Robinson and his Friday: How Does Robinson Crusoe Treat Friday
Robinson Crusoe is a young Englishman from York. His father wants him to study for counsel and live a quiet life, but the young man wishes to pursue an existence of adventures. After a couple of failed attempts to enlist in the crew of a ship, he finally manages to embark to Guinea on one’s crew. On one of the trips they suffer the attack of a Turkish Corsair who takes Robinson as a slave; But after a while, Crusoe manages to escape, and embark on a Portuguese ship to Brazil. He resides in Brazil as a landowner for a while, and manages to Irle well.
On a trip to Africa to buy more slaves, his ship wrecks, and Crusoe manages to reach an island near the mouth of the Orinoco River. He realizes that he was the only survivor, and that the shipwreck was among the rocks near the coast. He began to swim to the wreck of the ship to rescue what would be useful: weapons, appliances, food and even some animals. He did this until the ship was finished sinking. With the recovered and with the materials of the environment, Robinson Crusoe was made of a residence as to his taste and customs as one could. He cultivated cereals and ate the meat he was hunting. On a certain occasion he became ill, and the trance of fevers made him rediscover his religious faith. The years went by, and sometimes he resented solitude, so that he sometimes explored the island, as much as he could. In one of the explorations, he discovers human footprints.Following them it is found that they belong to a group of natives who captured prisoners to cook them and to eat them. In fact, they had a prisoner for a young man who managed to escape before he was killed.
Crusoe helps the young man, killing his persecutors. From there he takes it to his service, calling it Friday.Crusoe and Friday begin to build a light boat to escape the island, but they see that the cannibals had two more prisoners who were going to eat. They rescue them, and they see that one was the father of Friday, and the other a Spanish sailor. This one tells them that there are more prisoners on Cannibal Island. They decide to rescue them. The rescued prisoners turned out to be sailors from a ship where there was a mutiny. Robinson and his new allies manage to recover the ship, leaving the mutineers on the deserted island not to be hanged in England. Crusoe manages to return to his country with Friday, and recover his properties in Brazil, after having been missing for more than 28 years. Conclusion What i think about this book is that: Its a very interesting book but in some pages it repeats the same thing.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday – and Very Funny Boy
Written during the age of discovery, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is often regarded as an embodiment of British imperialistic values and is widely acclaimed by its narrative and realism in its depiction of the narrator’s psychological and spiritual development. In this essay, the major themes in this novel, that somewhat serve as divisions in the story, will be exposed and examined more closely to give an insight on Robinson Crusoe’s ‘hidden’ messages. Survival, self-awareness, spiritual growth, self-sufficiency and colonialism; these topics are present in the novel and none of them are devoid of real meaning and each one passes through a lesson that can be applied to our real world if we look more deeply into the book.
One of the first themes we will find in the novel is the one of survival. Robinson Crusoe has found himself in a deserted island and now has to fend for himself, since he is the only man left alive in this unknown place. His main concern is survival. Being shipwrecked, Crusoe must think about what is absolutely essential for physical survival: tools, shelter, food and water.
At first, he has no clue on how to create and use tools, but he has to rely on his wits and courage, otherwise he will just be one more casualty born from this ill-fated voyage. His determination to live makes him learn how to make things on his own. With his own hands and what little he had with him upon arrival, he starts building a makeshift shelter for himself for protection against wild animals (which were non-existing on the island) and starts salvaging what he can from the shipwreck. With his newly-acquired skills, he slowly improves his crude shelter and starts making his own tools. With basic survival guaranteed, he lets his imagination fly, and that takes us to our next theme, self-sufficiency.
Having secured his basic needs and safety needs, Crusoe starts spending more of his time on improvements to his cave and fortifications. He expands the cave, making more room for moving around and storing his provisions and materials. He builds furniture with the tools he had saved from the ship, and builds shelves on the wall of the cave. He starts making more use of the island’s flora and fauna so as to make his life easier and more comfortable. He grows barley and fields of corn, plants grapes, breeds pigeons, tends goats and milks them, and makes his own clothing.
Recapping, Crusoe lands in a desert island in dire conditions and through a lot of hard work makes it his home. Although he has few supplies available to him, he succeeds in using what little he has to build a comfortable and safe home on the island. Crusoe moves from pure survival in the wild to leading a comfortable and even happy life on an unwelcoming environment, which raises him to a kind of relative prosperity. He even goes as for as to build a ‘country house’ which he calls his ‘castle’ as a means to escape from his ‘cave-dwelling’ routine. This only demonstrates that Robinson Crusoe has ‘conquered’ the island; he explores it, builds in it and hunts in it. He has achieved control over his own fate, something that he had been longing for before he had decided to set out into his maritime (mis-)adventures.
Moving on from self-sufficiency, we get to the theme of self-awareness. Being on the island for a long time does not make Robinson Crusoe go back to a basic life controlled by purely animal instincts. Instead, he manages to keep himself sane and, conscious of himself and his situation at all times. In fact, the time spent on the island removes him from the ‘civilized’ social world and makes him pay more attention to himself, therefore deepening his self-awareness. In the island, Crusoe learns things about himself that he probably would not have ever known had he not left home. There, he goes through a process of personal growth and maturation.
The novel’s focus on self-awareness is due to the Presbyterian doctrine that Daniel Defoe took seriously throughout all of his life, which has as one of its key points the careful reckoning of the state of one’s soul. We can notice Crusoe’s concern for his own state of mind in his mundane daily activities. He eagerly keeps himself in check in several ways. For example, Crusoe keeps a journal to write down every move he makes ever since he set foot on the island. It does not matter how insignificant his activities are, he records everything from simply gathering driftwood by the beach to staying inside his shelter waiting for the rain to stop. Another example is Crusoe’s makeshift calendar. One would think that the calendar’s purpose is to simply mark the passage of time and nothing else, but in reality, it serves to count the days he has spent as a castaway. In other words, it focuses on himself, it is a sort of self-conscious calendar. One last example is what Crusoe teaches his parrot: “Poor Robin Crusoe…Where have you been?” This sentence alone confirms his need for staying aware of himself.
Robinson Crusoe: Two Sides Of The Same Coin
Robinson, the common hero, extremely practical, self-made, and self-reliant has become a world-famous character since Daniel Defoe published the novel Robinson Crusoe in 1719. One of the most interesting points of the novel concerns the conflict existing between Robinson’s economic motivation and his religious salvation. Crusoe is indeed the embodiment of various, although quite controversial, ideologies. As the literary critic John Richetti points out, there are two main interpretations of the novel taken into consideration over the years. From one perspective, “Robinson represents the capitalist ideology, driven to acquire, control and dominate but, on another hand, Robinson also embodies a religious ideology by seeking a spiritual definition and divine pattern in his life”. Crusoe constantly displays an eager willingness to achieve liberty and exercise power which opposes the religious morality that defines individuals as less than autonomous, subordinate to God’s authority.
A hybrid character, Robinson “is neither exclusively a masterful economic individual nor a heroically spiritual slave.” The island becomes, at the same time, a Purgatory where he purges his soul and a place where he becomes master of himself, achieving and glorifying his power and independence. Once Crusoe is shipwrecked on the desert island, he undergoes a slow conversion, realizing how weak his previous life was and how the spiritual deliverance is greater than the physical one, “Deliverance from Sin a much greater Blessing, than Deliverance from Affliction”. He comes to a point where he “sincerely gave Thanks to God for opening his Eyes, by whatever afflicting Providences, to see the former Condition of his Life, and to mourn for his Wickedness, and repent.” The island thus becomes an experience of redemption, the occasion to strengthen his faith and devote himself to God’s willingness and authority. However, alongside the conversion, Crusoe masterfully imposes control over the island, which he calls his “little kingdom”. Robinson proudly says: “I pleas’d, I might call my self King, or Emperor over the whole Country which I had Possession of. There were no Rivals. I had no Competitor, none to dispute Sovereignty or Command with me.” By identifying himself as a King, or more magnificently, as an Emperor, Crusoe displays an individualistic and commanding attitude, which is contradictory with his religious ideology. In fact, Robinson “the king” has a conflict with Robinson “the Christian” because, by saying that no one commands him, he negates the uncontested and absolute authority that God exercises upon men. Critic Leopold Damrosch comments on the novel that the solitude of the island “exalts autonomy instead of submission” resulting in an “immortal triumph of wish fulfillment.”
As soon as Robinson meets Friday, he decides to convert him to Christianity, feeling the necessity to “bring him to the true Knowledge of Religion”. From this perspective, Crusoe may be seen as a missionary or, as he defines himself, as “an Instrument under Providence to save the Life, [..], the Soul of a poor Savage”. Robinson, after his experience with Friday, believes that God has:bestow’d upon them the same Powers, the same Reason, the same Affections, the same Sentiments of Kindness and Obligation, the same Passions and Resentments of Wrongs, the same Sense of Gratitude, Sincerity, Fidelity, and all the Capacities of doing Good, and receiving Good, that he has given to us. However, despite this religious observation, he considers Friday the “most faithful, loving, sincere Servant” he could ever have had. Robinson affirms that God has made all humans equal, however, he establishes a hierarchical relationship with Friday: Crusoe is the master, Friday his servant. As George Orwell would argue many years later, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
The fact that Robinson has converted Friday to Christianity and, at the same time, the imposition of mastery upon him, suggests that the conversion is a way to merely command the native, who indeed becomes diligent and submissive to his master Crusoe. This hypothesis is even reinforced by the fact that Robinson himself says that he “was greatly delighted with him, and made it his Business to teach him every Thing, that was proper to make him useful, handy, and helpful”. Additionally, Crusoe literally objectifies Friday when he considers him as a mere means, “I might find an Opportunity to make my Escape from this Place; and that this poor Savage might be a Means to help me to do it”.
The dichotomy between the religious salvation and the economic motivation come to a “crescendo” towards the end of the novel when Robinson is finally rescued and rewarded once in England.Such things as these were the Testimonies we had of a secret Hand of Providence governing the World, and an Evidence, that the Eyes of an infinite Power could search into the remotest Corner of the World, and send Help to the Miserable whenever he pleased. I forgot not to lift up my Heart in Thankfulness to Heaven, and what Heart could forbear to bless him, who had not only in a miraculous Manner provided for one in such a Wilderness,* and in such a desolate Condition, but from whom every Deliverance must always be acknowledged to proceed.
When Robinson is delivered, he thanks God as never before, realizing that he is finally saved. The rescue is the definitive proof that God’s Providence controls the world and that he has been rewarded for having been a devoted, diligent, and faithful Christian. Back in England, he learns that his plantation has made him rich and as soon as he receives this notice, he becomes so ill for the joy that: The sudden Surprize of Joy had overset Nature, and I had dy’d upon the Spot. Nay after that, I continu’d very ill, and was so some Hours, ’till a Physician being sent for, and something of the real Cause of my Illness being known, he order’d me to be let Blood.
Crusoe feels he could die from the excitement, manifesting an exaggerated attachment to money. From this moment on, money seems to be the strongest source of joy and his strongest drive. During his stay on the island, Crusoe regretted the relationship he had with money in his previous life, so much so that when he found it on board he became quite nervous, “O Drug! said I aloud, what art thou good for?”. However, back in England, he has the same restlessness and willingness to accumulate more money. In fact, in order to assure his finances, he starts to stipulate contracts and administrate his wealth as a successful businessman. The crucial point occurs when he decides to go to sea once again, abandoning his home and the place where God has placed him. It is here that the conflict struggles to find a plausible resolution. On the island, he regretted that he was “not being satisfy’d with the Station wherein God and Nature has plac’d” him, recognizing the choice to venture as his “original sin”. Nevertheless, after his conversion and salvation, he decides to venture again. By the time he goes to sea, he has “three Children, two Sons and one Daughter” but his “Inclination to go Abroad” prevails and he sails again. As a son, he left his home disobeying his father’s “law”, and now, as a father he leaves his home, refusing his paternal duties and responsibilities. From my perspective, the prevalence of his individualistic attitude, which pushes him towards a self-realization, proclaims the victory of self-achievement instead of Christian acceptance and religious devotion.
However, we must consider the historical context of the novel, especially the strong influence of the Puritan work ethic during Defoe’s lifetime. By the end of the 17th century, “A specifically bourgeois economic ethic had grown up. With the consciousness of standing in the fullness of God’s grace and being visibly blessed by Him, the bourgeois businessman, as long as he remained within the bounds of formal correctness, as long as his moral conduct was spotless and the use to which he put his wealth was not objectionable, could follow his pecuniary interests as he would and feel that he was fulfilling a duty in doing so”. The individual is therefore urged to work since work is intended to be a “call” from God: “God helps those who help themselves.” From this perspective, Robinson’s productiveness, self-reliance, and independence are justified since they have guaranteed not only his survival but his salvation too. Weber’s thesis suggests that economic motivation and the religious salvation “are inseparable, if ultimately contradictory, parts of a complex intellectual and behavior system”. Nevertheless, where individualism ends and religious submission to God’s authority begins, remains open to debate.
Divine Providence from Robinson Crusoe’s Perspective
In Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, appropriately titled after its main character, young Robinson is a middle-class man in search of a career. Though pressed by his family to study Law, Robinson yearns for oceanic adventure, longing to escape to a life at sea. Against the will of his father, his subsequent rebellion and decision to board a merchant vessel further damages his already fragile and undeveloped view of God, which withers completely as he joins company with godless sailors. Crusoe’s assessment of Providence’s sunshine is foggy at best, and he seems to label God’s justice as merciless, rather than merciful and forgiving. This fledgling faith is nurtured as life experience unfolds, especially during his island experience. Robinson Crusoe journeys in his attitude toward Divine Providence from a rebellion against what he perceives as a disinterested authority early on, to an initial repentance and conversion through the vision-dream, and finally, to an active and mature faith in a loving God, Who protects and guides all things, by the end of his stay on the island.
As Crusoe’s adventures began to unfurl, his outlook on God remained sheepish, and he retained a certain reluctance to accept the all-wise plan which God held for each and every one of his flock. Crusoe’s infant devotion is revealed as, on his maiden voyage, the ship nearly founders, and he prays to God for the first time from a place of distress. As his first passage involves a near-death experience, he concludes that it must be his heavenly Father’s will that he obey his earthly father’s will. Nevertheless, the ocean beckons, and his view of God as a chastising power fails to develop for several years. Crusoe’s hazardous life is filled with risk, and reward and retribution travel hand-in-hand. Just as things seem to be going perfectly, Robinson finds himself the sole survivor of a shipwreck, and, beaten by the waves, he is washed ashore an exotic island. Despite his initial thankfulness for his salvation, loneliness overwhelms him and he is filled with ingratitude at his misfortune. During this time Crusoe views himself as the author of his own miseries, believing his misadventures to be the merchandise of his past misbehaviors, and would oftentimes sit and weep as he pondered “why Providence should thus completely ruin its creatures and render them so absolutely miserable.” Just as Crusoe was shipwrecked physically, it seems he was also shipwrecked spiritually, searching for a trustworthy island whilst struggling for survival in waves of doubt.
Various events lead the shipwrecked swashbuckler to take on a new attitude towards Providence, and he begins to appreciate his deliverance onto the island. In a dream he realizes his need for repentance, and he wakes in tears as he realizes his ingratitude. Robinson recognizes the “stupidity of soul” (p.81) with which he has been living, and his prayers turn from ungracious to thankful. His thoughts of self-pity are now followed by thoughts of self-rebuke, and the Bible begins to affect him profoundly. Shameful of his past ways, Crusoe launches into vigorous reading of the New Testament. Joined by a new companion, Friday, Crusoe is finally again in the company of his own kind, and he redevelops his understanding of humans as he observes Friday’s humble servitude.
The arrival of mutineers and their ousted captain to the island further challenge Crusoe and, as he works with the captain to reclaim the ship, his eyes are fully opened to the completeness of God’s plan for him. Believing himself to be playing a significant part in work of Providence, Robinson takes on a poise and governance which reflect the maturity of the faith he has come to understand. His willingness to come to the aid of others is quick and gracious as he comprehends the willingness of God to come to his own aid and for the first time he truly places the Will of Providence at the center of his life.
Crusoe’s approach to God matures throughout his life as he mutinies against the desires of his loved ones, is brought to repentance by what he views as a Divine intervention, and mellows into a lively and developed faith in a loving God who defends and attends to all things. The marooned mariner who arrived to the island is now a jubilant instrument in the work of Providence, and appreciatively indebted to the Savior he has come to know. The faith which began with fear now rests in exultation, and continues to remain as the centerpiece in the thoughts and decisions of the liberated castaway. Robinson Crusoe follows a seemingly perpetual design of sinning, disregarding God’s forewarnings, hardening his heart to God, repenting as a result of God’s favor and forgiveness, and undergoing a soul-wrenching conversion.
Robinson Crusoe History
Robinson Crusoe was born in 1632 in York as third son. Robinson Crusoe is an English man from thane town of York who is the youngest son of a merchant of German origin. His parents wish him to study law and would like to see him as a great lawyer but Crusoe has some other plan. He shows his wish to go to sea, but his family, especially his father is against his wish. His father tries to convince him to give up his dream to go to sea but Crusoe is determined.
His childhood went by, and he was always looking at ships. He always wanted to go far away, so he accepted to be a salesman and a sailor. He went on his first sail. It was so terrifying that he changed his mind and decided to ask his father for forgiveness. When the storm settled, and the journey became pleasant, he forgot about that decision.
He was thirsty for money and fine, so he went to Guinea to make a sale. It went successfully so he moved towards Africa, but the Moorish pirates attacked the ship and he is made a slave in the North African town of Sallee. One day while fishing, he and another slave named Xury. Xury escape and sail down to the African coast. One Portuguese captain helps them; he buys Xury from Crusoe and takes him to Brazil. He visits Brazil. And he suggested Robinson visit his friend who had a sugar plantation. Robinson bought some land and started a sugar cane plantation. After four years he went back to the sea. After 12 days of peaceful sailing, the ship encountered a storm. From all of the sailors, only Robinson saved himself.
He ended up on deserted island and didn’t know where he was, but for him the only important thing was that he is still alive. He started looking for a shelter and found a cave where he made a calendar so that he would know what year and day it is.
He began making his own clothes and everything else that went to waste with time. He tried to make a boat several times and save himself, but he never succeeded. After a few attempts to run away, he got caught in a storm and barely made it out alive. Unfortunately the ship the nearby didn’t have that luck, and every one died. The only survivor was a dog who Crusoe named Jack. Crusoe learned a lot of new things for example how to hunt. He made some chairs and a table started a diary learned how to make different how to make different tools. It all kept him from going insane.
In the next four years he managed to plant some rice and wheat. After he had taken care of food and shelter he went on exploring the island. His peaceful stay in the island. He found out that there are turtles on the island. He never gave up his wish to escape the island. So he built another boat. It was too heavy, so he built a canoe to help him sail around the island. When the wind almost carried him to the open sea, he gave up on his escape from the island.
After spending about fifteen years on the island, Crusoe found a man’s naked footprint. He was taking a walk when he heard some noise and saw a man who was defending himself from the cannibals. Crusoe saved him and because it was Friday he named him Friday. Crusoe and Friday made plans to leave the island and, accordingly, they built another boat. Crusoe also undertook Friday’s religious education, converting the savage into a Protestant. Crusoe has a friend to talk and share. After some time the cannibals again come with some captives whom again Crusoe reuses. One is a Spaniard and the other turns out to be Friday’s father. With the information given by the Spaniard they all set out to save other sixteen Spaniard who have been marooned. After eight days, they see the sight of the English ship approaching the island. Crusoe is suspicious. Friday and Crusoe watch that eleven men held three captives onshore in a boat. Nine of them start to explore the island and two of them stay there to guard the captives. Friday and Crusoe overpower the guards and release the captives, one of them is a captain of a ship which has been taken in a mutiny. Crusoe and Friday shout from different places so as to confuse them and make them tire running from here to there. Eventually they confront the mutineers’ telling them that all may escape with their lives except the ringleader. The men surrender. Crusoe and the captain pretend that the island is imperial territory and the governor has saved their lives in order to send them all to England to face justice. Keeping five men as hostage, Crusoe sends the other men out to seize the ship.
On December 19, 1686 Crusoe boards the ship to return to his homeland England. There he finds his all family members have died except two sisters. The widow has kept his money safe. Knowing that his plantation in Brazil has been in great profit he sells them and earns a very good fortune. He donates some portion to good widow and his two sisters. Being so restless he considers returning to Brazil, but the thought of being a Catholic prevents him to go. He marries and his wife dies. Crusoe finally goes to East Indies as trader and revisits the island the island where he finds the Spaniards are governing the island properly and it has become prosperous colony.
Religious Conviction in Robinson Crusoe
Critics disagree about Robinson Crusoe’s religious convictions, but they generally concur that Crusoe’s faith begins when he acknowledges that his sins are a major cause of his island captivity. Beyond that, opinions diverge. Karl Marx writes that Crusoe’s beliefs are a source of “pleasure” and “recreation” and reflect no genuine piety. This essay argues that Crusoe’s religious conviction is sincere, as evidenced by his Biblical references, change in attitude, and mission to convert Friday. Before his acceptance of Christianity, Crusoe feels wretched and ashamed: “I left them to mourn over my Folly, and now I am left to mourn under the consequences of it; I refus’d their help and Assistance who would have lifted me into the World, and wou’d have made every Thing easy for me” (p.67). His most fervent hope is for deliverance from the island; not coincidentally, one of the first Bible passages he reads is Psalms 50:15: “‘Call on me in the Day of Trouble, and I will deliver, and thou shalt glorify me’” (p.69). Crusoe then becomes very sick and believes his failure to glorify God is the cause of the sickness: “Now I look’d back upon my past life with such horrour, and my sins appear’d so dreadful, that my Soul sought nothing of God, but Deliverance from the Load of Guilt that bore down all my comfort” (p.71). The illness catalyzes Crusoe’s religious conversion. He realizes that through faith in God his solitude will become more tolerable. Indeed, he comes to see the island not as a prison but as a kingdom God wishes him to rule: “There was my Majesty the Prince and Lord of the whole island; I had the lives of all my subjects at my absolute command” (p.108). Crusoe willingly accepts the role and commits himself to serving God: “[God] was able to deliver me; that if he did not think fit to do it, ‘twas my unquestion’d duty to resign myself absolutely and entirely to his Will: and on the other hand, it was my Duty also to hope in him, pray to him, and quietly to attend the Dictates and Directions of his daily Providence” (p. 114).Crusoe comes to rely on God for comfort. For example, he becomes afraid when he sees the footprint and realizes he is not alone. He opens his Bible to Psalms 27:14: “Wait on the Lord, and be of good Cheer, and he shall strengthen thy Heart; wait, I say, on the Lord” (Defoe 114). As a result of his trust in his religion, Crusoe is able to find a brighter outlook on his situation and to retain his sanity. We see how significant Crusoe’s conversion has been when we observe his determination to convert Friday, portrayed as a savage, to Christianity as well. Crusoe “…seriously prayed to God that he would enable me to instruct savingly this poor Savage, assisting by his Spirit the Heart of the poor ignorant Creature, to receive the Light of the Knowledge of God in Christ, reconciling him to himself, and would guide me to speak so to him from the Word of God, as his Conscience might be convinc’d, his Eyes open’d, and his Soul sav’d” (p.158-159). His desire to convert Friday shows that Crusoe has become a faithful Christian who believes it noble to help others find God as well.Crusoe’s faith does not dissolve as soon as he is rescued. As he leaves the island, Crusoe states: “I forgot not to lift up my heart in Thankfulness to Heaven; and what Heart could forbear to bless him, who had not only in a miraculous manner provided for one in such a Wilderness, and in such a desolate condition, but from whom ever Deliverance must always be acknowledged to proceed” (p.197). Someone with only superficial religious conviction, or one developed only to cope with a challenging situation (i.e. island captivity), would not have bothered with grateful prayers afterward. At the novel’s conclusion, Crusoe uses a Biblical allusion to suggest that he believes the hardships he endured would allow him to lead a better life than before (p.205). He has become a more humble person who recognizes the value of helping others (i.e. Friday and the sea captain) and placing one’s faith in a higher power. His experience of religion is sincere, not a “mockery” nor for “pleasure” as Marx would have it. Defoe’s novel is a testament to the redeeming power of religious conviction.Works Cited:Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. Ed. Michael Shinagel. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994.
The Role of Race
‘[Robinson Crusoe is] the true prototype of the British colonist, as Friday (the trusty savage who arrives on an unlucky day) is the symbol of the subject races.’ Explore.Unquestionably Robinson Crusoe is a novel of unbridled popularity; it has generated over seven hundred editions, and been abridged, translated, adapted, and imitated variously. To many critics it is the embodiment of the origins of the British Empire; the white man explores, assumes control, and exploits the new world he has discovered. To James Joyce it seemed obvious that Friday’s enslavement was symptomatic of early eighteenth century attitudes towards other races and cultures, and it is this which is to be explored here.Race is foremost in Crusoe and Friday’s understanding of each other. For Crusoe the black man and the white man cannot meet on equal ground. The mere physical differences between them are emphasised when Crusoe first describes his new ‘companion’:He was a comely handsome fellow … but seemed to have something very manly in his face, and yet he had all the Sweetness and Softness of an European in his Countenance too, especially when he smil’d. … The Colour of his Skin was not quite black, … but of a bright kind of a dun olive Colour … and his fine Teeth well set, and white as Ivory. (page 205-6 )Compared to Crusoe’s description of himself – the goat-skinned, shaggy, wild-man, Friday is sympathetically and attractively described, but most emphatically and definably different. Crusoe remarks on the colour of his skin and the setting of his teeth as though observing a new horse or dog he has purchased; Friday is now a slave, and catalogued in the way that Crusoe notes down everything else he wins for his little island kingdom, be it gunpowder or cats. The importance placed on race can perhaps be better seen when the Spaniard is asked by Crusoe to ‘oversee and direct’ Friday and his Father in the felling of trees (page 247). Despite Crusoe’s repeated hatred of the Spanish and their almost unmentionably terrifying Inquisition, which he is at such pains to ensure the other Spanish sailors will not deliver him to, he places this almost unknown man in a position of authority over the black man who has served him so well for many years. Friday’s well-earned merit, skill, understanding of the island, and obvious loyalty are all less important to Crusoe than the consideration of Race. To Crusoe, the Spaniard is a white man and thus, no matter how cruel and abhorrent his countrymen, he is still more inherently trusted and perhaps perceived as more competent than his loyal, intelligent, and native servant. It is based upon his race also that Crusoe’s initial fear of Friday is founded: he initially makes him sleep between the inner and outer ‘castle’ walls and later he admits that he ‘wrong’d the poor honest Creature very much’ in suspecting that he would gladly return and revert to his native land and customs. It is important to note the usage of the word ‘Creature’, subverting Friday’s essential humanity to something less important, and less unique. It is also because the Spaniard is white that Crusoe abandons his policy of non-interference with the savages – it is acceptable for them to butcher their own race, but not his, and it is unacceptable for them to endanger the symbol of western civilisation.Civilisation seems to create the greatest gulf between Friday and Crusoe: as characters they come from different worlds. Friday is a very able character: Defoe often remarks on the swiftness of his running and his ability to skipper Crusoe’s canoes. In fact, where anything requiring physical dexterity is involved, Friday is the more skilled of the two men. However, it is Crusoe’s education – his understanding of tools and techniques – that allows him to assume control over situations and, ultimately, over Friday. Many times Crusoe reflects on how different his life might have been had he not been so fortunate as to be able to take supplies from two shipwrecks. Alexander Selkirk, the original marooned Scotsman on whom it has been suggested that Defoe based his tale, enjoyed a rather different life to that of Crusoe. “Being left with only a pound of gunpowder, Selkirk quickly had to revert to hunting wild goats by speed of feet; for his way of living and continual exercise of walking and running cleared him of all gross humours; so that he ran with wonderful swiftness.”This real marooned man reverted back to primitive methods of living and catching his food: his method of keeping the rat population in check was to encourage more cats to breed, and his method of catching goats is to chase them. This is a state of enforced re-naturalisation which Crusoe does not endure; instead he battles against nature, endeavouring to bake bread, make clay pots, and build furniture despite the difficulties. He endeavours to maintain his identity.Crusoe’s identity is explored with an interest and a concern on the part of Defoe which balances up the vague carelessness with which Friday is depicted. The importance of Crusoe’s identity is seen not only in his attempts to create for himself a more luxurious standard of living, but in his attention to symbols of his ‘Englishness’. He creates for himself an umbrella, a pipe, and trims his beard, worrying about how polite society would now view his appearance. Perhaps the intensity of his religious devotion in parts of the book is an example of his maintaining the Christianity so important to his cultural identity. His anti-Spanish sentiments seem designed to mark England out as the peak of civilisation – the Glorious Revolution having seen an end to the blood shed of earlier centuries and other countries. Only England is civilisation’s castle – even the Pyrenees are teeming with man-eating wolves. Crusoe, as the exponent of this Englishness abroad, endeavours to maintain his standards of morality, religion, and decency.Capitalism, as David Cody has explained, ‘can be defined as the condition of possessing capital’, and also ‘an ideology which favours the existence of capitalists’. He goes on to explain that Crusoe’s preoccupations on the island arelabour, raw materials, the processes of production, colonialism (and implicit Imperialism), shrewdness, self-discipline, and profitwhich are those of the ‘proto-capitalist’. It is not true to say that Crusoe is driven by money; when he finds some onboard his ship he begins an almost theatrical diatribe on the uselessness of money:O Drug! Said I aloud, what art thou good for, Thou art not worth to me… I have no Manner of use for thee, e’en remain where thou art, and go to the Bottom as a Creature whose Life is not worth saving. However, upon Second Thoughts, I took it away (Page 57)It is interesting that he refers to the money as a ‘Creature’, in the same way as he later refers to Friday: is it possible he values them equally? Perhaps he endows the money with the same sub-human animation that he offers to his Servant. At the very least, it is true to say that the word ‘Creature’ crops up often in his language, symptomatic of the deeply held belief of his own, and of English superiority. Richetti makes mention of the spirit of ‘realistic inconsistency’ which this quotation exposes. Although Crusoe learns thatall the good things of the world are no farther good to us than they are for our use; and that whatever we may heap up indeed to give others, we enjoy just as much as we can use and no more. (page 129)still his ‘Second Thoughts’ lead him to carry away the money. He has clearly not learned this lesson properly. Nor has he when the later shipwreck occurs and he exhibits exactly the same hypocritical behaviour:as to the Money, I had no manner of occasion for it: ‘Twas to me as the Dirt under my Feet; and I would have given it all for three or four pair of English Shoes and Stockings… However, I lugg’d this Money home (page 193)Here again we see a repetition of the value of English wares; a patriotic pride in ‘English Shoes’ and produce permeates the text. More importantly, however, Crusoe is at pains to carry his money home whilst at the same time denouncing it as useless. Perhaps this is the sign of a capitalist; someone who is drawn to wealth in spite of it’s apparent and admitted uselessness. However, seeming to refute this, Crusoe does grow only what he needs to live: he sees no virtue in growing excess which must remain unutilised and useless. Yet even this is countermanded when he later ‘resolv’d for the future to have two or three Years corn beforehand, so that, whatever might come, I might not perish for want of Bread’ (page 156). The capitalist begins to resurface, stockpiling crops and money for no reason other than their inherent value. Crusoe shows himself to be the true exponent of the English culture in the Southern hemisphere.The ‘Second Thoughts’ of these two quotations were remarked upon by David Trotter, when he saidCrusoe’s second thoughts supplement his first. They show him again in a different light, but not conclusively. They are followed … by third thoughts, and fourth thoughts. Crusoe’s character … is endlessly deferredIt seems emblematic of the English mind that it is constantly re-evaluating and re-assessing itself; and it is certainly seen to be a trait of the isolated mind. Robinson Crusoe is a story of Crusoe’s development ‘in the wild’ as it were, and the natural evolution of the solitary man. Critics have remarked on Defoe’s use of punctuation; Crusoe regularly uses a large number of semi-colons and colons, to act as ‘qualifiers’ for his decisions. Nothing is done which has not been subjected to thought and argument, and yet this serves only to undermine initial decisions, like the one not to bother retrieving the money. The realistic inconsistency of Richetti is present not in the plot, in the fact that Crusoe returns home to sudden mysterious wealth, nor in his reappearing ink, or the sex-change of his goat, or his stuffing of biscuit into the pockets of the coat he has already lost in the sea, but in the mind of Crusoe himself. A man who is constantly rethinking and lives in a state of perpetual paranoia which leads him to build vast strongholds and hide himself away at the sight of a footprint is scarcely to be trusted.The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘colonize’ as ‘to establish a colony in’, or ‘to establish control over (the indigenous people)’. Crusoe’s subordination of Friday and his adaptation of the island to his own needs is a prime example of this. He also appropriates the island for his own, reminding it’s new inhabitants that he has ‘reserv’d to my self the Property of the whole’ (305) and taking up the role of ‘Governour’. Ian Watt remarks that Crusoe’s desire to improve his surroundings is ‘really the dynamic tendency of capitalism itself’, and perhaps part of the ambition and desire for more material wealth. It is thus true to say that Crusoe is the ‘true prototype of the British colonist’ and of the emerging capitalist of the 18th Century.More interesting though are the fantasies and roles he creates for himself. He is a trader, a monarch, a religious fanatic, and a Governor:My island was now peopled, and I thought my self very rich in Subjects; and it was a merry Reflection which I frequently made, How like a King I look’d. (page 241)Crusoe creates for himself a pleasant fantasy as King, just as he has earlier created his ‘castle’ and his ‘seat in the country’. It is strange perhaps that the symbol of British development and progression in the world takes upon himself such archaic fantasies, showing him to be rooted in the past rather than reaching to the future: he is a prototype capitalist, and one who secretly longs for the past. As Adam Smith put forward the view that it is individual selfishness that is responsible for the improvement in Britain and her trade, by appealing to a man’s ‘self-love’ , so it is true that Crusoe dreams of bettering himself in the most drastic way that he can; to assume total authority and become an autocratic dictator. It is sinister, though, that by the end of the book he has assumed this authority; he is at the least self-proclaimed and ratified Governor of the Island with the power over his prisoners’ lives, apparently uncontested and accepted by the Ship’s Captain:he told them, they were none of his Prisoners, but the Commander of the Island … the Governour was an English Man; that he might hang them all there, if he pleased; but as he had given them all Quarter … except Atkins, who he was commanded … to advise to prepare for death; for that he would be hang’d in the Morning. (page 268)Here we see Crusoe’s fantasies taking lethal form. The choice of hanging as punishment corresponds with this assumption of authority. On a smaller scale, Crusoe also immediately assumes control over Friday.I made him know his Name should be Friday, … I likewise taught him to say Master, and then let him know, that was to be my Name (page 206)It is interesting here that Crusoe assumes the role of one who assumes names; Friday, the Savage, and the Spaniard are all titles set by him. Yet they are names which show his lack of understanding; the savage and Friday treat each other better than Crusoe and his own father. These are the crude labels of a falsely-superior creature.The names Crusoe creates for himself are some of the few signs of imagination, or inner workings that we see in the character. We are told that he is plagued by nightmares, including the peculiarly instructive dream that prepared him for the coming of Friday. And he sets aside barely time for leisure; we never see Crusoe dosing in the sunshine, or playing with his dog. Everything is directed to a purpose. Yet perhaps the seemingly incomplete picture of Friday, as a man about whose internal thoughts, desires, and dreams we know very little, is because as the narrator, Crusoe has little of these himself and thus does not seek for them in others.Instead of the ‘Companion’ (page 188) Crusoe claims he desires, he uses his greater education to make a slave of Friday. This is all the more surprising when it is considered that Crusoe himself has even been a slave, and yet he does not seem to deplore the subjugation of people thus. His escape is perhaps symbolic of the class mobility prevalent in the new age. Slavery is not an issue in the novel as it would be to a modern reader, simply because it is taken for granted and skimmed over. Crusoe is even on his way to illegally obtain more Negroes for the plantations when he is stranded on this Island, yet he never associates cause and effect with the wrath of providence as he does with earlier shipwrecks. Based on a dream, a desire for a subservient worker, and relatively unimportant desire for company, and sheer luck that he was in the right place at the right time, Crusoe saves Friday’s life. Friday is clearly intelligent as he learns and quickly adapts to Crusoe’s methods of carpentry, gunmanship, and life, and he obeys with an undying obedience which Crusoe does not always respect. He is initially suspicious of his new slave, and doesn’t seem to understand the culture he has come from, initially presenting him with a slice of goat meat with all ceremony and anticipation suggesting he naively expects Friday to have never eaten goat before. He assumes that Friday is a cannibal through and through – in some places Crusoe almost seems under the impression that the ‘Savages’ eat little but each other. Friday is at pains to explain they eat only prisoners captured in battle, and yet Crusoe has no desire to understand the natives. He does not even realise before it is explained to him that there is more than one tribe in the area; he sees only black men, homogenised and indistinct.Nor does Crusoe respect Friday’s cultural identity in the way he is at pains to preserve his own sense of ‘Englishness’. He begins to Anglicise his new slave; not content with sublimating the physical man into slave, he now teaches him to act as though he was English, yet paradoxically awards him none of the associated status. Friday learns to eat bread, wear clothes, pray to Jesus, and shoot his own kind in a horrific perversion of his loyalty to Crusoe.It is clear that Crusoe wants a companion on his own terms; not a friend but a follower. Perhaps though it is untrue to say that Friday arrived on an unlucky day when one considers that had he arrived at virtually any other time he would have been eaten. Instead he suffers a loss of his identity and freedom to the extent that he becomes little more than a silhouette of his Master, and an echo of his former self. Crusoe’s imposition and assumption of authority is an unsettling result of his prototypic colonialism. The narrator and the character, who begin so separately with the one deploring the mistakes of the other, align throughout the novel leaving only one speaker, blithely unaware of his own inadequacies. Upon his return to England, Crusoe’s relationships with his family consist of sending them packets of money; he has become emotionally deficient and socially inept through his long subjugation of those around him. It is laughable that when Friday questions his teachings, asking ‘if God much strong, much might as the Devil, why God no kill the Devil, so make him no more do wicked?’ (page 218), Crusoe cannot even think of an answer, but nor can he admit that he is confounded. The question strikes at the heart of his religious doctrine, and yet he sees no flaws in what he propounds and even forces upon others. His years alone have blinded him to the needs and individualisms of those around him, and left him devoid of self-analysis – a true immoral imperialist.
God Would Not Bless Me: Fatalism and the Father in Robinson Crusoe
Though Robinson Crusoe may be popularly envisioned as a harrowing “adventure tale” of shipwreck and survival, the “adventures” of emotional and spiritual discourse act perhaps equally strongly to frame and direct the text. Crusoe’s early travels, in which he says he “I never once had the Word Thank God, so much as on my Mind, or in my mouth” (131), are constantly being narrated through the emotional discourse of parental prohibition; his later foreign adventures are often viewed through the lens of the earlier, less turbulent domestic sphere. Though Crusoe’s adventures seem at first self-consciously antithetical to life with his parents at home, it is also possible to read them as embedded within that early life, testing out the conditions and prohibitions which his father first set out. Having left the comfortable world of his father, blessed neither by his father or God (7), Crusoe is haunted throughout his travels by feelings of carelessness and impetuousness with which his departure was informed. The narrative itself is framed by prohibition and violation: from the very beginning, Crusoe is commanded by his father not to go to sea. Such a commandment acts with a prophetic fatalism, subsumed only by the driving “Propension” (3) of nature, throughout the rest of the tale.From the narrative’s first sentence, Crusoe is unable to keep the discourse of his father out of the discourse of his own adventure and eventual despair. Even as Crusoe narrates his family history, including the history of the alteration of his name, Crusoe’s father plays the central, defining role. Crusoe says his father, “a foreigner of Bremen” rather than a British native, “got a good Estate by Merchandise”, allowing him to leave “off his trade” (3) and move elsewhere. Crusoe speaks of him as, at least initially, culturally other, a self-made man who has “become British” through the growth of his business as well as the alteration of his name. Through such a narrative opening, Crusoe delineates not only the evolution of his name from German to English, but his family’s economic history as well. Because the “Station” into which Crusoe was born is directly reflective of this history, the reader must be careful not to discount its prominence within the adventure as a whole, especially when one considers it in the context of Crusoe’s father’s concerns.In advice given early on, Crusoe’s father argues that his own path of stable self-sufficiency has set an ideal example for the life and career objectives of his son. He suggests that son Crusoe’s desired deviation from this path is due to a “meer wandring Inclination” (4), and notes that, by remaining, Crusoe might be “well introduced” and have “a Prospect of raising [his] Fortunes by Application and Industry” (4). Rather than simply harboring sentimentality towards his son, Crusoe’s father suggests that remaining would allow Crusoe to maximize his potential for economic growth. Not of either “desperate” or “aspiring, superior” fortunes, Crusoe has been set into the “middle State” (4) through the effort and modest successes of his father. Crusoe’s father does not lament his failure to rise higher, or to gain more than he already has; instead, he argues for the value of maintaining, even for future generations, the station he is in. Such a station, he argues, is “not exposed to the Miseries and Hardships, the Labour and Sufferings of the mechanick Part of Mankind, and not embarrass’d with the Pride, Luxury, Ambition and Envy of the upper Part of Mankind” (4) — rather, it exists stably within society, free of the worst extremes. The apparent glamour of the upper classes reveals itself to be full of suffering and vice, and it is rather the middle state “which all other People envied” (4). This explication of an economic Middle Way, the “upper Station of Low Life,” (4) allows Crusoe’s father to express and give approval to the path of his own life. The avoidance of the worst disasters and the enjoyment of the most commonly available pleasures allows one, in the mind of Crusoe’s father, to gain the most from life while being afflicted by the least suffering. Rather than simply avoiding adventure, such a life strategy allows one to go “silently and smoothly thro’ the World, and comfortably out of it” (5).Crusoe’s father argues that acceptance of such a station does not only make oneself comfortable, but in fact allows one to move gracefully through life, achieving goals and garnering pleasures without too much unnecessary travail. Rather than simply admonishing his son, the father is attempting to reveal the wisdom at which he, through the course of his life, has arrived. He suggests that Crusoe’s current station is not only the one most suitable for him, but in fact the one in which he could reap the most happiness and rewards. By noting that Crusoe was “born in” this particular “Station of Life” and that “Nature..seem’d to have provided against” his misery, Crusoe’s father gives at first the impression of desiring stasis and general immobility for his son. If Crusoe has, like a tool of fate, already been “provided” for, it seems the father would have him accept this providence blindly and not act to alter it in any way. However, in the broader narrative, “Nature and the Station of Life” have been only partial contributors to Crusoe’s fate; the father’s merchandizing and subsequent marriage have done much to set Crusoe where he is. Indeed, his father implies it is unnecessary for Crusoe to handle “Miseries which Nature and the Station of Life [he] was born in, seem’d to have provided against” (5), arguing for a fatalism of birth which is auspicious rather than limiting. Rather than simply being directed by fate, Crusoe seems at least in part provided for by the previous hard work of his father. Through the work of this “wise and grave Man” (4), Crusoe has been given enough means to enjoy the life his father sees fit. He may live without too many hardships, “sensibly tasting the Sweets of living, without the bitter, feeling that they are happy, and learning by every Day’s Experience to know it more sensibly” (5). Through the approval and recommendation of his current station, Crusoe’s father reveals his respect for moderation even in enjoyment, and for a “sensibly” won knowledge not admitting of rash desires. The realization of and contentment with the positive aspects of life — “feeling that they are happy” — is seasoned through with a progressive knowledge, the process of understanding one’s experience more finely each day. Though such a respect remains necessarily modest, not claiming to gain much new emotional territory, it seems also well-tested through long experience of losses and gains. Crusoe’s father has, it seems, lived his life in just such a fashion and has ended up generally satisfied with the results.Yet, at the same time as he recommends this living within one’s emotional means, Crusoe’s father offers up a dire alternative to Crusoe if he does not follow his advice. As Crusoe narrates, the father says, “if I did take this foolish Step [of going abroad], God would not bless me, and I would have Leisure hereafter to reflect upon having neglected his Counsel when there might be none to assist in my Recovery” (6). Though such a condemnation seems out of proportion to a travel request, Crusoe calls it “Prophetick” (6), revealing an implicit acceptance of his father as prophesier of the actions of God. His rebellion from his father – though he was “sincerely affected with this Discourse,” (6), he does not heed it – seems parallel to the spiritual rebellion which he will experience throughout the remainder of the tale. Crusoe’s father, who already offers God-like commandments and prophecies regarding the best-lived life, seems also able to dictate whether God will bless his son, and indeed to dictate the regret which Crusoe, unblessed and unhappy, would subsequently feel. While Crusoe does not heed the commands of his father, he never suggests that such commands are unwarranted, or that his father does not have the foresight he might claim. He allows for his father the role of prophet as well as authority figure; because the narrative is told in the past tense, Crusoe may infuse the sense of “destiny” upon what otherwise may have been well-meant, if overbearing, advice. In such an understanding of destiny, it seems that Crusoe idealizes his comfortable, middle-station home as the fount of these commands and prophecies. His thoughts of how he might have stayed in with his father, enjoying a life “calculated for all kinds of Virtues and all kinds of Enjoyments” (5), allows him to frame his tale in terms of his rebellious departure and the consequences he has come to know. Rather than describing the constellation of events and circumstances which seem to have been related to his departure and adventures – for instance, the “one Day at Hull” (7) which caused him to decide to travel – he instead frames his story strongly as a narrative arc structured by this “fatal…Propension” and the rebellion against his father’s desires.Though Crusoe’s father’s comment is structured not as a blind command, but as a (finally prophetic) statement of concern, Crusoe is unable to take that concern to heart. Rather, he seems to have left with no “Consideration of Circumstances or Consequences” and that he left “in an ill Hour, God knows” (7). While clearly possessing a strong belief in the “fatal” quality of nature, Crusoe narrates his own motives as though they were unstructured and haphazard. Without “asking God’s blessing, or my Father’s” (7) blessings one and the same Crusoe leaves the circumstances in which he has been advised to stay. Through long experience or wisdom, Crusoe’s father knows the outcome of this departure, and suggests that the “upper Station of Low Life” is where Crusoe would best have found a home. Crusoe’s father seems content with his own station and, with a mixture of wisdom and authority, commands Crusoe to remain where he is. He proceeds to prohibit his son from departing, saying that such departure would prevent him from being blessed. Crusoe will not remain and, because of this clear breaking of prohibition, will feel afterward the weight of grief and rebellion at having left his father and his God.BibliographyDefoe, Daniel. The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.
Spiritual Sovereignty: Crusoe’s Religious and Colonialist Journey
While Robinson Crusoe is undoubtedly a story of survival, it is first and foremost a story of religious and spiritual growth. Crusoe’s spiritual journey affects every single aspect of his life and draws him to reconsider many of his close-held beliefs, like his right to sovereignty over the island on which he is stranded. Interestingly enough, his core belief about sovereignty does not change at the surface level. At the beginning of his journey, when he first arrives at the island, he believes it belongs to him, and takes pleasure in that. Toward the end of his time at the island, he still feels the same way, but his justifications for that belief have changed due to his changed beliefs in religion. Throughout the entire novel, Crusoe believes he has sovereignty over the island and its inhabitants, but his new-found religious beliefs allow him to justify that sovereignty through an idea of divine obligation.
Upon arriving at the island, Crusoe quickly develops an idea of his sovereignty over the land. This concept is immediately met with comparisons to the way in which English lords preside over their own land, as seen in the quote: “I might have it in inheritance, as completely as any lord of a manor in England” (80). It is also important to note that Crusoe does not consider the fact that he could rule over other people on this island; his sole concern is with possession of the land itself and the resources it provides.
The tone of the passage is also important in analyzing Crusoe’s feelings towards sovereignty at the beginning of his time on the island. While he has certainly decided that the island is in his possession (“…to think that this was all my own, that I was king and lord of all this country indefeasibly, and had a right of possession” (80)), he is apprehensive about truly embracing these thoughts. This is conveyed through careful choice of words— for example, he surveys the island “with a secret kind of pleasure” (80). The word secret implies that he is not fully comfortable with claiming the entire island as his own, and feels that he must keep this idea to himself (even though he does not have anyone else on the island with which to share this idea at the time). Crusoe also states that this pleasure is “mixt with my other afflicting thoughts” (80), conveying that he has other thoughts which conflict with the concept of full sovereignty over the island, therefore creating an internal debate around the subject.
While not directly stated, Crusoe does eventually come to a conclusion in this internal conflict, a direct result of his religious journey throughout his time on the island. First of all, Crusoe becomes obviously much more comfortable with his self-imposed sovereignty. For example, thinking about his sovereignty is now labelled as a “merry reflection” (190) instead of a “secret pleasure” (80). This directly implies that Crusoe no longer feels conflicted about this idea—he no longer believes this is an idea he can only enjoy in secret. Now, he has an “undoubted right of dominion” (190), while before, his right of dominion was met with “afflicting thoughts” (80).
There are obvious changes to Crusoe’s situation at this point in the novel. First and foremost, he is no longer alone. Friday is present as his subject and friend, along with his father and the Spaniard. Crusoe has no qualms about exerting full rule over them, and does not doubt their dedication to him: “they all ow’d their lives to me, and were ready to lay down their lives, if there had been occasion of it, for me” (190).
He is so confident in his rule over these people largely because of his newfound religious beliefs. For example, Crusoe is very proud of the fact that he converted Friday to Christianity, and it is established earlier that he believes that it was his divine obligation to do so: “I had not only been mov’d myself to look up to Heaven, and to seek the hand that had brought me there; but was now to be made an instrument under Providence to save the life, and for ought I knew, the soul of a poor savage, and bring him to the true knowledge of religion, and of the Christian doctrine, that he might know Christ Jesus, to know whom is life eternal” (174). Therefore, Crusoe has finally found a justification for his absolute sovereignty over the island and its people, and that is his religion.
Crusoe is very obviously fixated on the religious beliefs of his so-called subjects, though he does not attempt to convert anyone besides Friday: “My man Friday was a Protestant, his father was a pagan and a cannibal, and the Spaniard was a Papist: However, I allow’d liberty of conscience throughout my dominions” (190). He obviously does not hold the same standards to anyone besides Friday or hold them in the same regard, but still allows them their respective religious freedom. In all of his new justifications for his sovereignty over the island, religion is the most important element.Crusoe’s journey is one of adventure and survival, but also one of religious and spiritual discovery. He has been raised his entire life with the English notion of colonialism and sovereignty over other lands, so it is obvious that he would immediately believe in his own rule over this island, but he lacked the true justification for this belief. So, at the surface level, Crusoe’s beliefs about sovereignty do not change—it is his justification for the belief that changes. Crusoe finds religion through Christianity and through his language, expresses that it is his divine obligation to rule over Friday, and by that measure, the island. Crusoe’s ideas about rule and sovereignty do not change, but his spiritual journey and finding of faith allow his ideas to transform.
Robinson Crusoe, the Novel, and the Formation of Individual Identity and Truth
Robinson Crusoe, written by Daniel Defoe in 1719, is considered by many to be the first English ‘novel’, and offers to literature what Ian Watt describes as ‘a unique demonstration of the connection between individualism in its many forms and the rise of the novel’. Indeed, the notions of autonomy, agency, and self-consciousness as contained in literary characters were, as critic John Richetti proposes, ‘only emerging as new and controversial ideas for European thought at the turn of the seventeenth century’; these changes being best exemplified in the emerging literary spaces of novels like Defoe’s. The eponymous Robinson Crusoe fills every corner of Defoe’s novel, as the reader perceives his physical feelings, thoughts and fancies from every angle, whether retrospectively mediated upon by Crusoe, or experienced through his journal entries. Defoe uses the newly-forged novel space liberally to explore, through Crusoe, more generally the notion of personal identity and a new kind of ‘truth’ through individual perceptions, touching upon the change post-Reformation and rise of national state in the sixteenth century, which, as Watts suggests ‘decisively challenged the substantial social homogeneity of mediaeval Christendom’. Crusoe’s trajectory symbolically represents this move in the extreme; from a world in which his social order and position was dependent on familial ties, to literal individuality on a strange island on which nothing is familiar. This isolation, in a literary form just emerging, allows Defoe to explore the ‘inward moral being’ of his character, and herald individuality as a valid medium through which to perceive and understand one’s environment, whilst also mapping new ways orient one’s self successfully in the absence of any company, or indeed, social order. Crusoe’s island becomes in this way a hyperbolic metaphor advocating self-examination and perceiving one’s self as different in reaction to the ‘social homogeneity’ of the past and the reliance of old thought to orient one’s self.
The early eighteenth century novel marked a shift away from the dichotomy that Enlightenment norms between fictional and factual, which, as Richetti writes, ‘it established as strictly separate’. One of the facets of the early novel often discussed is its presentation of ‘realism’ in the sense of everyday life, and is a facet which might seem, at face value, to place the novel firmly in the side of ‘factual’, at a distance from ‘the gloriously and deliberately ‘unreal’ world of romance from the Middle Ages’. In a conventional sense, Robinson Crusoe is not factual; it was marketed as a real account of a castaway man, yet turned out to be fictional in the sense that it was a product of Defoe’s imagination. However, as Richetti goes on to describe the early novel, he suggests that it delivers an interaction ‘between a world of facts and heroic individuals who give it shape and meaning’, highlighting the point at which fact and fiction intersect in Defoe’s novel. If Defoe is trying only to create a sense of individual encounter with the world, then everything Crusoe recounts within the novel is true to his own perception, for he has no perceptible reason to lie or fabricate. Thus a new kind of truth or ‘fact’ is privileged, in which perceptions of the individual may be objectively fictional, both in the sense that he is a fictional character within a fictional work, and fictional within his universe, yet are true by his own perceptions and thus valid. As an example of this, we see Crusoe begin to linguistically domesticate his surroundings early in the novel:
‘So I plac’d it in my new cave, which in my fancy I call’d my kitchin’[.]
Obviously, the ‘cave’, as we are told in clear terms, is not a kitchen in a conventional sense, and Crusoe has merely appropriated domestic language he finds familiar. However, the novel does not find this label non-factual, and accepts that these are the terms upon which Crusoe sees his world. Furthermore, it has been made clear elsewhere that fancy and imagination rule in the novel: ‘obey’d blindly the dictates of my fancy rather than my reason’. Though ‘blindly’ is suggestive of foolishness in obeying fancy, the denouement of the novel rewards such pursuit of individual fancy, and presents an individual world view as an important one. Michael Seidel points out this distinction in writing that ‘Crusoe does not write an encyclopaedia on his island, but he performs one’, illuminating the individuality of his perceptions in the novel, suggesting that he does not ‘write’ objective facts, but ‘performs’ subjective ones instead, showing us things as he sees them.
Once we begin to see Crusoe’s amalgamations of his fancy with the objective world as an acceptable form of truth or fact, even his dreams and visions become blurred into this mix. Seidel, writing on the ‘varieties of fictional experience’ in Robinson Crusoe, argues that ‘Crusoe’s imagination generates many more fictions than the one he experiences’, and I would take this argument further to suggest that Crusoe’s own generated ‘fictions’ [in the form of dreams or imaginings] are barely distinguishable from his ‘real’, recorded events, and as such, are intended to be treated with the same validity.
I thought, that I was sitting on the ground on the out-side of my wall. where I sat when the storm blew after the earthquake, and that I saw a man descend from a great black cloud, in a bright flame of fire, and light upon the ground[…] his countenance was dreadful, impossible for words to describe; when he stepp’d upon the ground with his feet, I thought the earth trembled, just as it had done before the earthquake, and all the air look’d to my apprehension, as if it had ben fill’d with flashes of fire’.
To begin with, Crusoe’s dream is not particularly fantastical, and is located firmly in places both himself and the reader are already familiar with, ‘the out-side of my wall’, as well as mimicking his real-world experiences with the earth trembling ‘just as it had done before the earthquake’. On top of this, the language he uses in this particular passage in no way differs from that which he uses to write ordinary events in his journal, with the phrase ‘impossible for words to describe’ recurrent in a number of different forms throughout the novel – in the instance of his corn being stolen for example, where he describes the effect of this as ‘impossible to imagine’. It is barely perceptible to the reader that this is a mere vision or dream at all, and thus it is awarded the same level of acceptance as truth as any other real ‘event’ in the novel. Ultimately, the kind of ‘reality’ Defoe creates is one in which all that is perceived subjectively by an individual is true and factual, simply by merit of being experienced.
Whilst I have demonstrated the intersections of fact and fiction as located in the individual experience, the make-up of the individual and the definition of the ‘self’ have not yet been anatomised; an act that the novel actually tries to achieve itself. Robinson Crusoe was written during an era in which there was increasing interest in sentiment and sensibility, which brought with it mediations on the workings of the mind, body, and emotions, exemplified in one case with the Earl of Shaftesbury’s Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times:
‘TO begin therefore with this Proof, “That to have the Natural Affections (such as are founded in Love, Complacency, Good-will, and in a Sympathy with the Kind or Species) is to have the chief Means and Power of Self-enjoyment’[.]
In an almost pseudo-scientific manner, Shaftesbury separates out things like ‘Natural Affections’, ‘Love’, and ‘Goodwill’ in order to explain their contribution to constituting ‘Self-enjoyment’. He goes on to rely, for validity, on assumptions of people’s experience, stating for example ‘That the latter of these Satisfactions are the greatest, is allow’d by most People’, assuming general experience will speak for his truth. Robinson Crusoe does a somewhat similar thing in trying to anatomise ‘self’ and all its faculties, yet rather than relying on experience generally, presents one ruling example of personal identity in Crusoe. We are confronted with a number of different workings of Crusoe, with ‘body’, ‘mind’, ‘heart’, ‘reason’, and ‘conscience’ all at play as part of himself. The expressions ‘my self’ and ‘no body’, now elided in colloquial English, also contribute to the emphasis upon ‘self’ and ‘body’ the novel explores. All of these faculties and ‘parts’ of Crusoe appear to work for different effects on Crusoe as Defoe compartmentalises them in a similar manner to Shaftesbury:
‘I was so amaz’d with the thing it self, having never felt the like, or discoursed with any one that had, that I was like one dead or stupefy’d; and the motion of the earth made my stomach sick, like one that was toss’d at sea;but the noise of the falling of the rock awak’d me as it were, and rousing me from the stupify’d condition I was in, fill’d me with horror, and I thought of nothing then but the hill falling upon my tent and all my household good, and burying all at once; and this sunk my very soul within me’[.]
Crusoe is initially ‘stupef’d’, then sick in the stomach, moving rapidy on to being ‘awak’d’, then ‘fill’d with horror’, finally having his ‘soul’ sink within him, in a literary show of detailed interiority. Each of these things works separately, as Crusoe’s isolation forces him to anatomise each kind of feeling or drive he percieves within himself, and often at the start of the novel, we see them working against one another:
‘ ‘tho I had several times loud calls from my reason and my more composed judgement to go home, yet I had no power to do it. I know not what to call this, not will I urge, that it is a secret over-ruling decree that hurries us on to be the instruments of our own destruction’[.]
Here, Crusoe sees his propulsion to travel as a force working outside his body, a secret ‘over-ruling decree’ which he has no power or control over. This serves as just one example of moments in which Crusoe displays a difficulty in perceiving himself as a complete individual, retaining the belief that he is in no control of his own impulses and desires. However, as aforementioned, Crusoe symbolically maps out the move from what Watt calls the old thought of ‘body politic’ to individualism, and with this change comes a more complete and unified conception of self as Crusoe orientates a new order for himself. This change is portrayed as somewhat inevitable, as we see that even before Crusoe is washed up on his island, he harbours feelings of isolation:
‘I had no body to converse with but now and then this neighbour; no work to be done, but by the labour of my hands; and I used to say, I liv’d just like a man cast away upon some desolate island, that had no body there but himself’
What this tells us is that the island is not by any means necessary to instigate Crusoe’s feelings of isolation, but instead that it provides a blank space in which to reflect and forge a sense of individualism, something we see happen in his changing perceptions of himself on the island:
‘But that I was born to be my own destroyer […] was lost upon me’[.]
Where he has previously perceived his drive to destruction as an over-ruling force outside of his body, just a little while later we begin to see Crusoe internalise this drive and begin to perceive it as an element of himself, something he was ‘born’ with rather than being outwardly controlled by.
Seidel hits upon a truism in his discussion of Crusoe’s own created ‘fictions’ on the island, but I would take this further to suggest that Crusoe’s own sense of personal identity and individualism is forged both by attempts to understand and internalise forces working upon him as consequences of his own personality, but, perhaps somewhat paradoxically, also in his projections, or even ‘creations’ of himself on the island. What I mean by this is that Crusoe is able to orient and understand himself as an individual by psychologically or physically imprinting himself onto the blank parts of the island. The success of this is best displayed in his rediscovery of a parrot whom he taught to speak:
‘Robin, Robin, Robin Crusoe, poor Robin Crusoe, where are you Robin Crusoe? Where are you? Where have you been? […] I saw my Poll sitting on the top of the hedge’[.]
The parrot, in adopting Crusoe’s voice, represents a past, more unhappy Crusoe who left an imprint of himself in the parrot’s repetitive voice. This moment comes only a few pages after the current narrating Crusoe has proclaimed, ‘I had now brought by state of life to be much easier in it self than it was at first’, showing a clear progression in character. Locke’s definition of personal identity as ‘an identity of consciousness though duration in time’ seems especially helpful here as Crusoe’s consciousness of his past self is physicalized and reflected in the parrot. Whilst Crusoe may initially feel lonely, as Watt points out, he has ‘an exceptional prowess; he can manage quite on his own’, and does this by expanding himself into other things and beings on the island, to the point at which when he finds a human footprint, he can calm himself only by convincing himself that it ‘might be a mere chimera of [his] own; and that this foot might be the print of [his] own foot’[.] All of his various faculties and parts, his ‘thoughts’, ‘dictates of fancy’ and ‘conscience’ are ordered through creating such imprints and conversing with them either literally or metaphorically in order to orient himself as an individual.
Towards the end of the novel, Crusoe rather abruptly gives the mutineers ‘every part of [his] own story’ then states, ‘Having done all this, I left them the next day, and went on board the ship’ in a moment which seems indicative of the individualist ‘experiment’ Defoe performs in the novel. Crusoe indeed goes on to be what Watt would describe as an individualist ‘economic man’, but this part of the tale is almost incidental to the development of a new kind of truth and individualism Crusoe acquires on the island. His story ends and is imparted, and left behind at a point where he has successfully and happily forged his own individual order and identity afforded to him by his time on the island. The newness of the novel form allows a perfect space into which to promote new and original thought as opposed to adhering to traditional thought, and Defoe gives us a tribute to a kind of individualism in which the truth can be whatever one perceives through their senses, and a new social order can be forged through ordering and understanding one’s internal faculties; indeed producing Watts’ individual ‘economic man’, but also, and perhaps more importantly in the case of Defoe’s novel, a spiritually ‘individual’ and stable character.