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Crusoe

I found the beginning of Robinson Crusoe very interesting so far; it definitely speaks to our talk so far in class about food in the 18th century and how it can be important in different ways for various cultures and situations. The narrative describes food as a survival as well as a comfort tool: Crusoe is the assigned fisherman for the ship; Crusoe skins lions and leopards for food; he kills wild goats to stay alive despite the fact that it “grieve[s] [him] heartily,” (63); and creatively manufactures candles from goat grease. In Chapter V, Crusoe worried about not having “anything to eat or drink to comfort [him],” showing a reliance on food. He seems to attach food to survival—“reducing [him]self to one biscuit cake a day” “ma[kes] [his] heart very heavy” (87). His animal instincts become more adept and mechanical as his journey continues; he eventually can even make his own bread out of barley and makes raisins out of grapes. He even ponders this island as the savage coast between the Spanish country and Brazils, “where are found the worst of savages; for they are cannibals or men-eaters, and fail not to murder and devour all the human bodies that fall into their hands” (115), possibly foreshadowing events later in the novel, I noticed a transition throughout this first portion of the novel—in the beginning, Crusoe seemed civilized and reliant on food for both comfort and survival, but near the end of the section, he seems to revert to savagery and his animal instincts through things like killing a goat and its child for nourishment, and selling Xury as a slave. He worries that he too will get consumed—he “durst not sleep for fear of being devoured” (71). The fact that he befriends and admires Xury in the beginning of the narrative, but then sells him as a slave to the Portuguese captain really struck me! It shows what being stripped of all but survival instincts can do to a person’s humanity.  All of the natural disasters that shake up Crusoe’s journey remind me of the “sublime” that we spoke of in class. Reading about the various storms, the earthquake, and the hurricane from the safety of my home had me think about my own mortality—what would it be like to experience these natural disasters and survive? Crusoe seems to have an interesting experience too—he has “never felt the like, nor discoursed with any one that had, that [he] was like one dead or stupefied” (83). This sounds like a sublime experience to me!

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One thought on “Crusoe

  1. am finding it interesting that last week we had a discourse on how food is or isn’t art and this week it’s more of the concept of food on the most basic level, as sustenance. Robinson Crusoe really seems focused on the most basic of human needs and how the lack of those needs being met changes or challenges our humanity. And the concept of having food makes one civilized but the lack of it, the need to find it to survive turns one into the uncivilized. As you say being stripped down to just your survival instincts completely changes your humanity. I found myself wondering if Crusoe was put in the opposite situation, where he is fat and happy, not having to rely on survival instincts if he would have still sold Xury. Or since Xury is not a civilized person in the traditional sense, he is more of the “other”, the uncivil savage because he is not a Christian, if it would have mattered.

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