Cataloging: Its A Way of Life

I realize that we are supposed to be focused on the role of food in Robinson Crusoe.  However, I was struck by the importance of lists, especially the importance of listing of specific items, as well as the weight and cost of the item.


For example, page 21 describes  “he brought a Leather Pouch which held about a Pound and half of Powder; or rather more; and another with Shot, that had five or six Pound”.  On page 20, there is mention of “three Fuzees with Powder and Shot” and then goes on to list, “a large Basket of Ruck or Brisket…three Jarrs with fresh Water…a great Lump of Bees-Wax…which weighed above half a Hundred Weight, with a Parcel of Twine or Thread, a Hatchet, a Saw and a Hammer”.


I feel like the author wouldn’t have added all this (what appears to me to be superfluous) information with out reason.  The reaction I had was that all the items listed were either food or survival gear.   And since most of the items listed are capitalized, so obviously, at least to me would be important.   My thoughts are these:  Crusoe coming from a middle class background places a lot of emphasis on things, and having worldly possessions.  Later when he is marooned on an island almost completely alone and having to do with out survival gear and sustenance makes the deprivation of these items even more relevant.  It’s as if Crusoe is saying, “I once had all these items, I even knew the exact number of items and later all of these items with be gone”.  Perhaps Defoe is doing a bit of foreshadowing?

Crusoe continues to place a emphasis on material goods, especially food though out the course of the novel, but there seems to be less of an emphasis on quantity or the good or the weight.  Which I feel is to show the lack goods, again going from a have to a have not.


2 thoughts on “Cataloging: Its A Way of Life

  1. I agree with everything you recognized to be superfluous and unnecessary but isn’t it interesting how we pick on that information being non-important? Why is it society has created and designed all cultures (considering this concept of lists and materialism) to be this way and revolve around it. You recognized that most of his lists were food or survival gear, aren’t those considered the same thing? This book is awesome considering it was written so long ago and the themes we recognize are the same things we do in society today.

  2. Great post! I noticed the “listing” too of the weight and cost of items. I think you’re right that it references Crusoe’s middle-class background in contrast with his marooning on the island. His father is probably another symbol of this too—his father instructs him not to go on the island, but he does anyway. His focus on material possessions and minimal survival instincts feels discomfort at this new situation. It also makes it all the more surprising for the reader to witness Crusoe’s transition away from his original lifestyle toward a lifestyle based on mere survival. I like this interpretation of the text!

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