The Aspect Of Reality In Robinson Crusoe By Daniel Defoe
Fiction is defined as being ‘invented or untrue’, however fictional texts can represent reality; authors have created the illusion of real life through fiction by obscuring unreality using realistic occurrences. Robinson Crusoe is an example of this, with Daniel Defoe claiming the text to be a work of non-fiction for a year after publication – citing himself as an editor. Works of fiction are often built from life, hence why they reflect a sense of realism. Being realistic is representing ‘things in a way that is true to life’; authors can create texts with elements true to life, just simply not true of life.
The aspect of reality is especially displayed through how Crusoe establishes himself whilst marooned. He collects useful possessions from the ship, then tries to create items that he could not acquire – like pots to store corn. This process is described in great detail, making readers feel as though Crusoe really experienced it. Defoe also writes how Crusoe initially failed at this venture. ‘It would make the reader pity me what ugly things I made; how many fell in pieces I could not make above two large earthen ugly things in about two months’ labour. ’ Crusoe’s misfortunes show him to be human; whether that is a human that existed in reality or solely in text. If all of his attempts had been successful the first time, readers would have been able to tell immediately that the tale was falsified, so Defoe builds him as a protagonist with flaws, partly to make him more endearing but mostly, to showcase how easily Crusoe could be a ‘’real man’’. Defoe has Crusoe live a solitary life, surviving using basic human instinct; this creates a survival story rather than an adventure story which is more relatable – and therefore more realistic.
Fiction being obscured to appear as reality is shown in Robinson Crusoe. Eighteenth century authors ‘concealed fictionality by locking it inside the confines of the credible’ – done by Defoe. Although inhabiting a desert island seems improbable, Crusoe’s isolation is understated so that it appeared plausible, particularly shown at the beginning of Crusoe’s habitation on the island. Crusoe recounts his first night was spent in an ‘apartment in the tree’. Sleeping in a tree builds an image of being truly stranded, a tree being his only source of shelter. This commits credibility to Crusoe’s account by exhibiting his aloneness and how he is forced to turn to his own ingenuity to live.
Defoe obscures the implausibility by focusing the reader on Crusoe’s humanly characteristics, like his desire to survive. Yet, this practice reveals the fiction, establishing the idea of ‘revealing and concealing fiction being one and the same process’. The journal section displays this, as it was intended to add authenticity, but retracted from it. Crusoe begins his journal to keep track of life on the island, however it becomes an aid to his recounting, rather than a part of it. The journal is initially a day by day account, but extremely detailed as though Crusoe is just experiencing it not recounting it. It also then begins to straddle tenses as it reverts from past to present, with ‘’current day’’ Crusoe interjecting with additional details. Crusoe writes ‘I worked’, rather than I work. The past tense ‘worked’ shows that Crusoe is not writing the journal in the moment, but after the fact. Crusoe is also often thought of as an unsavoury character for how unfeeling he is and his manner of ‘acknowledging his absolute power’ over those he finds on his travels.
All of these things add up to Crusoe remaining just a character in a novel. Though eighteenth century authors of fiction were ‘accused of fraud’, Robinson Crusoe is thought of, not as fraud in the sense it was accused, but as truthful lying, because, although the events did not happen to a man named Robinson Crusoe, they could have happened to a man that lived in the eighteenth century.
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