Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (c. 1659-1731)

Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe (c. 1659-1731)

Type of Work:

Adventure novel


England, various ships at sea, and a small
island near Trinidad; seventeenth century

Principal Characters

Robinson Crusoe, an Englishman

Friday, his island companion

Story Overveiw

Young Robinson Crusoe told his parents
that he wished more than anything else to go to sea. His father bitterly
opposed the idea, and warned his son that "if I did take this foolish step,

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." These words proved prophetic.

The youthful Crusoe set out on his first
voyage, with little knowledge about the perils of a sailor's life. In telling
later about the tremendous storm in which his ship was caught, he remarked,

"It was my advantage, in one respect, that I did not know what they meant
by 'founder,' till I inquired." So ill and afraid was he during this first
harrowing crisis, that he vowed never again to leave solid ground if he
was blessed enough to escape drowning. But once safe on shore he found
his old longing resurfacing, and Robinson took sail aboard another ship

Alas, the ill-fated vessel was captured by Turkish pirates. Crusoe managed
to avoid capture and made off in a small craft. Together, he and a young
companion navigated along the coast of Africa, where they were pursued
by both wild beasts and natives. A Portuguese ship finally rescued them
and they sailed for Brazil.

In the new land Crusoe established a prosperous
sugar plantation. But again a feeling of lonely dissatisfaction overcame
him: "I lived just like a man cast away upon some desolate island, that
had nobody there but himself."

Then came an offer from some planters for

Crusoe to act as a trader on a slave ship bound for Africa. But this voyage
also met disaster: fierce hurricanes wrecked the ship, drowning everyone
aboard except Robinson, who was finally tossed up on a desolate beach.A
subsequent storm washed the ship's wreckage close to shore and Crusoe constructed
a raft to haul most of its supplies to land, where he stored them in a
makeshift tent. After a few days, he climbed a hill and discovered that
he was on what he assumed to be an uninhabited island. On his thirteenth
day there, still another storm pushed the ship wreck back out to sea, where
it sank, leaving him with no reminder of civilization.

Crusoe soon discovered that goats inhabited
the island, and began domesticating some of them to provide himself with
meat, milk, butter and cheese. Near the entrance of the cave where he stored
his provisions taken from the ship, he painstakingly built a well-fortified
home. After crafting a table, a chair and some shelves, Crusoe also began
keeping a calendar and a journal.

Over the next few months, an earthquake
and a hurricane damaged his supply cave, and though he still spent most
of his time at his coastal home, in case a ship should happen by, he decided
to erect an additional inland shelter.

Later, during a brief but raging fever,
the adventurer was confronted by a terrifying apparition, who announced,

"Seeing all these things have not brought thee to repentance, now thou
shalt die!" Remembering the advice of his father, Crusoe commenced to pray
and to read from the Bible. In a strangely inverted search, he began to
seek deliverance from his sins rather than from his adverse situation.

In a small valley on the island, Crusoe
found an abundance of wild grapes, lemons, limes and other fruits and vegetables.

From the grapes he made raisins, which became a favorite staple food. In
his wanderings he also caught a parrot, whom he taught to speak. With a
few grains of rice and barley from the bottom of one of the ship's sacks,
the sailor planted what would become large fields of grain. For several
years he experimented with making bread and weaving baskets.

One of Crusoe's biggest frustrations was
the lack of bottles or jars in which to cook or store food. Over time,
he succeeded in making clay containers and even fired some pots that were
solid enough to hold liquids. After four years on the island, he was a
changed man: "I looked now upon the [civilized] world as a thing remote,
which I had nothing to do with, no expectation from, and indeed no desires
about.. ."

Crusoe dedicated his entire fifth year
as a castaway to building and inventing. He constructed a "summer home"
on the far side of the island; he fabricated for himself a suit