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BOOK SUMMARY

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Publisher:
Simon and Schuster
Number of pages:
368

Summary:

The famous story of Robinson Crusoe can be divided into three parts: Robinsonís youth and the time up to his shipwreck; his twenty-eight years on an uninhabited island; his lie and adventures after being rescued from the island. Published in 1719, Defoe places his story in the 17th century in England, north Africa, Brazil, an island off the coast of Venezuela and back to Europe.

The first part of the novel relates that, against the advice of his father, Robinson wishes to pursue his livelihood by going to sea. He does so and after a false start has some success but a third voyage ends in slavery. He eventually escapes and is helped to Brazil where he becomes a successful plantation owner. He embarks on a slave gathering expedition to West Africa but is shipwrecked off the coast of Venezuela in a terrible storm.

The bulk of the novel attends to Robinsonís life on the island óhow he accomplishes his survival and even establishes his "kingdom"; how he moves from a frantic state of discontent to one of resignation and contentment; how he meets Friday and, finally, how he leaves the island.

Though anticlimactic, the third part of the novel traces Robinsonís securing of wealth through the honesty and loyalty of friends, his return to England, travels through the continent and a last trip to his island to see how those he left there fared.

Strong points:

  • For Junior High School students this is an appropriate introduction to adult literature. While the details of surviving on an uninhabited island would appeal to any youngster, an attentive reading of this novel might bring a young reader into contact with topics like religion, economics, politics on a more mature level.
  • With an obvious understanding of human nature on a natural level, Defoe fabricates a story which is catholic with a small "c"; many opportunities are presented for discussions about what constitutes "literature."
  • Robinson is a fine example of industry, perseverance, common sense, hopefulness and gratitude. He spends every anniversary of his shipwreck in prayer and fasting.
  • While Robinson decides against settling in Brazil because he would have to become Catholic, the Spanish and Portuguese are portrayed very favorably.
  • Since the novel spans the 17th century and Defoe was aware of the political, religious and cultural currents of his day, there are ample opportunities to integrate the subjects of religion, history, geography, religion óeven math and science.
  • The students will see for themselves how countless and minute details make the story seem true and thus become aware of one of the methods of false propaganda.
  • The transformation of Robinsonís attitude from bitterness at his situation on the island to one of peaceful resignation stems from his insight that God allowed this misfortune to protect him from further sin.

Cautions:

  • Robinson is a Protestant and chooses to remain a Protestant; his theology is Protestant.
  • Protestant versions of history in regard to the harsh treatment of the Indians and the Inquisition are put forward.

Conclusion:

This book could be used for many years and still engage the interest of the teacher. The students will enjoy a story, which has stood the test of time and we can all be reminded that when the need arises, God will give us the courage, stamina and ingenuity demanded.

"Robinson is still an experimenting boy. No one can reach to manís estate without his own shipwreck. On the outer edge of self óreliance is the first discovery of fear that proves how everything depends on God and fellow men.

How self-reliant Robinson turns out to be is an obvious marvel of the book giving us a hope that we could be like that ómechanical, inventive, all alone against the naked world of things. Then sickness comes and helplessness ónot quite love (the giving up of self) but loveís most famous footprint." (Dr. John Senior)