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False Consciousness in Robinson Crusoe

In reading the previous posts is seems that everyone has latched onto the roles of Religion and Morality in the text. I completely agree that this can be read almost as a religious guide on how to live one’s life. Crusoe is continually announcing his many faults and claiming God as the only one who can truly save him. However, I see his transformation into dependence on religion as a last resort as it is really the only hope he has. In truly dire circumstances humans turn to the one thing they believe can save them (something all powerful with the ability to change any situation with the snap of a finger). He clung to this hope or savior simply because there was nothing else to cling to. Does anyone thing Crusoe would have gone through this transformation if he had not disobeyed his father and landed himself in this predicament. His religious consciousness is a false one (as personally I believe most are). He likens himself to Adam and Even as well as Job because it gives him a false comfort in a time when his reality is to harsh to bare. He starts to waiver from reality and believe that it is not the island he needs to be rescued from, but it is his own wrongdoings that have landed him there. This idea is probably represented best on page 83, “Now I began to construe the Words mentioned above, Call on me, and I will deliver you, in a different Sense from what I had ever done before; for then I had no Notion of any thing being call’d Deliverance, but my being deliver’d from the Captivity I was in; for tho’ I was indeed at large in the Place, yet the Island was certainly a Prison to me, and that in the worst Sense in the World; but now I learn’d to take it in another Sense: Now I look’d back upon my past Life with such Horrour, and my Sins appear’d so dreadful, that my Soul sought nothing of God, but Deliverance from he Load of Guilt that bore down all my Comfort: As for my solitary Life it was nothing; I did not so much as pray to be deliver’d from it, or think of it; It was all of no Consideration in Comparison to this: And I add this Part here, to hint to whoever shall read it, that whenever they come to a true Sense of things, they will find Deliverance from Sin a much greater Blessing, than Deliverance from Affliction.” Crusoe was driven to this believe through his circumstances and it is understandable that he came to this religious conclusion as it helped him make it through his time as a castaway, however, that does not make it real. But even if it is a false consciousness found in religion does Crusoe become a better person as a result of it? I am not a religious person whatsoever and I find Crusoe conversion to be a result of his circumstances, but I can’t decide if it is still false or wrong if it makes Crusoe a more deliberate person in the second half of the book which I kind of think it does.

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4 thoughts on “False Consciousness in Robinson Crusoe

  1. Hi CJ – I enjoyed reading your perspectives on religion in the book, especially about Crusoe developing a false religious consciousness since he only accepted it as a last resort. Here are my opinions on your two questions:

    First, no I do not think Crusoe would have gone through his transformation if he had not been stranded on the island for twenty-eight years because he would have had no reason to alter his beliefs. Before Crusoe left for Guinea, he was living a mostly happy life in Brazil since his plantation was successful and the only thing he lacked was adventure, which was the familiar desire that caused him to “go with all my Heart” (35). Thus, if he had stayed in Brazil, he would have made his fortune in-person and with these riches, I doubt he would have considered religion since he would never have been in, as you put it, “truly dire circumstances.” Furthermore, if he had transformed in Brazil, it would’ve been to Catholicism instead of Protestantism.

    Second, I do believe Crusoe became a better person because of his conversion even if it came from a false consciousness founded in religion. Honestly, I was surprised when he adopted his two nephews, paid back the Portuguese Captain, and gave presents to that Captain, the Widow, his sisters, the St. Augustine Monastery, and his Partner because the Crusoe in the first half of the book would’ve never done this (241-42). Now, is charity a sign of Crusoe’s betterment? It could be argued either way, but I think it is a good indication because it shows he thinks about the well-being of others. Additionally, about your comment that “I can’t decide if it is still false or wrong if it makes Crusoe a more deliberate person in the second half of the book,” I think it would still be a false consciousness but not necessarily wrong as it helped him become a better person.

  2. Cj,

    I appreciate your post and agree with much of it. I felt much of the same while reading the book that Crusoe’s attachment to his religion was more the result of the horrible situation he was in. I too do not consider myself religious but I would say that I cannot blame him for his attachment to his faith during his time. It seemed to me that his time spent with Friday really helped himself answer some of his own questions about his religion. Despite the fact that when he first start he believed he was just himself helping Friday convert to his religion, his entire mood lifted and he noted his exitement in their interactions.

  3. I also agree that Crusoe turned to religion as a last resort. But maybe that doesn’t matter? After all, if you assume that Christianity is real and necessary for eternal redemption (as I think most people in 18th century England did), then the important thing is that he sincerely believed… regardless of how he came to it. After all, missionaries often pressured or threatened in order to get converts. Do you think that if an eternal soul is at stake, the ends justify the means?

    By the way, I’m definitely not saying I believe that… only that it could be an interesting perspective to consider.

  4. Pingback: RE: “False Consciousness in Robinson Crusoe” « History and Literature of Georgian England

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