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Castaway to Governor

I find the transition that has taken place for Crusoe throughout the novel so interesting. He has shifted from an aimless young boy who was “not bred to any trade” (2), to a poor castaway, to a successful habitant of an island that he has made livable. It seems as if he really finds his niche. Eventually, he has even started his own army! It is as if he runs the entire island like a ruler. Obviously, there are religious undertones to the novel, but I found myself (in the first half of the novel, before Friday) comparing the story to the story of Noah’s arc from the Bible. Not really the storyline specifically, but the imagery and symbols. There are continuous natural disasters with water, a man alone and finding solace with God, and the sense that Crusoe and God are the only beings in this micro-reality. I actually noticed this before I came across the allusion to Adam and Eve in Chapter XXII when speaking of his own disobedience. I found Crusoe’s reaction to the appearance of Friday so contradictory to his initial fear of human contact. He vacillates between desiring human contact (to the point where he teaches his parrot how to say his name in hopes of a social connection), to fearing a single footprint in the sand (he lives in fear of something he wanted so badly), to creating a fulfilling, subservient relationship with Friday. He recognizes this irony himself:  “How strange a checker-worker of Providence is the life of man! Today we love what tomorrow we hate!” This apparent contradiction speaks to the changes that Crusoe has undergone during his life on the island and his progression towards inhumaneness from his constant solitude. I also found the racial dynamics in the novel a bit contradictory; I wasn’t sure if Defoe was affirming or subverting the race relations in his time period. Friday is not white and immediately subservient to Crusoe; this speaks to the inequalities between whites and non-whites in this time period. But, the close and loyal relationship between the two men somewhat subverted these racial norms as well. I found this very interesting. Overall, Crusoe’s return home is very unsatisfying. He is still isolated—we don’t even know his wife’s name, his wife passes away, and does not seem as happy as he was on the island. 

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2 thoughts on “Castaway to Governor

  1. I also find it extremely interesting how Crusoe has progressed from a state of destitution to a state of eminence, how he pretty much built a civilized and cultured society from scratch. Relating this to Levi-Strauss’ culinary triangle, I find it interesting that Crusoe’s methods of cooking shift from more natural to more cultural. Where Crusoe once had to cook meat over an open flame in the beginning, he later was able to boil it, which is cultural according to Levi-Strauss because it requires utensils. The roasting of the baby goat to feed his growing host of guests is also cultural according to Levi-Strauss. He claims that boiling is intended for small groups such as family, while roasting is intended for large groups of guests. What does this shift from nature to culture suggest?

  2. Very well said about how Defoe both affirms and subverts race relations. Personally, I don’t see it as contradictory though. I think that Friday’s immediate submission to Crusoe represents the way the world was; a recognition of the social dynamics at play. Friday knows that this is how he is expected to act, and he has learned to be subservient to someone who demonstrates clear superiority.
    The amicable relationship developed between the two then demonstrates that both are human, regardless of the social positions of their race. This relationship shows that both are capable of connecting deeply on a basic emotional level.

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