Something that really struck me in the beginning of the text is the contradictory way that Crusoe assigns responsibility for his misfortunes. While on the one hand he continually reminds the reader that he himself is to blame for his failure to follow the advice of his father (and god?), on the other, he attributes his horrible judgment to an irresistible force outside himself. He is constantly making references to his ‘ill fate’, which he claims to be unable to escape. I’m interested in the contradictory aspect of Crusoe’s conception of his experiences.
In some aspect the story seems very didactic, showing the inevitable downfall of greed and hubris. Extensive time is spent establishing how satisfactory and even luxurious Crusoe’s origins are, first in his upper-middle class family and then at his plantation in the Brazils. In his family situation special care is taken to explain why it is superior to be in his somewhat modest station, and in the case of the plantation, the focus is on how successful he would have been had he not gotten greedy and impatient. In both cases he displays a dooming kind of hubris and greed.
It is plain to see how Crusoe is being punished for these characteristics both in the story and in Crusoe’s own narrative. As a narrator, he is continually owning the fact that his failure to heed good advice, grave warnings, and his own better judgment are the direct cause of his suffering. At the same time, when he describes these moments of decision, he describes being fated to make these bad choices. It is his ill fate, not his own faults, which cause him to choose the paths that will lead to his destruction.
This conception of himself is somewhat problematic for me because it assigns responsibility for his life to contradictory places. Is his life pre-destined? He seems to think that it is. But he also seems to feel that his struggle is a just punishment for his greedy and prideful character. If he is doomed to make bad decisions and then is punished for them this casts God in an unfavorable light.