Robinson Crusoe

.. ith all its miserable Circumstances, than the wicked, cursed, abominable Life I led all the past Part of my Days..I sincerely gave thanks to God for opening my Eyes (82-83).” While Crusoe does maintain his solitude on the island, he does to some extent practice what he now preaches. He begins to read the Bible and reflect upon its meanings. He incorporates religion into his life, shown by his statement, “by a constant Study, and serious Application of the Word of God, and by the Assistance of his Grace, I gain’d a different Knowledge from what I had before (93).” Crusoe, in effect, “pats himself on the back” for his change of heart and persistence with it, when often times he let his declarations “wear off.” He continues his statement with, “I look’d now upon the World as a Thing remote, which I had nothing to do with (93-94),” not realizing that his faith is never really tested in his solitude. The reader cannot believe in the genuineness of this conversion without some kind of actions to prove it.

The test does not come, indeed, until Crusoe encounters other humans on the island. The disparity becomes apparent between his thoughts and actions first when he encounters the “savages” who cannibalize on the shores of the island. Crusoe first resolves to kill them all for their sin of eating other humans. After carefully composing a plan to exterminate them the next time they visit, he later thinks, “What Authority, or Call I had, to pretend to be Judge and Executioner upon these Men as Criminals, whom Heaven had thought fit for so many Ages to suffer unpunish’d (124)?” However, when Crusoe is rescuing Friday, an escaped prisoner of the savages who was about to be eaten, he shoots two savages dead, in cold blood, without any thought of Providence. Crusoe rescues Friday and makes him his own servant, perceiving him to be inferior and “without the Light of Providence.” Crusoe even bids Friday to call him “Master,” clearly establishing himself as the superior and Friday as an unequal.

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He uses Providence as justification for this, as Friday is not a Christian and without the “light” of understanding. Crusoe reflects the notion of “the white man’s burden,” namely, that it is the duty of “civilized” Anglo-Saxon Christians to instruct the “uncivilized savages.” He finds difficulty in Christianizing Friday, however, and when Friday asks why God does not simply kill the devil to eliminate evil, Crusoe pretends not to hear him and desperately tries to avoid answering him. Providence becomes inconvenient, and Crusoe “diverts the present Discourse hastily (158).” He does not, however, fail to “pat himself on the back” once again by saying, “I reflected that in this solitary Life which I had been confin’d to, I had not only been moved my self to look up to Heaven, and to seek to the Hand that had brought me there; but was now to be made an Instrument under Providence to save the Life (159).” Crusoe perceives himself to be Friday’s savior, and therefore may be his master. He does not realize that he mentions the solitary nature of his conversion, and when he comes to deal with the external world and other people, he runs into problems and his faith fails. A ship that by chance comes to the island later delivers Crusoe. The ship’s crew was in mutiny, and Crusoe rescues its captain and his followers. He immediately asserts authority over everyone and effectively regains control of the ship, but only by violence, a very un-Christian method.

As an afterthought, Crusoe mentions, “I forgot not to lift up my Heart in Thankfulness to Heaven (197).” This is the last time the reader will hear any mention of Providence or God’s will. Crusoe returns to his homeland like the Prodigal Son, but there is no reunion or reconciliation with the father. Crusoe’s wealth had increased readily from his previous tobacco farming, and travels around to settle his financial affairs. The novel turns anecdotal and a stacking of events, with no final assertion of his Faith in the world he earlier “had nothing to do with.” He does not gain any sense of place as he had upon the island, and ends the novel with an allusion to a sequel. When faced with the danger of the wolves while traveling in Spain, he relies upon his instinct and common sense and does not credit Providence for any sort of deliverance as he did previously on the island. These problems that are not resolved at the end are due to many factors in Defoe’s authorship. Firstly, Crusoe can be described as a “hack” writer, his writing being his profession and source of income. Most likely he leaves things unresolved in the end of Robinson Crusoe in hopes of publishing another book and in turn, making more money.

Also, Defoe pioneered the genre of long fiction and lacked a model to base his writing upon. There is no logical coherence, demonstrated most clearly by the lack of chapters. Leopold Damrosch, Jr., confirms these ideas with, “This primal novel, in the end, stands as a remarkable instance of a work that gets away from its author, and gives expression to attitudes that seem to lie far from his conscious intention. Defoe sets out to dramatize the conversion of the Puritan self, and he ends by celebrating a solitude that exalts autonomy instead of submission (374).” It is the solitude which impedes Crusoe’s conversion, as not only does it happen in solitude, but can only be maintained in solitude. When tested by external forces, his actions reflect more someone “meerly thoughtless of a God, or a Providence; act[ing] like a meer Brute from the Principles of Nature, and by the Dictates of common sense only,” what Crusoe thought he was steering away from. Also, the reader has no standard to measure Crusoe’s word with, yet another reason to question the reliability of Crusoe as a narrator. Ultimately, his conversion comes in light of tragedy and leaves when things go right.


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