Daniel Defoe’s most famous novel — Robinson Crusoe — makes for delightful reading, even after two centuries of its publication in 1719. The author was a whig supporter, a champion of freedom, free speech and a firm believer in reason and Christianity.

The story

The novel — with two rather unknown sequels — is about the life of a young English boy who rebels against his parents, boards a ship to make a fortune for himself, is ship-wrecked on a remote island, and comes to repent of his actions, becoming a firm believer in God and Christ.

Living alone, hunting, food gathering and cultivating his own crops, he battles natural and human enemies to survive. Clashing with savage man-eaters, he saves one of the victims and employs him in his service. Finally, in the company of several such ‘conquered’ subjects, he declares himself the ‘king’ of the island to ensure his full control over it.

The final action sees Crusoe traveling through France and fighting with wolves. He comes back to his country, gets married, only to take to seafaring again after his wife’s demise. This time he visits China. Crusoe wrote a third sequel to the story where Crusoe, grown old, settles down to write his reflections on his life and the experiences he lived through.

What the work means

The author throughout the novel brings home his firm belief that running away from home was a foolish act of a young mind, and was rightly punished when Crusoe, the runaway, is marooned on the remote island. He is portrayed as a sinner, made to repent, re-discover Christianity and Christ, and put under a pledge to live a virtuous life. There is, therefore, a moral to the story, as in Defoe’s other work — Moll Flanders. Yet, in both the stories, he seems to play around with the idea that it is somehow human nature that holds superiority. Hence it was in Crusoe’s blood that made him destined to live an adventurer’s life, and so it is that Moll Flanders somewhat relished her previous life of crime and prostitution, though she gave it all up and became a penitent.

The novel was described by Defoe to be a symbolic representation of his own personal struggle in life. Many of his business initiatives had failed until he turned to writing as a profession.

His Style

Defoe is an excellent writer. He writes with a deep understanding of the issues and factors involved in complex situations that arise. He makes the reader think, gives food for thought, and reading his works is a way of educating oneself in the ways of the world, and how to go about living a life based on reason and common sense. The novel runs smoothly from page to page, and the writer is an expert in keeping the flow of language uninterrupted. His novels also teach us how to write well with passion and understanding of the subject matter.


Dec 29, 2006