Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: Robinson Crusoe is the fictional autobiography of the title character. As a young man, Crusoe sets out from England on a disastrous sea voyage. His passion for seafaring remains undiminished and so he sets out again, only to be shipwrecked a third time. His journey takes him to Brazil where he becomes a plantation owner. A third and final shipwrecking, however, leaves him stranded for 28 years on a remote island. There he becomes a devout Christian and believes his life lacks nothing but society. The work is sometimes credited with being the first English novel..
The worst bit is I thought I had read it before and rather liked it. I can only surmise that I have read one of those re-written
I am not saying the book is bad. It does a very good job of conveying the feeling of being stuck on a desert island for 28 years. The sheer mind-numbing slowness of it. And while it is a dreadfully religious book, and my patience when it comes to sermons in books is limited to accept only two repetitions per topic, I enjoyed the occasional kicks aimed in the general direction of the Stuart monarchy, the Catholics and other people Defoe did not like in general.
Perhaps I found it so boring because I am not a Victorian boy. I find it as a staple of any male character set in the Victorian era (and often later) that he will have spent his childhood reading Robinson Crusoe and enjoying it tremendously. Half the male authors I have been reading about considered it one of their formative books. Ironically, these authors write books I like, books that do not go on for 180 pages about the detailed measurements of the cave, the table, the canoe, the wall and all the rest.
I know why it is there. I know it is supposed to back up the illusion of truth, the claim that it is a memoir, not a fiction. But knowing does not entail enjoying.
Finally, for I should stop now, I must say this: I am sure this could be an intriguing book to analyse. Both for its attitude to politics and religion, for its very interesting treatment of slavery (which did fascinate me when it showed up), for the meditations on cultural relativity, or even for its use of mind-numbing detail of mundane tasks as a literary tool which really does communicate the experience of the cast-away in a way that no mere "I was alone on the island for 25 years" can do.
I am not saying that you shouldn't read it. But don't go into it thinking it will be fun.
One thing that I didn’t enjoy was Robinson Crusoe’s first voyage back to Europe. To me, this was very anti-climactic and wasn’t as special of a moment as it should have been. I figured that if he ever returned home, it would be a huge deal, but with most of his family dead, it didn’t seem as big of a deal. This left a sour taste in my mouth. That is because Crusoe made many bad decisions throughout his life, and they didn’t come back to hurt him. He ended up wealthy, in good health, and was able to see the world as he wanted when he was a young man.
The beginning of the story was a little confusing for me. I thought that Robinson Crusoe would get to the deserted island much quicker and so I was anxious for him to get there. This led to me not focusing as much on the details of where he was, but trying to figure out how he was going to get onto the island. On each of his trips before the wreck, I thought that he would be stranded somewhere, when in reality, he arrived safely in his first few voyages.
My favorite character was the Portuguese Captain, who played a huge role in Robinson Crusoe’s successfulness. These two first met in the middle of the ocean while Robinson and Xury, a slave boy, were trying to escape from Moorish pirates. The captain saved Robinson and took him to Brazil to start a new life. The Captain was one of the main reasons that this story turned out the way that it did. I enjoyed reading about the captain because, while other characters were doubting Robinson and not believing in him, the Captain saw something that others didn’t and gave Robinson a big break. Whatever the Portuguese Captain saw in Robinson saved his life and gave him new hope.
Overall I enjoyed reading this book. The ever-changing story kept me interested and wanting more. Even though it wouldn’t seem as if there would be much action on a deserted island, I found this book interesting. There were a few things that I would have changed such as the importance of certain events, but besides that I thought this was a good book to read. To close, I would recommend this book to someone who was looking for a book that was different from anything they had read before.
However 'Robinson Crusoe' is not a deadly dull read. Defoe's attention to detail on how Crusoe survives on the island is quite remarkable, and inventive. His interaction with Friday and other folks (..at the end of the book) is also interesting. Yet overall there is nothing here to enthrall the reader. Noted as a book for young (teenaged) readers, I think 'Robinson Crusoe' would bore anyone but the most patient adult.
Bottom line: certainly a classic and not devoid of merit, but overall I am unlikely to recommend this book.
My father had warned me that I might find Robinson Crusoe too simple in light of my recent Brontë adventures, and he was right - the writing is skilful, the plot adequate, but I was left unmoved.
Written in the style of a diary (with a few unnecessary
Robinson himself is well-educated and therefore frames his thoughts eruditely, but there is little to like or dislike in his character - he is simply there. And alone.
Maybe one needs to be male to appreciate/understand/enjoy this novel
Something I learnt in Germany: Management, Robinson Crusoe style, is just waiting for Friday.
Also: I know Defoe was inventing the novel and all, but would it have killed him to use chapter breaks?
Style: Entertaining, engaging, and everything your English teacher ever told you.
Good -- The introduction calls this book "the first English novel" and that alone is good reason for anyone interested in the form to read it. And for the most part, it's a very engaging read which surprised me in something so early in the form--it probably helped I read an edition that modernized the spelling and punctuation. Crusoe's first person voice pulled me in, and there's a lot of evocative detail that brings the story alive. The afterward in the edition I read speaks of one of the fascinations of the tale is "technique." Isolated on an island in the Caribbean, at first with nothing but one knife, a pipe and a bit of tobacco, Crusoe recapitulates the entire process of civilization. First salvaging tools and stores from his wrecked ship, then mastering everything from carpentry, basket-weaving and pottery to small scale animal husbandry and agriculture and more. Parts of this book makes for great action/adventure reading--truly suspenseful parts that play like a film in my mind, such as as the chapters dealing with quelling a mutiny. It's not overlong either, and I found it a quick read.
Bad -- The narrative at times violates the rule "show, don't tell" and the style is almost too spare at times and too taken up with minutia. The book was once praised for it's piety but to modern ears, even to devout Christian ones, I think, would come across as unduly preachy in parts--and that very preachiness complicates what I find most problematical in the novel. (See, "Very Ugly" below.) And my goodness, Defoe uses the word "Providence" more often than Meyer's Twilight uses "sparkle." (That would be a lot.) The last three chapters of a few dozen pages is anticlimactic, tedious and pointless after all that came before.
Very Ugly -- In a word: slavery. I really am willing to make allowances for the times--the novel was published in 1719--but it's an issue from the first that got increasingly more disturbing. Crusoe himself before being shipwrecked on that island had been captured by pirates and sold into slavery and endures in that condition for two years. He escapes with a fellow slave who helps him quite a lot--then Crusoe turns around and sells the boy into slavery. Crusoe's brought to Brazil where he becomes a slave owning planter. The very voyage that shipwrecked him was for the purpose of bringing slaves back to Brazil. And I could have set that aside... Except... Well, Crusoe has a spiritual reawakening on the island where he bewails his sins--and they turn out to be his "original sin" in disobeying his father by going out to sea--and not being religiously observant in matters such as the sabbath. Slavery is certainly not enumerated.
And then there's Friday. "Man Friday" is a word for servant because of this novel. For two-thirds of the novel Crusoe is alone. He observes that "cannibals" come ashore periodically with victims, and decides that he'll rescue one, or even two or three to "make slaves" of them. He does exactly that, and especially in the chapters dealing with his turning a man he names Friday into a servant, teaching him to call Crusoe "master" and converting Friday into a Christian, I truly wished I could reach into the pages and throttle Crusoe.
I found the treatment of the whole issue more maddening than in any book I can ever remember reading. Including Gone With the Wind by the way. Lots of people decry that book as racist and as an apologia for slavery. I love Gone With the Wind though, despite those problems and found it far easier to enjoy. I think part of what made it easier to tolerate is that Gone With the Wind was written and published after slavery was history and set in an era where there was great opposition to it that would lead to its abolition. Proponents of slavery at least were on the defensive. Reading Robinson Crusoe, it seems this was an era where no one had a clue slavery was wrong at all. Forgetting the Sabbath? Quel horror! Trafficking in fellow human beings? Situation normal. Never mind that the whole characterization of Friday was enough to set my teeth on edge. Although in a way I suppose all this is all the more reason to read the book. The mindset says volumes about how the slave trade was able to be established and endure so long. No moral brakes on the practice. At least if Defoe reflects his times faithfully.
For what it's worth, a friend who is an academic in the field of literature tells me there had been objections and opposition to slavery from the outset--and that critics themselves are undecided whether to take Crusoe straight up or whether his views reflect the author's. Apparently Defore is well-known for writing unsavory and repulsive characters who wind up on top--as in Moll Flanders about a thief and prostitute. So maybe we're meant to want to throttle Crusoe. Just reinforces though--this isn't some sweet children's book.
Robinson Crusoe is famous, of course, as the archetypical desert island story. Robinson Crusoe, English mariner, is shipwrecked upon a deserted Caribbean isle and spends twenty-eight years there cheerfully building a home, farming corn, milking goats and reading the Bible. It’s obviously very much a product of its time – everyone knows, for example, that Robinson Crusoe gets stranded on a desert island, but few people know that the reason he was at sea in the first place was to get slaves from Africa for his plantation in Brazil. The rest of the book plays out along similarly dated themes. He can’t go more than a few pages without praising the glory of God, who was kind and benevolent enough to strand him on a bountiful island, and force him to see the errors of his hedonistic past. It really kicks into a hilariously imperialist gear once Crusoe rescues Friday, a native, from a group of other natives. (Crusoe simply names him after the day of the week on which he rescued him, of course, rather than bothering to ask his actual name.) Friday immediately becomes a writhing supplicant, literally kneeling at the white man’s feet and praising him for saving his life, and then becoming a happy slave and tossing aside his own religious beliefs to embrace the Anglican church. After later rescuing another “savage” and a shipwrecked Spaniard, Crusoe quite genuinely considers himself a “king” with “undoubted right of dominion.” He reflects that Friday is a Protestant, the other native a pagan, and the Spaniard a Catholic, and considers them fortunate that “I allowed liberty of conscience throughout my dominions.”
None of this reflects on the quality of the novel, of course; one mustn’t judge a writer who was a product of his times. The pungent imperialist, racist and classist themes are amusing more than anything else. The issue I had with Robinson Crusoe was that, being one of the first novels, it’s very far from anything we would consider a novel today. It’s more like a litany of farming chores, geographical surveys and Christian mantras, bookended by irrelevant adventures in Africa and the Pyrenees. There’s no modern sense of pacing or relevancy; the book even ends on a vague note about returning to the island which is now peopled by the survivors of a Spanish shipwreck. (Who, incidentally, Crusoe damn well knew about and chose to utterly abandon when he was himself rescued; I guess sailing six hours to the other island to pick them up was too much of a hassle?)
Robinson Crusoe thus reminded me very strongly of The Odyssey: a classic work of literature which, through no fault of its own, is tedious and forgettable, and a story which I can honestly say I would have gained no less from had I simply read the CliffsNotes or Wikipedia synopsis.
It took me two weeks to read this book when I finished one about 100 pages longer in about 4 days, I just found this book put me to sleep and I couldn't concentrate on it at all. Finally I didn't care much for how it was written. When speakers in a conversation changed the only way you could tell was by the apostrophes. Normally where there is a line break there was none, this confused me many times with the dialogs. This may have just been my version of the book though
It is also astonishingly boring. I have a higher level of patience than most for characters noodling around doing nothing much of interest in order to set the scene, but egads.
I am gobsmacked that this book is still published and recommended for children. It must be seriously rewritten in their versions. Yikes.
I know this is regarded as the first english language novel but that doesn't excuse the fact that it is badly written.
I know that I shouldn't complain about the attitude towards slavery in the book as it was a different time period and it is historically accurate but I just found it really hard to stomach, in fact it made me wish that Friday had been a cannibal.
I have read this book before but I was about ten and you don't really pick up on the racism and all the other things that are wrong with this book at that age. Then you just think about the adventure of being on a desert island. The reason I read this again is because a few weeks ago I was having dinner with my Mum and she was watching what I thought was I very bad adaptation. Turns out it was the source material that was the problem and based on that there was no way you could ever make a good version.
I had my doubts about this book. Upon
Religion, the “human condition”(we were born to be our own destroyer), and justice are a few themes that this novel weaves into its pages. Survival obviously became the centerpiece. I love survival. I’m all for “Man vs. Wild”, “Survivor Man”, and “Cast Away”. Naturally, I found the latter part of the novel very appealing. Seeing Robinson Crusoe survive and persevere would lead me to appreciate the character. He earned my respect. I would love to give you examples of exactly how he earned my respect, but I don’t want to ruin the book for you. The call of the wild will always be a part of me, as it became a part of Crusoe.
Through the many page of Robinson Crusoe, I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t until I finished the book that I realized how great of a milestone this book was. Without a publication date printed on it, I would have taken it as an early 20th century novel. It turns out that this book is much older. However, it manages to present new ideas.
The author has Crusoe killing cats to keep the population down, drowning kittens, enslaving a man that he was obliged to save. It wont give me nightmares... But I can't say I've enjoyed this book.
This year, I decided to try it again. After all, back when I tried it the first time, I was stressed and rushed, and surely some book or another would test my patience, so it had to be better than I'd thought back then. Right? Well, um, yeah... not really.
I understand this is a classic, and I even understand why. I'm glad to be able to say that I finally finished it. But that's about all I can say. This was a dry read, and one that I had a hard time getting through. Sprinkles of action didn't make up for the non-action or the style of the book, and although I rather like the idea of the story and wanted to enjoy this, I just couldn't. Unless you have to read it, I probably wouldn't recommend it.
Aside from the adventure story, Defoe was exploring man’s nature and his reaction to adversity, topics larger than the story itself. In one scene, Crusoe lists ‘evil’ aspects to his condition (‘I am cast upon a horrible desolate island, void of all hope of recovery’), and corresponding good aspects (‘But I am alive, and not drown’d as all my ship’s company was’). I don’t think there was anything particularly insightful here, though the struggle for survival and events like finding the footprint are iconic and lasting images.
On accepting fate:
“I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed, rather than what I wanted; and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts, that I cannot express them; and which I take notice of here, to put those discontented people in mind of it, who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them; because they see and covet something that He has not given them. All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.”
“These reflections made me very sensible of the goodness of Providence to me, and very thankful for my present condition, with all its hardships and misfortunes; and this part also I cannot but recommend to the reflection of those who are apt in their misery to say, “Is there any affliction like mine!” Let them consider how much worse the cases of some people are, and their case might have been, if Providence had thought fit.”
“He told me that it was for men of desperate fortunes on one hand, or of aspiring, superior fortune on the other, who went abroad upon adventures, to rise by enterprise, and make themselves famous in undertakings of a nature out of the common road; that these things were all either too far above me, or too far below me; that mine was the middle state, or what might be called the upper station of low life, which he had found by long experience was the best state in the world, the most suited to human happiness, not exposed to the miseries and hardships, the labor and sufferings of the mechanic part of mankind, and not embarrassed with the pride, luxury, ambition, and envy of the upper part of mankind.”
“I had rather be delivered up to the savages, and be devoured alive, than fall into the merciless claws of the priests, and be carried into the Inquisition.”
“...how incongruous and irrational the common temper of mankind is, especially of youth, to that reason which ought to guide them in such cases, viz. that they are not ashamed to sin, and yet are ashamed to repent; not ashamed for the action for which they ought justly to be esteemed fools, but are ashamed of returning, which only can make them be esteemed wise men.”
That said, it as a very worthwhile historical curiosity and it is hard to imagine it not having been written and it is generally enjoyable to read,. The first quarter is a series of adventures culminating in Crusoe being stranded on an uninhabited island in the Caribbean. The last quarter is another series of adventures, not just his escape but -- oddly continuing to adventures like being attacked by wolves while traveling overland from Portugal to Northern France.,
The middle half of the book is the timeless story of Crusoe's 27 years on the island, starting with his meticulous efforts to save as much as possible from the ship and continuing through his becoming increasingly productive through agriculture and livestock rearing, much of it described in minute and fascinating detail. Crusoe himself, however, is a stock character who has no psychological depth, no depth of emotion about his situation, and often has attitudes that seem implausible for someone stranded alone for more than twenty years.
The end doesn't live up to the rest of the book. The last 20 odd pages are just a mess, and take the reader through some idiotic exercise in the mountains between Spain and France. There is a series of attacks by 300 wolves and bears and our man Friday teases a bear before killing him. Very bad.