Robinson Crusoe

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Robinson Crusoe Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Around December, Robinson's usual harvest time, he noticed a fire one day about two miles away from him on the shore. Frightened, Robinson retreated into his "castle" and prepared to defend himself if necessary. After waiting for a few hours, he climbed to the top of a nearby hill and looked out using a perspective glass from his old ship. He saw nine "naked savages" sitting around a fire.
Robinson again responds to seeing other people on his island by retreating to his isolated, protected "castle."
Themes
Society, Individuality, and Isolation Theme Icon
As soon as the savages left, Robinson walked to where he had first seen the skulls and human bones so long before. There, he saw evidence that even more savages had been there and left behind all sorts of human remains from their cannibalistic feast. Disgusted, Robinson felt resolved to kill the next savage he saw on his island.
Despite his earlier reasoning to let the "savages" live as they are accustomed, Robinson's direct encounter with the evidence of their cannibalism disgusts him so much that he again plans to attack them.
Themes
Strangers, Savages, and the Unknown Theme Icon
After this, Robinson was continually worried that he would fall into the hands of savages at some point. He was thankful that he had a tame herd of goats and so did not need to hunt, because the noise of his gun would alert others to his presence.
Robinson now to some degree returns to his prior state of anxiety and fear of encountering the "savages." At the same time, he is comforted by the work he has done to make the island habitable and tame, as that work now protects him.
Themes
Strangers, Savages, and the Unknown Theme Icon
Robinson continued to be anxious and "slept unquiet." On the night of May 16, there was a strong storm and Robinson heard the noise of a gun. He went to the top of the hill by his dwelling and heard another gunshot. Figuring that this was a ship in distress in the storm, Robinson started a huge fire on top of the hill to catch the attention of the ship.
The ship is the first possibility of other Europeans coming to Robinson's island. Unlike when he first saw the "savages," he immediately tries to get the attention of the ship. Note, though, that his effort is not to get rescued from the island—he is content on the island—but rather to try to help the ship. Robinson has become the helper, now.
Themes
Society, Individuality, and Isolation Theme Icon
Strangers, Savages, and the Unknown Theme Icon
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The next day, Robinson saw a ship out on the ocean not moving. He went to the shore and saw that the ship was wrecked upon some rocks. He wondered if the sailors of the ship had tried to get to shore, or if they had been rescued by another ship, or if they had all drowned. These guesses made him thank God again for his situation.
The more things Robinson sees and experiences, the more reasons he finds to be thankful to God when he looks back at what has happened to him.
Themes
Christianity and Divine Providence Theme Icon
Advice, Mistakes, and Hindsight Theme Icon
Seeing the wrecked ship made Robinson wish deeply that one or two sailors had made it to shore, so that he could have had a companion on his island, "one fellow-creature to have spoken to me," as he put it. In all his time on the island, he had never before felt such a longing for human company.
Although Robinson has been content with his life on the island, the appearance of the wrecked ship brings to the surface his feelings of loneliness and desire for human company.
Themes
Society, Individuality, and Isolation Theme Icon
Contentment vs. Desire and Ambition Theme Icon