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Defoe and the Evolution of the Novel

I believe Mrs McMillen stated that this was one of the first novels and as a result it must have obviously been extremely influential to writers henceforth. One thing that hasn’t been discussed too much in class is certain aspects of this novel and its relation to all subsequent novels thereafter. I think one aspect of this novel that was more odd when compared to most novels written was the length of time that passed in the story. When Crusoe came back to England a whole 35 years have passed since then. This is an extremely long amount of time and almost two long in my mind. I think there is a reason that this length of time is not more common in novels due to the fact that it becomes just too long to really describe anything in great detail. I see novels now more focus on an intense two or three year period typically. One thing Defoe can certainly be credited with being one of the forefront novelists who crafted their stories in likeness to there presumed readership. In many ways, Defoe creates Crusoe in likeness to his English readership. Ideas such as a lust for adventure, an presumed inherent superiority to other individuals, class struggles, colonization, slavery, religious conversion, wars, and even the role of god in every day life and the struggles to maintain faith. Of course a happy ending is also something most all novels tend to end in. While this type of ending was expected, it just seemed to come about so quickly. The self reflective nature of the novel is something that I found to be one of the reasons I liked the novel and wish that type of writing was used more often. Whether you liked or disliked the novel, it is impossible to ignore the impact it had in literature.

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2 thoughts on “Defoe and the Evolution of the Novel

  1. I also really liked the way this novel was written. Even though it was meant to span a great number of years, I think the way in which it was written (without breaks), gives it the continuety that keeps the readers interest. I also found that the lack of structured breaks, made it alot easier to read further than you realized. I think as far as the story itself, it would be interesting to sit down and draw the parallels to other stories; such as those in the bible. I really believe that a great deal of this novel was just a more current version of stories from the bible being brought into Defoe’s current time to capture the audience. In reading this novel, alot of the things that he did, or that happened seemed oddly reminiscent of stories I had already read in the bible.

    • Bridget, I’m fascinated that the novel’s structure urged you to read on! The lack of chapter breaks proves such a challenge in “teaching” the novel (trying to break it up, accounting for the plot while also trying to consider reasonable expectations for reading, etc) that I almost cut the novel from the syllabus this semester.
      Glad to know that it doesn’t bother the reading process!

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