with God. This is the beginning of his religious conversion. To maintain his sanity, he keeps a record of each activity daily by writing a journal. As time expires, Robinson turns out to be a skilled artisan. He constructs many useful things to furnish himself with comfort. He begins cultivation by using some of the seeds he brought with him. An illness results in prophetic dreams, which makes Crusoe, reappraise his duties to God. He explores the island and discovers some part, which is fertile. At this place, he constructs a summer home in the part of the island (Defoe 110-120).
He is hopeful that one day he will make an escape from the island. He is prompted to construct a canoe, which will make his escape an easy escapade. The canoe is too heavy to float on the water. He constructs a boat, which he uses to journey around the island. He takes time in self-reflection about his disobedience to his parents and relates to his isolation in the island. After spending some time in the island, approximately 15 years, he comes across a naked footprint. He is beset by apprehension, which gives him sleepless nights. This makes him consider different options and thus takes caution in case of any attack. Sometimes later, Crusoe finds himself terrified when encounters a pile of human bones along the shore.
This makes him become plagued with fears and explores the nature of cannibalism. Crusoe takes caution for several years, but he does encounter anything to cause alarm. He later spies cannibals keeping warm around a campfire. Later on, Crusoe saw another ship in distress. Everybody is drowned, which makes Crusoe companionless. He salvages for the provision from the ship. Cannibals land on the island and their victim escapes. Crusoe manages to save his life. This victim is known as Friday (Defoe 87-90). Together they make plans to leave the island. They construct another boat to serve their mission. Crusoe undertakes some of religious education given to him by Friday. Their voyage is postponed due to the return of other savages. This necessitates them to plan for an attack on the cannibals in a bid to save two prisoners. One of the prisoner is a white man and the others are Friday’s father. For the first time in his entire stay, he gets companions. The four of them plans for a voyage to the mainland with sixteen companions allied to the Spaniard. They build their food supply to ensure that there is enough for all.
A week later Crusoe and his new friends spies a ship and later learns there is mutiny on board. Using devious means, Crusoe and Friday successful rescues the Captain. After much scheming, they regain control of the ship. The captain of the ship is grateful and thus gives Crusoe many gifts. Together with Friday, they sail to England. After return to England, he finds that he is very wealthy. He goes to Lisbon to handle personal affairs. A common denominator in the narration is adventures. The journey back to England is full of challenges and hardship but turns out to be successful. He never forgets his transition and thus, visits the old island on different accounts. After the return to England, he is lucky to find his family, but two of his sisters are deceased. After the return, he learns from the Portuguese captain that the plantations in the Brazil are highly profitable. He arranges the sale of the Brazilian land. On the return to England, Crusoe receives good news that the sale of his plantations is successful and thus reaping a good fortune. He donates a portion to the widow and his sisters.
The main theme is loneliness and human experience. This tale is about a lonely human being who manages long time loneliness in the island. He learns to overcome the shortcomings and accept the struggles he faces in life. It is a story, which shows how men cope with different realities of life when faced with hardship. It is also a tale of a young man creating his reality, rescuing a savage and orchestrating his own world in a deserted island. This tale has influenced other stories such as the film Castaway, Peter Wilkins and Philip Quarll. Robinson Crusoe has become an archetypal figure in English Literature. This tale is age appropriate and is filled with adult situations (Defoe 46). Cannibals and pirates visit at times Crusoe and his friends. This novel is written in the mind-set of Defoe and has many outdated concepts that may appear old and odd.
The main characters in the narration are Robinson Crusoe, Friday and Portuguese Captain.
Crusoe is not displayed as a grand adventure or epic hero, but his character traits make him find reverence among a generation of readers. The perseverance and the skills he acquires in making a canoe make him acquire true praise. This has made him acquire recognition by Jean-Jacques Rousseau by applauding Crusoe’s do-it yourself independence in his book Emile. He has business as well as survival instincts. Crusoe is having no interests of portraying himself as a hero in his reputation. He is depicted as an ordinary man never an exceptional hero. The admirable qualities need to be placed in balance with the flaws. He is incapable of deep feelings by abandoning his family. He worries much about the religious repercussion of his disobedience, but never displays remorse about leaving (Fishelov 119). Though generous by giving gifts to the captain and the sisters, there are little tender affections in his dealings with them.
As an individual personality, Crusoe is dull. With no boast in heroism, Crusoe is interested in power, possessions and prestige. He calls himself the king of the island and describes the Spaniard as the subjects. The readers, therefore, need to take royal delusions seriously. He teaches Friday to call him ‘master’. This seems obnoxious even in the racism experienced during his times (Defoe and Shinagel 89-101). Crusoe loves to hear the ego-boosting words spoken to him. Crusoe virtues of independence, industrious and resourcefulness make him exemplary. His vices, which are social, and subjugating others make him treacherous. Defoe gives a fascinating glimpse of his successes, contradictions and failures, which constitute the modern man.
He is a colourful and vibrant character than the master. Defoe underscores contrast between Crusoe’s and Friday personal values. His reunion with the father displays emotion towards the family than Crusoe who depicted cold and solitary. The emotional display is shown by his joy and singing after encountering his father. He has an expression of loyalty by even asking Crusoe to take his life rather than leaving him. Crusoe bring Friday Christianity, but Friday brings warmth and vitality of emotions.
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He appears in the novel at two important junctures (Fishelov 119). At the first instance, he rescues Crusoe and takes with him to Brazil, where he gets the chance of owning a sugar plantation. After twenty years, the Portuguese captain informs Crusoe that his plantations are secure. He arranges the sale of the plantation and forwards the proceeds to Crusoe. This displays the Captain as an agent of Crusoe’s fortune. In the book, he presents the benefits of social links. The Portuguese captain helped Crusoe cash in his possession in Brazil. The captain is associated with an array of individual virtues. He is depicted as an honest friend by informing him about the possessions. He is loyal, which is showcased by honouring the duties towards him after twenty-eight years. He shows extreme generosity paying Crusoe more than the market value for animal skins (Fishelov 119). This makes him a paragon of excellence. This leaves that the reader with questions on why such values are included in the novel. The goodness of the captain makes him a moral counterpart to Friday.
This novel is exemplary narration of men living and their coping mechanism in different situations. At times, people finds themselves veering off from the path and reconstitute their lives. Though based in the past, experiences of Crusoe make us appreciate the importance of being independent. The story is a must-read for a person who would like to experience the adventures in the narration. It makes one realize the need to personal perseverance and working hard. The narration uses simple language to convey information to the readers.
Clark, Katherine. Daniel Defoe: The Whole Frame of Nature, Time and Providence. Basingstoke [England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Print.
Defoe, Daniel, and Michael Shinagel. Robinson Crusoe: An Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. New York: Norton, 1994. Print.
Defoe, Daniel. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe: Complete and Unabridged. London: Wordsworth Editions, 2000. Print.
Fishelov, David. Dialogues With/and Great Books: The Dynamics of Canon Formation. Brighton [U.K.: Sussex Academic Press, 2012. Print.