As I trundle along in this work desperately trying to catch up (which perhaps I will have done by tomorrow, but have not succeeded in doing today) I am struck by Crusoe’s lack of self-awareness. Though in his narrative he recognizes this quality in his life before the island, even as he looks back with disgust at his ungrateful, impious, godless self, he continues to make the very same mistakes for which he condemns himself (and for which he feels that god is condemning him).
It seems to me that with Crusoe, contentment leads to desire. When all of his needs were met in England, he wanted nothing more than to set off on a sea voyage. When his affairs are settled and going well in the Brazils, again he decides to go off on an adventure, which costs him everything. It is even so on the island. As soon as he succeeds in establishing himself with, crops, game, livestock, even company in the way of his animals (especially Poll), he is overcome by the urge to go back to sea. I’m seeing a pattern begin to emerge here.
When he is caught in his canoe, being washed out to sea, he has the very same revelations that he did when he encountered his first storm, or when he was taken into slavery, or when he was first shipwrecked on the island, or even when he was terribly sick. He seems to say “ah-ha! Now I realize how privileged I was in my previous situation! Now I know what TRUE suffering looks like! Now I can live my life being grateful and penitent.” Of course he has had these revelations several times by now, and since these things keep happening, they don’t seem to really be sinking in.
In his venture to sail around the island, as he had literally just spent the last chapter talking about how it was his attitude that was hindering him and that truly god had provided him most generously, and that he should be completely content to live there free from temptation and sin and having everything he needed to subsist quite comfortably. Yet he immediately put out to sea AGAIN, risking everything for no better reason than his curiosity.
I was struck, in particular, by the language and narration about this third experience. When he is finally washed ashore, he talks about the feeling of being delivered from doom. “They who know what it is to have a reprieve brought to them upon the ladder, or to be rescued from thieves just going to murder them, or who have been in such like extremities, may guess what my present surprise of joy was, and how gladly I put my boat into the stream of this eddy…” (pp.139)
This is the very same metaphor that he uses to describe his relief at being washed up on the island and surviving the shipwreck: “I believe it is impossible to express to the life what the ecstasies and transports of the soul are when it tis so saved, as I may say, out of the very grave; and I do not wonder now at that custom, namely, that when a malefactor, who has the halter about his neck, is tied up, and just going to be turned off, and has a reprieve brought to him—I say, I do not wonder that they bring a surgeon with it, to let him blood, that very moment they tell him of it, that the surprise man not drive the animal spirits from the heart and overwhelm him. “ (pp.45)