Robinson Crusoe


About the author:
Daniel Defoe was born in the year 1660 in Cripplegate and died in the year 1731 at the age of Enlightenment. In the year 1895 he changed his name from Foe to Defoe. It was his fahter's will to become a Presbyterian priest, but he finally became a merchant in Cornhill. From 1697 till 1701 he served as a secret agent for William III and in the same year his first poem "The True - Born Englishman" which was a bestseller appeared. Because of his ironical satire "The Shortest - Way with the Dissenters" he was arrested two years later. 1719 he wrote "The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe".

The plot:
Robinson Crusoe is the son of a merchant from Bremen, that settled in York. The love for adventures turns him into a sailor. He makes a couple of trips to Africa and becomes a wealthy man, and a greedy one, too. On a trip to Guinea, where he intended to buy cheap slaves, his ship runs on ground in a hurricane. Robinson, the only one who survived the storm, managed to reach the shore of an island. The next morning he spots his shipwreck. He takes everything that’s not firmly fixed by raft to the island, among that guns, ammunition and clothes. From now on he lives in a tent, surrounded by a palisade, and stores his supplies in a near cave. There he starts writing a diary. After a while he believes that God wants to punish him for his adventurous life and that God wants to show him the perfection of his Creation. The more he adopts the commitments of the Bible, the more friendly his life on the island gets: He discovers an orchard, tames goats and grows wheat. One day he discovers an abandoned cannibal camp. When the cannibals, who live on the mainland, return to the island to cook one of their victims, Robinson frees the poor guy and names him Friday (the day of his rescue). He trains him to be a good servant and Christian. Later, both of them free a Spaniard and Friday’s father. Robinson and Friday sail to the mainland to warn the Spaniard’s companions. When they return, they prevent English mutineers to abandon their captain on the island. The Captain gives Robinson and Friday a ride to England, to show his thankfulness. The mutineers stay on the island voluntarily and together with the Spaniards they establish an island state. Robinson Crusoe returned to England after 28 years, two months and 19 days.

The interpretation:
I personally liked the book, but I don’t like Robinson, because he looks at everything that surrounds him with the eyes of profit:
E.g. "In a word, the nature and experience of things dictated to me, upon just reflection, that all good things of this 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".
Like everything else on the island, Friday is an object for him to be used, a collectible. His value to Robinson is determined by his obedience and his potential to be a successful "product" of his master. The ultimate exercise of Robinson's power as king is his ability to "tame" Friday and keep him under his reign. I have also seen some films about Robinson and his story, but in these films, he was alsways a nice man, and not like in the book a capitalistic person.

Also several modern writers, like James Joyce, Toni Morrison, Derek Walcott and Edward Said, have criticized Defoe's Robinson Crusoe for being a allegory of Western (British) colonialism or imperialism, and thus for advocating to its reading public the suppression of other cultures. I personally think that this is true.

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