Robinson Crusoe book summary
Robinson Crusoe book summary, Daniel Defoe, plot overview
Robinson Crusoe book summary, writed by Daniel Defor. This book’s symbol and motif, character list’s in the subject. Dünya edebiyatının seçme eserlerinin ingilizce özetini sizlerle paylaşıyoruz.
Robinson Crusoe book summary (Daniel Defoe)
Robinson Crusoe is an Englishman from the town of York in the seventeenth century, the youngest son of a merchant of German origin. Encouraged by his father to study law, Crusoe expresses his wish to go to sea instead. His family is against Crusoe going out to sea, and his father explains that it is better to seek a modest, secure life for oneself. Initially, Robinson is committed to obeying his father, but he eventually succumbs to temptation and embarks on a ship bound for London with a friend. When a storm causes the near deaths of Crusoe and his friend, the friend is dissuaded from sea travel, but Crusoe still goes on to set himself up as merchant on a ship leaving London.
This trip is financially successful, and Crusoe plans another, leaving his early profits in the care of a friendly widow. The second voyage does not prove as fortunate: the ship is seized by Moorish pirates, and Crusoe is enslaved to a potentate in the North African town of Sallee. While on a fishing expedition, he and a slave boy break free and sail down the African coast. A kindly Portuguese captain picks them up, buys the slave boy from Crusoe, and takes Crusoe to Brazil. In Brazil, Crusoe establishes himself as a plantation owner and soon becomes successful. Eager for slave labor and its economic advantages, he embarks on a slave-gathering expedition to West Africa but ends up shipwrecked off of the coast of Trinidad.
Crusoe soon learns he is the sole survivor of the expedition and seeks shelter and food for himself. He returns to the wreck’s remains twelve times to salvage guns, powder, food, and other items. Onshore, he finds goats he can graze for meat and builds himself a shelter. He erects a cross that he inscribes with the date of his arrival, September 1, 1659, and makes a notch every day in order never to lose track of time.
He also keeps a journal of his household activities, noting his attempts to make candles, his lucky discovery of sprouting grain, and his construction of a cellar, among other events. In June 1660, he falls ill and hallucinates that an angel visits, warning him to repent. Drinking tobacco-steeped rum, Crusoe experiences a religious illumination and realizes that God has delivered him from his earlier sins.
After recovering, Crusoe makes a survey of the area and discovers he is on an island. He finds a pleasant valley abounding in grapes, where he builds a shady retreat. Crusoe begins to feel more optimistic about being on the island, describing himself as its “king.” He trains a pet parrot, takes a goat as a pet, and develops skills in basket weaving, bread making, and pottery. He cuts down an enormous cedar tree and builds a huge canoe from its trunk, but he discovers that he cannot move it to the sea. After building a smaller boat, he rows around the island but nearly perishes when swept away by a powerful current. Reaching shore, he hears his parrot calling his name and is thankful for being saved once again. He spends several years in peace.
One day Crusoe is shocked to discover a man’s footprint on the beach. He first assumes the footprint is the devil’s, then decides it must belong to one of the cannibals said to live in the region. Terrified, he arms himself and remains on the lookout for cannibals. He also builds an underground cellar in which to herd his goats at night and devises a way to cook underground. One evening he hears gunshots, and the next day he is able to see a ship wrecked on his coast. It is empty when he arrives on the scene to investigate.
Crusoe once again thanks Providence for having been saved. Soon afterward, Crusoe discovers that the shore has been strewn with human carnage, apparently the remains of a cannibal feast. He is alarmed and continues to be vigilant. Later Crusoe catches sight of thirty cannibals heading for shore with their victims. One of the victims is killed. Another one, waiting to be slaughtered, suddenly breaks free and runs toward Crusoe’s dwelling. Crusoe protects him, killing one of the pursuers and injuring the other, whom the victim finally kills. Well-armed, Crusoe defeats most of the cannibals onshore. The victim vows total submission to Crusoe in gratitude for his liberation. Crusoe names him Friday, to commemorate the day on which his life was saved, and takes him as his servant.
Finding Friday cheerful and intelligent, Crusoe teaches him some English words and some elementary Christian concepts. Friday, in turn, explains that the cannibals are divided into distinct nations and that they only eat their enemies. Friday also informs Crusoe that the cannibals saved the men from the shipwreck Crusoe witnessed earlier, and that those men, Spaniards, are living nearby. Friday expresses a longing to return to his people, and Crusoe is upset at the prospect of losing Friday. Crusoe then entertains the idea of making contact with the Spaniards, and Friday admits that he would rather die than lose Crusoe.
The two build a boat to visit the cannibals’ land together. Before they have a chance to leave, they are surprised by the arrival of twenty-one cannibals in canoes. The cannibals are holding three victims, one of whom is in European dress. Friday and Crusoe kill most of the cannibals and release the European, a Spaniard. Friday is overjoyed to discover that another of the rescued victims is his father. The four men return to Crusoe’s dwelling for food and rest. Crusoe prepares to welcome them into his community permanently. He sends Friday’s father and the Spaniard out in a canoe to explore the nearby land.
Eight days later, the sight of an approaching English ship alarms Friday. Crusoe is suspicious. Friday and Crusoe watch as eleven men take three captives onshore in a boat. Nine of the men explore the land, leaving two to guard the captives. Friday and Crusoe overpower these men and release the captives, one of whom is the captain of the ship, which has been taken in a mutiny. Shouting to the remaining mutineers from different points, Friday and Crusoe confuse and tire the men by making them run from place to place. Eventually they confront the mutineers, telling them that all may escape with their lives except the ringleader. The men surrender. Crusoe and the captain pretend that the island is an imperial territory and that the governor has spared their lives in order to send them all to England to face justice. Keeping five men as hostages, Crusoe sends the other men out to seize the ship. When the ship is brought in, Crusoe nearly faints.
On December 19, 1686, Crusoe boards the ship to return to England. There, he finds his family is deceased except for two sisters. His widow friend has kept Crusoe’s money safe, and after traveling to Lisbon, Crusoe learns from the Portuguese captain that his plantations in Brazil have been highly profitable. He arranges to sell his Brazilian lands. Wary of sea travel, Crusoe attempts to return to England by land but is threatened by bad weather and wild animals in northern Spain. Finally arriving back in England, Crusoe receives word that the sale of his plantations has been completed and that he has made a considerable fortune. After donating a portion to the widow and his sisters, Crusoe is restless and considers returning to Brazil, but he is dissuaded by the thought that he would have to become Catholic. He marries, and his wife dies. Crusoe finally departs for the East Indies as a trader in 1694. He revisits his island, finding that the Spaniards are governing it well and that it has become a prosperous colony.
Robinson Crusoe – The novel’s protagonist and narrator. Crusoe begins the novel as a young middle-class man in York in search of a career. He father recommends the law, but Crusoe yearns for a life at sea, and his subsequent rebellion and decision to become a merchant is the starting point for the whole adventure that follows. His vague but recurring feelings of guilt over his disobedience color the first part of the first half of the story and show us how deep Crusoe’s religious fear is. Crusoe is steady and plodding in everything he does, and his perseverance ensures his survival through storms, enslavement, and a twenty-eight-year isolation on a desert island.
Friday – A twenty-six-year-old Caribbean native and cannibal who converts to Protestantism under Crusoe’s tutelage. Friday becomes Crusoe’s servant after Crusoe saves his life when Friday is about to be eaten by other cannibals. Friday never appears to resist or resent his new servitude, and he may sincerely view it as appropriate compensation for having his life saved. But whatever Friday’s response may be, his servitude has become a symbol of imperialist oppression throughout the modern world. Friday’s overall charisma works against the emotional deadness that many readers find in Crusoe.
The Portuguese captain – The sea captain who picks up Crusoe and the slave boy Xury from their boat after they escape from their Moorish captors and float down the African coast. The Portuguese captain takes Crusoe to Brazil and thus inaugurates Crusoe’s new life as plantation owner. The Portuguese captain is never named—unlike Xury, for example—and his anonymity suggests a certain uninteresting blandness in his role in the novel. He is polite, personable, and extremely generous to Crusoe, buying the animal skins and the slave boy from Crusoe at well over market value. He is loyal as well, taking care of Crusoe’s Brazilian investments even after a twenty-eight-year absence. His role in Crusoe’s life is crucial, since he both arranges for Crusoe’s new career as a plantation owner and helps Crusoe cash in on the profits later.
The Spaniard – One of the men from the Spanish ship that is wrecked off Crusoe’s island, and whose crew is rescued by the cannibals and taken to a neighboring island. The Spaniard is doomed to be eaten as a ritual victim of the cannibals when Crusoe saves him. In exchange, he becomes a new “subject” in Crusoe’s “kingdom,” at least according to Crusoe. The Spaniard is never fleshed out much as a character in Crusoe’s narrative, an example of the odd impersonal attitude often notable in Crusoe.
Xury – A nonwhite (Arab or black) slave boy only briefly introduced during the period of Crusoe’s enslavement in Sallee. When Crusoe escapes with two other slaves in a boat, he forces one to swim to shore but keeps Xury on board, showing a certain trust toward the boy. Xury never betrays that trust. Nevertheless, when the Portuguese captain eventually picks them up, Crusoe sells Xury to the captain. Xury’s sale shows us the racist double standards sometimes apparent in Crusoe’s behavior.
The widow – Appearing briefly, but on two separate occasions in the novel, the widow keeps Crusoe’s 200 pounds safe in England throughout all his thirty-five years of journeying. She returns it loyally to Crusoe upon his return to England and, like the Portuguese captain and Friday, reminds us of the goodwill and trustworthiness of which humans can be capable, whether European or not.
Themes, Motifs & Symbols
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
THE AMBIVALENCE OF MASTERY
Crusoe’s success in mastering his situation, overcoming his obstacles, and controlling his environment shows the condition of mastery in a positive light, at least at the beginning of the novel. Crusoe lands in an inhospitable environment and makes it his home. His taming and domestication of wild goats and parrots with Crusoe as their master illustrates his newfound control. Moreover, Crusoe’s mastery over nature makes him a master of his fate and of himself. Early in the novel, he frequently blames himself for disobeying his father’s advice or blames the destiny that drove him to sea. But in the later part of the novel, Crusoe stops viewing himself as a passive victim and strikes a new note of self-determination. In building a home for himself on the island, he finds that he is master of his life—he suffers a hard fate and still finds prosperity.
But this theme of mastery becomes more complex and less positive after Friday’s arrival, when the idea of mastery comes to apply more to unfair relationships between humans. In Chapter XXIII, Crusoe teaches Friday the word “[m]aster” even before teaching him “yes” and “no,” and indeed he lets him “know that was to be [Crusoe’s] name.” Crusoe never entertains the idea of considering Friday a friend or equal—for some reason, superiority comes instinctively to him. We further question Crusoe’s right to be called “[m]aster” when he later refers to himself as “king” over the natives and Europeans, who are his “subjects.” In short, while Crusoe seems praiseworthy in mastering his fate, the praiseworthiness of his mastery over his fellow humans is more doubtful. Defoe explores the link between the two in his depiction of the colonial mind.
THE NECESSITY OF REPENTANCE
Crusoe’s experiences constitute not simply an adventure story in which thrilling things happen, but also a moral tale illustrating the right and wrong ways to live one’s life. This moral and religious dimension of the tale is indicated in the Preface, which states that Crusoe’s story is being published to instruct others in God’s wisdom, and one vital part of this wisdom is the importance of repenting one’s sins. While it is important to be grateful for God’s miracles, as Crusoe is when his grain sprouts, it is not enough simply to express gratitude or even to pray to God, as Crusoe does several times with few results. Crusoe needs repentance most, as he learns from the fiery angelic figure that comes to him during a feverish hallucination and says, “Seeing all these things have not brought thee to repentance, now thou shalt die.” Crusoe believes that his major sin is his rebellious behavior toward his father, which he refers to as his “original sin,” akin to Adam and Eve’s first disobedience of God. This biblical reference also suggests that Crusoe’s exile from civilization represents Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden.
For Crusoe, repentance consists of acknowledging his wretchedness and his absolute dependence on the Lord. This admission marks a turning point in Crusoe’s spiritual consciousness, and is almost a born-again experience for him. After repentance, he complains much less about his sad fate and views the island more positively. Later, when Crusoe is rescued and his fortune restored, he compares himself to Job, who also regained divine favor. Ironically, this view of the necessity of repentance ends up justifying sin: Crusoe may never have learned to repent if he had never sinfully disobeyed his father in the first place. Thus, as powerful as the theme of repentance is in the novel, it is nevertheless complex and ambiguous.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-AWARENESS
Crusoe’s arrival on the island does not make him revert to a brute existence controlled by animal instincts, and, unlike animals, he remains conscious of himself at all times. Indeed, his island existence actually deepens his self-awareness as he withdraws from the external social world and turns inward. The idea that the individual must keep a careful reckoning of the state of his own soul is a key point in the Presbyterian doctrine that Defoe took seriously all his life. We see that in his normal day-to-day activities, Crusoe keeps accounts of himself enthusiastically and in various ways. For example, it is significant that Crusoe’s makeshift calendar does not simply mark the passing of days, but instead more egocentrically marks the days he has spent on the island: it is about him, a sort of self-conscious or autobiographical calendar with him at its center.
Similarly, Crusoe obsessively keeps a journal to record his daily activities, even when they amount to nothing more than finding a few pieces of wood on the beach or waiting inside while it rains. Crusoe feels the importance of staying aware of his situation at all times. We can also sense Crusoe’s impulse toward self-awareness in the fact that he teaches his parrot to say the words, “Poor Robin Crusoe. . . . Where have you been?” This sort of self-examining thought is natural for anyone alone on a desert island, but it is given a strange intensity when we recall that Crusoe has spent months teaching the bird to say it back to him. Crusoe teaches nature itself to voice his own self-awareness.
Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
COUNTING AND MEASURING
Crusoe is a careful note-taker whenever numbers and quantities are involved. He does not simply tell us that his hedge encloses a large space, but informs us with a surveyor’s precision that the space is “150 yards in length, and 100 yards in breadth.” He tells us not simply that he spends a long time making his canoe in Chapter XVI, but that it takes precisely twenty days to fell the tree and fourteen to remove the branches. It is not just an immense tree, but is “five foot ten inches in diameter at the lower part . . . and four foot eleven inches diameter at the end of twenty-two foot.” Furthermore, time is measured with similar exactitude, as Crusoe’s journal shows.
We may often wonder why Crusoe feels it useful to record that it did not rain on December 26, but for him the necessity of counting out each day is never questioned. All these examples of counting and measuring underscore Crusoe’s practical, businesslike character and his hands-on approach to life. But Defoe sometimes hints at the futility of Crusoe’s measuring—as when the carefully measured canoe cannot reach water or when his obsessively kept calendar is thrown off by a day of oversleeping. Defoe may be subtly poking fun at the urge to quantify, showing us that, in the end, everything Crusoe counts never really adds up to much and does not save him from isolation.
One of Crusoe’s first concerns after his shipwreck is his food supply. Even while he is still wet from the sea in Chapter V, he frets about not having “anything to eat or drink to comfort me.” He soon provides himself with food, and indeed each new edible item marks a new stage in his mastery of the island, so that his food supply becomes a symbol of his survival. His securing of goat meat staves off immediate starvation, and his discovery of grain is viewed as a miracle, like manna from heaven. His cultivation of raisins, almost a luxury food for Crusoe, marks a new comfortable period in his island existence. In a way, these images of eating convey Crusoe’s ability to integrate the island into his life, just as food is integrated into the body to let the organism grow and prosper. But no sooner does Crusoe master the art of eating than he begins to fear being eaten himself. The cannibals transform Crusoe from the consumer into a potential object to be consumed. Life for Crusoe always illustrates this eat or be eaten philosophy, since even back in Europe he is threatened by man-eating wolves. Eating is an image of existence itself, just as being eaten signifies death for Crusoe.
ORDEALS AT SEA
Crusoe’s encounters with water in the novel are often associated not simply with hardship, but with a kind of symbolic ordeal, or test of character. First, the storm off the coast of Yarmouth frightens Crusoe’s friend away from a life at sea, but does not deter Crusoe. Then, in his first trading voyage, he proves himself a capable merchant, and in his second one, he shows he is able to survive enslavement.
His escape from his Moorish master and his successful encounter with the Africans both occur at sea. Most significantly, Crusoe survives his shipwreck after a lengthy immersion in water. But the sea remains a source of danger and fear even later, when the cannibals arrive in canoes. The Spanish shipwreck reminds Crusoe of the destructive power of water and of his own good fortune in surviving it. All the life-testing water imagery in the novel has subtle associations with the rite of baptism, by which Christians prove their faith and enter a new life saved by Christ.
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
Crusoe’s shocking discovery of a single footprint on the sand in Chapter XVIII is one of the most famous moments in the novel, and it symbolizes our hero’s conflicted feelings about human companionship. Crusoe has earlier confessed how much he misses companionship, yet the evidence of a man on his island sends him into a panic. Immediately he interprets the footprint negatively, as the print of the devil or of an aggressor. He never for a moment entertains hope that it could belong to an angel or another European who could rescue or befriend him. This instinctively negative and fearful attitude toward others makes us consider the possibility that Crusoe may not want to return to human society after all, and that the isolation he is experiencing may actually be his ideal state.
Concerned that he will “lose [his] reckoning of time” in Chapter VII, Crusoe marks the passing of days “with [his] knife upon a large post, in capital letters, and making it into a great cross . . . set[s] it up on the shore where [he] first landed. . . .” The large size and capital letters show us how important this cross is to Crusoe as a timekeeping device and thus also as a way of relating himself to the larger social world where dates and calendars still matter. But the cross is also a symbol of his own new existence on the island, just as the Christian cross is a symbol of the Christian’s new life in Christ after baptism, an immersion in water like Crusoe’s shipwreck experience. Yet Crusoe’s large cross seems somewhat blasphemous in making no reference to Christ. Instead, it is a memorial to Crusoe himself, underscoring how completely he has become the center of his own life.
On a scouting tour around the island, Crusoe discovers a delightful valley in which he decides to build a country retreat or “bower” in Chapter XII. This bower contrasts sharply with Crusoe’s first residence, since it is built not for the practical purpose of shelter or storage, but simply for pleasure: “because I was so enamoured of the place.” Crusoe is no longer focused solely on survival, which by this point in the novel is more or less secure. Now, for the first time since his arrival, he thinks in terms of “pleasantness.” Thus, the bower symbolizes a radical improvement in Crusoe’s attitude toward his time on the island. Island life is no longer necessarily a disaster to suffer through, but may be an opportunity for enjoyment—just as, for the Presbyterian, life may be enjoyed only after hard work has been finished and repentance achieved.