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Why Did Crusoe Leave the Island?

     After reading the final few chapters of Robinson Crusoe, I could not help but wonder, “Why didn’t he remain on the island?”  The shift in Crusoe’s attitude towards his isolation on the island changes as his years there progress, and by the time the captive English ship arrives on the island, Crusoe views the island as his “castle” and cares for the land, shelters, and animals on the island.  Before then, Crusoe’s only complaint of his new life on the island was the lack of social relationships he had with others.  This absence is filled by Friday, whom Crusoe forms a dominating, but trusting and caring, relationship with.  Crusoe is familiar with the island, feels (for the majority of his years) safe there, and learns skills and about himself and his relationship with God.  He is also proud of the feeling that the island is his land that he rules over, and he learns to appreciate the island’s beauty. 

     When Crusoe arrives back in civilization, he is met with emotional distance to those he knew before his shipwreck and hardships, like snow and wild animals, that he did not have to face on the island. 

     His struggles and general lack of excitement about being back in society made me wonder if he was too changed from his experience on the island to be back in normal society.  After considering Crusoe’s transformation on the island, I do not think Crusoe was ill equipped to be back in society.  Instead, I think Crusoe only left the island because he had been dreaming of it for 28 years, and having been given the chance to return home, he took it before considering if his new life was actually the one he was meant to lead.  This ending suggested to me that it is human nature to follow our natural instincts before considering a change in one’s desires; Crusoe’s natural instincts being to escape the island that isolated him from society, when really the island changes from a prison to a fortress to Crusoe and ends up holding more meaning for him than his life in society. 

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2 thoughts on “Why Did Crusoe Leave the Island?

  1. Alison,
    I too have frequently wondered about Crusoe’s response when he returns to the mainland. I’m intrigued by your argument, “This ending suggested to me that it is human nature to follow our natural instincts before considering a change in one’s desires.” I realize that you are particularly focusing on the instinct versus desire with regard to the island, I wonder if we could use this binary as a lens for examining many aspects of Crusoe’s narrative.
    For instance, what about his relationship with the cannibals? He begins his experience with the cannibal (or at least the specter of cannibalism — quite literally with the hollow footprint) as a response of terror. This terror, one might argue, stems from an instinct of self preservation — quite literally, “don’t Eat me”. But his relationship with Friday becomes much more founded upon the desire quadrant of that binary very quickly. (As an aside, I recognize that Maslow and others would articulate that human companionship _is_ necessary to human survival, but… perhaps to a lesser degree than not being killed).
    Another instance I’m interested in is that of maintaining his domicile. His desires for a home clearly go beyond mere survival (it is ‘his kingdom’ after all). More than anything he wants a table — a mere roof isn’t sufficient. Furthermore, foodstuffs become increasingly nuanced until ultimately Crusoe goes so far as to figure out how to how to make earthenware so that he can bake bread.
    How do you conceive of his conception of desire in these manners on the island? Thoughts?

  2. I completely agree with your argument. I felt bad for Crusoe, it seems like no matter where he was, he was isolated. On the island, he craved the nuances of civilization, but once he returns to England he is distant and reserved. Although, Krystal brought up a good point. I never really noticed how Crusoe’s abode on the island expresses his desire to be civilized. I figured after he stopped mentioning rescue, he had resigned to his fate and his desire for rescue ebbed. But it seems upon more thought, his longing never really went away. It is shown in every aspect of his life on the island.

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