The novel Robinson Crusoe is written by Daniel Defoe, and was first published in the year 1719. The story centers on a young man from Hull, England who wishes to pursue his dreams of sea voyage, and adventure. Robinson's father does not agree with this notion, and insists that his son choose the modesty of a middle class lifestyle. This conflict causes Robinson's to run away with a friend, and secure work on a vessel. The decision is hasty, and the outcome ultimately leads to years of conflict, tribulation, and enlightenment.
I chose to write my essay on this novel due to the impact it as had upon literature. In writing this novel Daniel Defoe provides a guideline for many future stories which include many novels, and films. With that being said, there are both negative and positive aspects to the storyline. The positives range from Crusoe's passion for survival to his development of faith, but in contrast to these positives the novel displays openly racist content which is rather offensive when viewed in today's culture.
Most notably, Daniel Defoe also focuses on social and political issues. The book begins with a disagreement between Robinson and his father over Robinson's aspirations. This conflict provides the reader with a clear image of British society during the early 1700s, and presents what seems to be a very common view of how society should function. These basic functions include conformity, and an unyielding acceptance to a middle class lifestyle. Since Robinson's fathers views are such a vital role in the story, this brief instance in the book turns out to be the most important foundation for the development of the novel.
Many scenarios that are depicted in the story indirectly lead back to Robinson's father's social views. The fact that Robinson becomes stranded on a deserted island is a perfect example of this correlation. Through the isolation of the island, Defoe advances the readers understanding for his personal political ideologies. While on the deserted island; Defoe develops Robinson's character to demonstrate a sense of utopia.
The concept of living on an island and providing for one's self in a consistent manner does seem to describe a sense of utopia. This is a very important factor to the storyline, due to the empowerment which is caused by Crusoe's dependency; the character undergoes a process of growth. Crusoe begins to develop a deeper appreciation for his life, and the sustainable environment for which he is stranded. In fact, Crusoe's circumstances have grounded him mentally, and physically.
Crusoe has a wandering lifestyle until he becomes stranded on the island. In actuality the isolation of the island is the cause for Crusoe's growth. It is an interesting concept that one becomes closest to utopia when they are forced into a lifestyle of self sustainability. The fact that Crusoe solely relies on himself is soon altered though by the means of a human companion.
Towards the end of Crusoe's twenty eight year stay on the island he encounters cannibalistic natives who have captured prisoners for sacrifice. Crusoe saves one of the prisoners from certain death, and causes the captures to flee. He develops a master and servant relationship with this rescued prisoner whom he refers to as Friday. This newly formed relationship causes a shift in Crusoe's views.
Crusoe teaches Friday the fundamental values of the Christian doctrine, and shares with Friday many aspects of his previously solitary lifestyle. At this point in the story Crusoe recaptures the process of human communication. Crusoe has spent years adapting to isolation, and now he is suddenly exposed to all that he has repressed. His companionship with Friday causes a rise in Crusoe's passion for departing the island.
Soon after Friday was introduced into the story Crusoe saves two more prisoners (one of whom is Friday's father). With the two new rescued prisoners, come circumstances which advance the storyline significantly. The rescued prisoners are from the mainland and depart from the island to bring help. While on this voyage, a European ship arrives on the Island.
Though there is a struggle, Crusoe and Friday board the ship destined for England. Upon arriving in England, Crusoe discovers that he has acquired a great deal of wealth due to his ownership of plantations. He soon acclimates to his new lifestyle, and eventually marries and spawns three children. The reader comes to the conclusion at this point that Crusoe has changed his view of utopia, and now acknowledges that human relationships lead to a much purer sense of utopia. Instead of having the reader settle with this conclusion, Crusoe once again ventures to sea after his wife dies.
The story of Robinson Crusoe is a literary classic for many reasons. Defoe brilliantly captures the mental and physical struggle of Crusoe during the grimmest of circumstances. Hopefully this essay, and the analysis provided, has given some justice to the complex social and environmental issues that are expressed throughout the novel.
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