Eighteenth Century / Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe: Center of His Own World


Robinson Crusoe Meets Friday (from 1868 edition)

It seems particularly fitting that Robinson Crusoe becomes the only human inhabitant of a large island, as he is already the center of his own universe.  He appears preoccupied with his own well-being even before he finds himself within a survivalist scenario, and this preoccupation is to the exclusion of everyone around him.  While he talks about family, community, and religion, his actions show that he values money and comfort more.

To begin, Crusoe puts great emphasis on how difficult it was for him to disobey his parents and travel by sea against their wishes.  However, he ultimately leaves anyway.  After his shipwreck off the coast of England, he acknowledges that his parents probably think that he is dead, but never tries to rectify this.  When he receives investment money from relatives for a trip to Africa, he speculates that his parents probably contributed, but he still says nothing to them.  Thus, it would seem that family is of little importance to him.
In terms of community, Crusoe speaks fondly of many individuals, but forms no real attachments and shows no loyalty.  In Morocco, he is willing to kill a fellow slave who could pose a risk to his freedom (although he’s reasonably sure the man survived).  He claims that Xury’s honesty and affection caused him to “love him ever after”… at least, until he sold him back into slavery.  But most strikingly, when he realizes that everyone on his ship is dead except himself, Crusoe says, “I solaced my mind with the comfortable part of my condition” (26).  When he sees that everyone could have lived had they remained on the ship, he thinks this is tragic because he was unnecessarily “left entirely destitute of all comfort and company” (28).
Finally, Crusoe speaks often of religion.  He seems to view all non-Christians with disdain (either “silly,” “barbarian,” or both).  Yet he repeatedly breaks vows he makes to God.  He makes a few attempts to keep track of when Sabbath is and even reads the Bible a bit, but other than this, religion does not seem to influence his actions.
Before the shipwreck, Robinson spends his time in trade.  He seems willing to go anywhere (except back to his parents) given the opportunity to make money without physical labor.  Indeed, he is careful to inform the reader that while he spent a great deal of time at sea, he travelled as a “gentleman” and not a sailor.  He is as diligent in his descriptions of his financial conditions as those of his physical ones.
After the shipwreck, Crusoe considers himself “lord and king of all this country.”  He describes an incredible bounty of fruit and game, but still names the island “The Island of Despair” and refers to himself as “poor, miserable Robinson Crusoe” in his journal.  He describes the island only in terms of what it can give him, never offering a description of a plant, animal, or place beyond its practical significance to his welfare.
Comestibles play a main role in this story, as they are necessary for Crusoe’s survival and comfort – the main themes of this book.  Crusoe spends most of his time searching for, preparing, eating, or considering food.  Hunting is his main form of entertainment and also his greatest source of calories.  However, I was confused by Crusoe’s relationship with alcohol.  He considers liquor a staple necessary for his escape from slavery, risking exposure by stealing additional quantities of it.  Liquor is in the very first shipment of items he takes from the ship, after his shipwreck on the island.  Yet he only speaks of using a small quantity as medicine, after he’s been ill for many days.  Even in this context, it seems more like a solution in which to dissolve tobacco, the true intended medicine.  So, why is liquor valuable to Crusoe?  Why does he risk his well-being to attain it?

One thought on “Robinson Crusoe: Center of His Own World

  1. I really liked your comment on Crusoe and the alcohol. I thought it was quite observant of you to find and while I remember it being mentioned a few times I merely glossed over the reference. Could his need for alcohol perhaps mirror the disperaty of his situation? Or as he he refers to it as “The Island of Despair”. For the vast amount of time being covered through this story, his consumption of alcohol was not something I remembered being discussed in detail, To your question I would argue that many of his actions, not just the going back for supplies, but many or most of his actions he risks his well being for. I never got the indication that Crusoe was a man hindered by the idea of consequence or the possibility of death.

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