Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe“I was now landed and safe on shore, and began to look up and thank God that my life was saved in a case wherein there was some minutes before scarce any room to hope…I walked about on the shore,…reflecting upon all my comrades that were drowned, and that there should not be one soul saved but myself.”
Daniel De Foe’s Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719, was among the first of a genre called realistic fiction. Since fiction writers were not respected at this time, De Foe presented his story in a way that would give it a sense of being a true account. De Foe calls himself the editor of the tale, which is stated to have been originally written by Crusoe himself, so the story is told in first person by Crusoe. He begins relating how, in the pursuit of adventure, he finds himself as the sole survivor after being shipwrecked on an island.
A few months after landing on the island, Crusoe admits, “I had hitherto acted upon no religious foundation at all; indeed, I had very few notions of religion in my head, nor had entertained any sense of anything that had befallen me otherwise than as chance, or, as we lightly say, what pleases God, without so much as inquiring into the end of Providence in these things, or His order in governing events for the world.” But he begins to be more aware of God’s care and provision for him. Then, after being on the island about 9 months , Crusoe picks up a Bible which he found in a chest, and by reading it is brought to repentance (see his journal entry for June 28). After this, he acknowledges the hand of God in preserving him and continually thanks God for his goodness and mercy to him. He goes back to observing the Sabbath Day again, and begins reading the Bible daily.
Through his labors and resourcefulness, Crusoe not only survives, but uses Nature and people to eventually establish a civilized colony. Here the British concept of Empire comes through. When Crusoe meets a “savage,” he names him Friday and establishes a slave/master relationship with him. In the attempt to civilize him, Crusoe teaches Friday his language and his religion. As he gradually takes dominion of the island, he views himself as the governor of it. After 28 years, he is finally found and leaves the island.
The lone-survival-on-an-island plot of Robinson Crusoe has been borrowed many times to create other books, movies, and TV shows such as Swiss Family Robinson, Gilligan’s Island, Castaway, Survivor, and LOST.
It is interesting to see how Crusoe uses his resources to make his life comfortable and productive. Some parts of the story move slowly, especially while he is alone, but it gets interesting again after he meets Friday. The reading style may be a bit challenging, but I do recommend Robinson Crusoe to those who enjoy reading adventure and especially survival stories. Be sure to read an unabridged version; apparently many abridged version leave out a lot of the references to God and the Bible.
Note: This title is included on my list of fictional works I think every Christian should read.
- Robinson Crusoe and Providence (thechristianmind.wordpress.com)
- Robinson Crusoe: A Film Very Dissimilar from the Novel (lifemeasuredwithcoffeespoons.wordpress.com)
- Her Man Friday – review of J. M. Coetzee’s novel Foe, in which a female castaway arrives on Crusoe’s island (www.nytimes.com)