Robinson Crusoe

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Robinson Crusoe published in 2003.
Preface Quotes

The story is told with modesty, with seriousness, and with a religious application of events to the uses to which wise men always apply them (viz.) to the instruction of others by this example, and to justify and honor the wisdom of Providence in all the variety of our circumstances, let them happen how they will.

Related Characters: Editor (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

It was common for 18th-century novels in Britain to begin with a preface claiming that they were entirely true stories - often a manuscript abandoned and then found, or else a story written by or told to an editor who then presents it to the reader. Here, the anonymous editor seems to insist on the story's veracity (its claim to being true) in the interest of making the various morals more likely to be understood and followed by the book's readers. 

In particular, the editor draws out one major lesson from the book that follows: the workings of divine Providence. We will see the main character of the book struggle himself with such questions of fate, coincidence, and divine will, and as readers we are meant to plunge into the book already thinking about what we might learn from Robinson Crusoe. This is, obviously, an idea of what literature can do that has little to do with entertainment or even worldly knowledge: instead, the notion is that novels should provide a moral grounding.


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Chapter 1 Quotes

My father, who was very ancient, had given me a competent share of learning, as far as house-education and a country free school generally go, and designed me for the law; but I would be satisfied with nothing but going to sea; and my inclination to this led me so strongly against the will, nay, the commands of my father, and against all the entreaties and persuasions of my mother and other friends, that there seemed to be something fatal in that propensity of nature, tending directly to the life of misery which was to befall me.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker), Crusoe's Parents
Related Symbols: The Sea
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson Crusoe is narrating the story of his own life with the privileged view of hindsight. In this passage, as throughout the book, he compares his past self to what he knows now, and laments how ignorant and naïve he once was. With the benefit of having lived long enough, he only now recognizes that his great hunger for life on the sea, for experiences more exciting and stimulating than those involved in the law, was almost certain to lead to his "misery." 

However, at the same time, Robinson seems to acknowledge that there was little he could have done about this fatal flaw. His desire to go to sea, like his refusal to content himself with what he already saw and had, is in his very nature. Even his father's commands, of course, could do nothing to prevent him, and so even as he expresses regret for the decisions of his stubborn younger self, he accepts that he probably couldn't have done anything differently. Later in the book, this sense of inevitability will come to make sense to Robinson through the frame of divine Providence. Here, however, he still seems to be puzzling out what it means for his life to have seemed so inevitable.

He asked me what reasons, more than a mere wandering inclination, I had for leaving father's house and my native country, where I might be well introduced, and had a prospect of raising my fortune by application and industry, with a life of ease and pleasure. He told me... that mine was the middle state, or what might be called the upper station of low life, which he had found, by long experience, was the best state in the world, the most suited to human happiness, not exposed to the miseries and hardships, the labour and sufferings of the mechanic part of mankind, and not embarrassed with the pride, luxury, ambition, and envy of the upper part of mankind.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker), Crusoe's Parents
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson's father finds it difficult to understand why Robinson should want to leave everything he has - everything his father has worked so hard to achieve for his family - and seek a life of uncertain adventure on the sea. This novel was published around the time of the expansion of capitalism, when what we now call the "middle class" was exploding in England: a group of people lacking the luxuries of the royal family or of nobles but also living much more comfortable lives than the peasants of centuries past. The uncertain definition of this group is evident in the way Robinson's father talks about his station, using various terms like the "middle state" or "upper station of low life."

Middle-class stability is a relatively new good at this moment, and to Robinson's father it is something to be content with, something to embrace, rather than something to run away from. Robinson pays little heed to his father's house. Only with the passage of time will the advantages of his father's position grow clear to him; nonetheless, even at this point in the book, Robinson's desire to run away to gain his own fortune does have some things in common with his father's emphasis on the importance of attaining financial stability.

Chapter 2 Quotes

The ship was no sooner out of the Humber than the wind began to blow and the sea to rise in a most frightful manner; and, as I had never been at sea before, I was most inexpressibly sick in body and terrified in mind. I began now seriously to reflect upon what I had done, and how justly I was overtaken by the judgment of Heaven for my wicked leaving my father's house, and abandoning my duty. All the good counsels of my parents, my father's tears and my mother's entreaties, came now fresh into my mind; and my conscience, which was not yet come to the pitch of hardness to which it has since, reproached me with the contempt of advice, and the breach of my duty to God and my father.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker), Crusoe's Parents
Related Symbols: The Sea
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the first ordeal that Robinson has to face after leaving his home and family, and he doesn't exactly react well to it. It suddenly becomes clear to him just how young and inexperienced he is, having never spent time on the sea. Even the fact that Robinson is terrified of the storm, while his shipmates around him pay him little heed, underlines how little he knows about what is normal and not on a ship. Still, this frightening period gives Robinson his first reminder that he was overly stubborn in refusing his father's advice. He also recognizes that the storm may well be a sign from God that he is on the wrong path. As we will see, however, it will take more than a storm for these thoughts, racing through Robinson's head in a panic, to truly sink in.

That evil influence which carried me first away from my father's house—which hurried me into the wild and indigested notion of raising my fortune, and that impressed those conceits so forcibly upon me as to make me deaf to all good advice, and to the entreaties and even the commands of my father—I say, the same influence, whatever it was, presented the most unfortunate of all enterprises to my view; and I went on board a vessel bound to the coast of Africa; or, as our sailors vulgarly called it, a voyage to Guinea.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker), Crusoe's Parents
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson has finally made it back to England, and yet scarcely is he back on his home soil than he boards yet another ship, this time to the coast of Africa. The way Robinson describes his actions seems to take away any sense of agency, of responsibility for his actions. It is as if Robinson was picked up and thrown onto the ship against his will rather than walking onto it of his own accord. Nonetheless, this is really the way that Robinson finds he can best describe his state of mind. He believes that his father and even God would prefer he stay at home and accept his duty, but he is somehow unable to heed those desires. 

Of course, one of the book's main paradoxes is that its very existence is only made possible by the fact that Robinson did flout his father's wishes, that he did act sinfully and against divine will. His mistakes, then - his burning desire to see and experience more - are to be judged by readers even as we accept that we are now enjoying the fruit of these very mistakes.

Chapter 3 Quotes

At this surprising change of my circumstances, from a merchant to a miserable slave, I was perfectly overwhelmed; and now I looked back upon my father's prophetic discourse to me, that I should be miserable and have none to relieve me, which I thought was now so effectually brought to pass that I could not be worse; for now the hand of Heaven had overtaken me, and I was undone without redemption; but, alas! this was but a taste of the misery I was to go through, as will appear in the sequel of this story.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker), Crusoe's Parents
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson's ship is captured by pirates and he becomes the slave of the ship's captain at the port of Sallee. Looking back on these events now, Robinson notes that he thought things could really get no worse from here. He had been enthralled by the thought of gaining his riches after having so easily made money on the trip to Africa, and had once again brushed away his father's concerns. Now, though, Robinson reminds us that his father's worries were "prophetic," and he should have known that something would go awry. Robinson alternately locates the source of his woes in God's judgment and in his own mistakes: he doesn't exactly have a well-thought-out understanding of the relationship between his choices and the consequences, except to stress that he was mistaken about his ability to embrace danger without falling into trouble.

For who would have supposed we were sailed on to the southward, to the truly Barbarian coast, where whole nations of negroes were sure to surround us with their canoes and destroy us; where we could not go on shore but we should be devoured by savage beasts, or more merciless savages of human kind?

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker), Xury
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

After managing to swim away with Xury and escape the pirate ship, Robinson knows that his struggles are not yet over. He remains on edge as, even more than before, he realizes that he is in an unknown place with no one to protect him, and must remain on alert for any other sources of danger. Still, Robinson shows himself to be naturally suspicious of certain kinds of danger in particular.

Robinson had known theoretically that joining a merchant ship could be dangerous, but that was the kind of danger that didn't bother him. What does fill him with fright are the thoughts of strange, different peoples - in particular Africans. Robinson equates "savage beasts" with "savage" men, espousing a crude, colonialist-inflected understanding of other peoples, especially dark-skinned peoples, as less than human. At the same time, the history of colonialism in Africa is such that it probably is probable, at this historical moment, that a white man would be (justifiably) looked upon with equal suspicion and fear by those peoples themselves. 

Chapter 4 Quotes

He offered me also sixty pieces of eight more for my boy Xury, which I was loth to take; not that I was unwilling to let the captain have him, but I was very loth to sell the poor boy's liberty, who had assisted me so faithfully in procuring my own. However, when I let him know my reason, he owned it to be just, and offered me this medium, that he would give the boy an obligation to set him free in ten years, if he turned Christian; upon this, and Xury saying he was willing to go to him, I let the captain have him.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker), Xury, The Portuguese Captain
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

If there's anything we've learned about Robinson through the first few chapters of the book, it's that he prizes his freedom and individuality above nearly all else. This is what has motivated him to go to sea and what has propelled him to escape - of course, with the help of Xury. Robinson seems to grant, at least implicitly, that there is a massive contradiction between wanting freedom for himself and agreeing to sell off someone else into slavery: this is why he makes clear that he was so reluctant to take away the boy's "liberty." 

Still, Robinson cannot be that reluctant, since he soon agrees to the captain's terms. He seems to justify these terms to himself based on the captain's agreement to set Xury free if he converts to Christianity (though only in ten years) - which for him is significant enough to counteract any other questions. Although Robinson has spent a great deal of time with Xury, and though he seems to really enjoy his company, he fails to consider the boy, who is not from England, as a person with the same hopes, fears, and human dignity as himself.

In this manner I used to look upon my condition with the utmost regret. I had nobody to converse with, but now and then this neighbour; no work to be done, but by the labour of my hands; and I used to say, I lived just like a man cast away upon some desolate island, that had nobody there but himself. But how just has it been—and how should all men reflect, that when they compare their present conditions with others that are worse, Heaven may oblige them to make the exchange, and be convinced of their former felicity by their experience—I say, how just has it been, that the truly solitary life I reflected on, in an island of mere desolation, should be my lot, who had so often unjustly compared it with the life which I then led, in which, had I continued, I had in all probability been exceeding prosperous and rich.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson has settled into the life of a middle-class sugar farmer in Brazil, and while he is relatively successful, he begins to become lonely. Robinson had never feared being alone before - indeed, he had left England largely with the express desire of being alone in the world. However, now that he is no longer on the sea, he finds himself in a place where society exists around him - but it is a society that is foreign to him, in which he doesn't truly belong.

At the time, Robinson compares his life to that on a "desolate island." Robinson the narrator, looking back on this moment, takes the opportunity - with the wisdom gained from the passage of time - to emphasize to the reader how dangerous it is to constantly be comparing one's experience to other, worse conditions. Looking back on his time in Brazil, Robinson recognizes that it was a good life, and could easily have made him rich: he should have been content with his time rather than constantly remaining unsatisfied with what he had. This dissatisfaction, indeed, would almost ensure that his feelings would be equated by reality later on.

Chapter 5 Quotes

I smiled to myself at the sight of this money: "O drug!" said I, aloud, "what art thou good for? Thou art not worth to me—no, not the taking off the ground; one of those knives is worth all this heap; I have no manner of use for thee—e'en remain where thou art, and go to the bottom as a creature whose life is not worth saving." However, upon second thoughts I took it away.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Related Symbols: Money
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson has landed on the island as the sole survivor, although he does manage to return to the ship several times in order to obtain any useful provisions. As he rummages through the ship, he prizes anything he can find that would be valuable to him. In another place, at another time, a pile of money would have certainly been one of these valuable possessions. However, now Robinson fully recognizes that money is only valuable in society: when all one needs is to survive, nothing could be more useless.

Thus far in the book, Robinson has shown himself to pay very close attention to details of money and economic transactions, always mentioning how much he made at a certain job, and often recounting the exact logs of spending for the reader. It is ironic, then, that he must now come to terms with exactly how useless money is. Nonetheless, the fact that he does take the money away reminds us that Robinson is at heart a man of society: even if he now must play by different rules, the rules of an isolated man, he keeps the currency of society aside just in case it might serve him well.  

Chapter 6 Quotes

I had great reason to consider it as a determination of Heaven, that in this desolate place, and in this desolate manner, I should end my life. The tears would run plentifully down my face when I made these reflections; and sometimes I would expostulate with myself why Providence should thus completely ruin His creatures, and render them so absolutely miserable; so without help, abandoned, so entirely depressed, that it could hardly be rational to be thankful for such a life.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson has managed to create a somewhat stable existence for himself on the island. Although he is proud of his ability to live by himself, as he thinks about the future he realizes that he may well be here forever, with no hope of ever seeing other humans again. He believes that God has intervened because of how foolhardy and thoughtless he has been, in refusing to follow his duty and listen to his father.

Although Robinson has a great deal of respect for Providence, he isn't exactly happy about the lesson that God seems to be teaching him. Providence in his view is a means of punishment, but even so he wonders why it is necessary for him to be taught a lesson so harshly. In attempting to develop a cause or greater plan for why he finds himself in such straits, Robinson at least in this moment fails to do so. 

Chapter 7 Quotes

Evil: I am singled out and separated, as it were, from all the world, to be miserable.
Good: But I am singled out, too, from all the ship's crew, to be spared from death; and He that miraculously saved me from death can deliver me from this condition.
Evil: I am divided from mankind—a solitaire; one banished from human society.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

In order to make himself feel better, Robinson begins to draw up a list of everything that has happened to him on the island, dividing it into two categories: the good and the evil. Although Robinson had sought great independence, had sought to assert his own individual will, in going to sea, now he fully recognizes the other side of that value: deep suffering that comes from being fully isolated from society. Robinson recognizes that a great deal of human meaning comes from being around others, and asserting one's individuality only really makes sense in the context of a social world. At the same time, Robinson recognizes that his isolation is at least in part due to the fact that he, among all members of his crew, was saved from death. 

Robinson continues to have a businessman's mentality even as he makes a life for himself in a place where the pursuit of profit is no longer relevant. His pro and con list is another kind of income/expenses ledger. Robinson believes that by setting up his situation in such a way, the good will balance out the evil, even if his own personal experience ends up being less rational than a balance ledger would make it seem.

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 after I saw barley grow there, in a climate which I knew was not proper for corn, and especially that I knew not how it came there, it startled me strangely, and I began to suggest that God had miraculously caused His grain to grow without help of seed sown, and that it was so directed purely for my sustenance on that wild, miserable place.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson had dumped a bag of rice and barley out onto the ground, discouraged since he saw that it had been almost entirely eaten by rats. However, soon enough he sees that stalks of rice and barley are growing out of the ground, even though he did nothing to sow their seeds or to ensure that they would grow well. It is interesting that Robinson's gradual embrace of Providence as a divine force - at least, as a divine force for good - takes place as a result of something that many readers would be tempted to simply call chance. But while Robinson has, earlier, tended to view what happens around him as a result of chance, now he is suddenly certain that God played a part in these happenings. 

In fact, it seems that Robinson is growing more open to the workings of Providence in human affairs. Earlier, he had considered anything bad that happened to him a sign from God as well - a sign that God was judging or punishing him. Now, not only is he willing to see God's hand in something positive, but he also begins to believe that there is some redemption possible for him on the island. 

"Now," said I, aloud, "my dear father's words are come to pass; God's justice has overtaken me, and I have none to help or hear me. I rejected the voice of Providence, which had mercifully put me in a posture or station of life wherein I might have been happy and easy; but I would neither see it myself nor learn to know the blessing of it from my parents. ...Lord, be my help, for I am in great distress." This was the first prayer, if I may call it so, that I had made for many years.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker), Crusoe's Parents
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson has grown seriously ill as a result of eating turtle meat, and he finds himself in both physical and spiritual torment. He begins to think about the fact that it has been many years since he's prayed - a lapse of time that, for him, signifies just how much he has discounted the will of God in favor of his own individual desires and ambitions. Our narrator - Robinson at a later stage in his life - has been reminding us all along the story how Providence has played a role in his life, but the Robinson of the past was still largely unconscious of this role. 

This passage is this first moment in the book where Robinson finds himself not only in danger but truly at a crossroads between life and death. It is this acute peril that gives him the opportunity for an epiphany about the way he should live his life. Asking God for help requires the humility of knowing that one is not entirely isolated and self-sufficient, and may not be able to overcome struggles alone.

Now I looked back upon my past life with such horror, and my sins appeared so dreadful, that my soul sought nothing of God but deliverance from the load of guilt that bore down all my comfort. As for my solitary life, it was nothing. I did not so much as pray to be delivered from it or think of it; it was all of no consideration in comparison to this. And I add this part here, to hint to whoever shall read it, that whenever they come to a true sense of things, they will find deliverance from sin a much greater blessing than deliverance from affliction.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson has begun to reflect seriously on his life up until now, and has begun to recognize just how wrong he has been and how many mistakes he has made in pursuing his own desires and ambitions above all else. Even in the past, when he has acknowledged the power of God in his affairs, it has been mainly as a source of fear - or even as power that could potentially influence his life for the better. Now Robinson recognizes that even to pray for his own safety is selfish, and what he should be doing is praying for God to help him come to terms with the reality he is living. This is what Robinson means by "deliverance from sin" rather than from "affliction," and here he tries to share with his reader the lesson that it took so long for him to learn. 

Chapter 8 Quotes

I could not tell what part of the world this might be, otherwise than that I knew it must be part of America, and, as I concluded by all my observations, must be near the Spanish dominions, and perhaps was all inhabited by savages, where, if I had landed, I had been in a worse condition than I was now; and therefore I acquiesced in the dispositions of Providence, which I began now to own and to believe ordered everything for the best; I say I quieted my mind with this, and left off afflicting myself with fruitless wishes of being there.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson actually does manage to spot some land from the hilltop of the island, so he realizes that he is not in complete isolation. However, now he has the humility to recognize that there is much that he does not know about the place he is inhabiting. Earlier, Robinson might have fought against fate and sought to change his situation based on his own merits. Now, though, he shows himself to be much more willing to accept the "dispositions of Providence" and recognize that his desires to be elsewhere or to find his way out of his situation will not help him accept the reality of his isolation on the island.

At the same time, Robinson also has a more practical reason for deciding not to venture out to the other lands. Throughout the novel, Robinson is deeply suspicious of what he calls "savages." Here he uses the word to mean any native peoples of the Americas (as he used it before to refer to Africans), but, of course, the term also implies that these groups are barbaric, uncivilized, and frighteningly different than Europeans. At least for now, this assumption - unlike many others in Robinson's life - remains unchallenged.

Chapter 9 Quotes

I gave humble and hearty thanks that God had been pleased to discover to me that it was possible I might be more happy in this solitary condition than I should have been in the liberty of society, and in all the pleasures of the world; that He could fully make up to me the deficiencies of my solitary state, and the want of human society, by His presence and the communications of His grace to my soul; supporting, comforting, and encouraging me to depend upon His providence here, and hope for His eternal presence hereafter.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson is reading the Bible and comes across a passage that speaks of God's promise not to forsake his people. He is greatly cheered by this passage, as he has come to accept that he will have to live in total isolation from society on the island. Robinson has continued to hold an ambivalent attitude towards this fact. On the one hand, he misses the excitement of society and recognizes that his notions of individuality make sense largely within the context of other people around him. At the same time, his streak of independence makes him more open to the idea that isolation can be positive rather than negative.

Now, Robinson finds what he believes to be divine justification for the more positive elements of isolation from society. Other people may not be around Robinson, he argues, but he is in the presence of God, and this presence can be even better felt when no one else is around to distract him. Robinson takes comfort in the fact that he has come to believe in God's plan for mankind, so that he no longer needs to worry about his own plan for his survival--or about ever being totally alone.

I believe few people have thought much upon the strange multitude of little things necessary in the providing, producing, curing, dressing, making, and finishing this one article of bread. I, that was reduced to a mere state of nature, found this to my daily discouragement. ...I had the next six months to apply myself wholly, by labour and invention, to furnish myself with utensils proper for the performing all the operations necessary for making the corn, when I had it, fit for my use.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

As a member of society - and even as a farmer himself - Robinson has never had to really contemplate what it would be like to begin again from scratch, with none of the comforts of social life ready-made. Here he zooms in on one example of the difficulties that he has to surmount for something as simple as grinding corn and making it into bread. In his "state of nature," the simplest tasks become incredibly complicated and time-consuming, as Robinson must recreate the environment that he's grown used to.

The book is interested in chronicling just how excruciating this process is mainly in order to show how powerful it can be to be thrust away from society and be forced to figure things out on one's own. Here, the tools and processes that have been developed throughout history in order to make things easier for people are portrayed as signs of weakness, which a true individualist must learn either to do without or to recreate.

Chapter 11 Quotes

In the first place, I was removed from all the wickedness of the world here; I had neither the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, nor the pride of life. I had nothing to covet, for I had all that I was now capable of enjoying; I was lord of the whole manor; or, if I pleased, I might call myself king or emperor over the whole country which I had possession of.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

As the fourth anniversary of Robinson's stay on the island arrives, he takes the time to reflect on what he has learned and how he has changed since the shipwreck. He realizes that he has ceased to feel the driving desire and ambition that had been behind his motivations in England and eventually in Brazil. Indeed, Robinson recognizes that a large part of those desires came from the existence of a powerful social hierarchy that made it easy for one to constantly wish to climb up onto the next rung. Now, without anyone else to compete against, he can finally learn to be content with what he has.

Of course, part of that contentment stems from the fact that in terms of possession or use, Robinson is much wealthier than he's ever been - he has the entire island at his disposal. Still, he makes the broader point that being surrounded by other people makes it easy to be jealous and over-ambitious, in the sphere of love and material possessions as well as life and social rank. It is easier for him to attempt to be a good, fully Christian person on the island than it was in society.

Chapter 14 Quotes

It happened one day, about noon, going towards my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man's naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen on the sand. I stood like one thunderstruck, or as if I had seen an apparition. ...I went to it again to see if there were any more, and to observe if it might not be my fancy; but there was no room for that, for there was exactly the print of a foot - toes, heel, and every part of a foot. How it came thither I knew not, nor could I in the least imagine; but after innumerable fluttering thoughts, like a man perfectly confused and out of myself, I came home to my fortification, not feeling, as we say, the ground I went on, but terrified to the last degree, looking behind me at every two or three steps, mistaking every bush and tree, and fancying every stump at a distance to be a man.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Footprint
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

For the past several chapters, Robinson has described to the reader in acute detail how he has developed a pleasant, sustainable life for himself on the island. He has learned to be content with what he has, and he hardly misses the excitement and companionship of society, having learned to exchange it for God's companionship. Suddenly, this mode of peaceful satisfaction is blown open. At first Robinson thinks the footprint must be an "apparition," a sign of the supernatural - he cannot bring himself to believe that it is truly another person.

Soon, though, Robinson recognizes the concrete reality of the footprint, and with it the undeniable fact of the presence of another person on the island, where he had previously thought himself not only alone, but indeed king and ruler of the entire place. Robinson has learned to move throughout the island easily and confidently, knowing that no one will disturb him. Now he believes he sees another human at every moment, and he cannot relax. This passage thus marks a turning point in Robinson's story. While he has spent the first part re-learning what it takes to survive, and coming to embrace isolation as a definitively positive trait in individual development, now he must also re-create basic social processes of competition and defense, though against an unknown other.

How strange a chequer-work of Providence is the life of man! and by what secret different springs are the affections hurried about, as different circumstances present! To-day we love what to-morrow we hate; to-day we seek what to-morrow we shun; to-day we desire what to-morrow we fear, nay, even tremble at the apprehensions of. This was exemplified in me, at this time, in the most lively manner imaginable; for I, whose only affliction was that I seemed banished from human society, that I was alone, circumscribed by the boundless ocean, cut off from mankind, and condemned to what I call silent life; that I was as one whom Heaven thought not worthy to be numbered among the living, or to appear among the rest of His creatures; that to have seen one of my own species would have seemed to me a raising me from death to life, and the greatest blessing that Heaven itself, next to the supreme blessing of salvation, could bestow; I say, that I should now tremble at the very apprehensions of seeing a man, and was ready to sink into the ground at but the shadow or silent appearance of a man having set his foot in the island.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Footprint
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage is largely an intrusion by the Robinson Crusoe who is narrating the story, and who knows all that has happened and that will come to take place: he is therefore equipped with much greater knowledge and the ability to draw out greater meaning than the Robinson who is muddling his way through. With the self-awareness that comes from time, the narrator points out a central contradiction in his own reaction of fear and despair towards the footprint, evidence of the presence of at least one other human on the island. The only thing that has been difficult for Robinson on the island thus far has been the sense that he is "banished" from society and unable to interact with other human beings. This is why he taught Polly to talk, and it is why it has taken him so long to finally feel content with what he has, learning to see isolation as a virtue rather than as a curse.

It is ironic, then, that the possibility of what Robinson has hoped for for so long - other people with whom to talk and to live - is now the occasion for feelings of such terror. Part of the reason, of course, is that Robinson thinks that a "savage" must have come here, and he does not consider savages as equals. But also, Robinson is clearly still learning to come to terms with the winding realities of fate through the guiding structure of Christian Providence. 

Chapter 15 Quotes

And therefore it could not be just for me to fall upon them; that this would justify the conduct of the Spaniards in all their barbarities practiced in America, where they destroyed millions of these people; who, however they were idolators and barbarians, and had several bloody and barbarous rites in their customs, such as sacrificing human bodies to their idols, were yet, as to the Spaniards, very innocent people; and that the rooting them out of the country is spoken of with the utmost abhorrence and detestation by even the Spaniards themselves at this time, and by all other Christian nations of Europe, as a mere butchery, a bloody and unnatural piece of cruelty, unjustifiable either to God or man.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:

Having spent several years developing a fortress and strategies of defense, Robinson has begun to plan how he might spring upon the "savages" and kill them by surprise. However, he soon begins to think better of this plan. Although the English had plenty of colonies themselves around this time, many Englishmen tended to view the process of Spanish colonization with disapproval, claiming that the Spaniards had treated natives with great brutality and cruelty, without any justification for such actions. If Robinson too were to kill the natives for no reason, he would be no better than the Spanish.

Robinson also begins to wonder if certain practices, such as those of human sacrifice, are as undeniably evil as they seem to him. He recognizes that he does not have the knowledge or capacity to fully judge other peoples whose customs are so different than his own. While Robinson maintains that his own Christian religion is superior, then, he does at least begin to express some openness regarding the potential legitimacy of unknown peoples' customs and cultures.

Chapter 21 Quotes

But it occurred to my thoughts, what call, what occasion, much less what necessity I was in to go and dip my hands in blood, to attack people who had neither done or intended me any wrong? who, as to me, were innocent, and whose barbarous customs were their own disaster, being in them a token, indeed, of God's having left them, with the other nations of that part of the world, to such stupidity, and to such inhuman courses, but did not call me to take upon me to be a judge of their actions, much less an executioner of His justice - that whenever He thought fit He would take the cause into His own hands, and by national vengeance punish them as a people for national crimes, but that, in the meantime, it was none of my business.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:

Robinson and Friday have observed the cannibalistic rituals of people from Friday's tribe who come to the island with their prisoners of war. Robinson, disgusted and shocked by this practice, decides to lie in wait and kill them. Soon, however, he once again begins to question his confidence about what is right and wrong. Attempting to apply questions of morality to their behavior, he concludes that these people have not hurt him, and that it is not his place to judge or condemn their behavior. 

Of course, here Robinson shows little doubt that the strangers' actions are evil in the eyes of God, and that God (according to Robinson's understanding of Christian truth) will surely punish these peoples himself. However, this sense of cultural and religious superiority actually makes Robinson more reluctant to intercede against those he terms the "savages," since he considers it God's place, not his, to punish them.

Chapter 22 Quotes

My island was now peopled, and I thought myself very rich in subjects; and it was a merry reflection, which I frequently made, how like a king I looked. First of all, the whole country was my own property, so that I had an undoubted right of dominion. Secondly, my people were perfectly subjected - I was absolutely lord and lawgiver - they all owed their lives to me, and were ready to lay down their lives, if there had been occasion for it, for me. It was remarkable, too, I had but three subjects, and they were of three different religions - my man Friday was a Protestant, his father was a Pagan and a cannibal, and the Spaniard was a Papist. However, I allowed liberty of conscience throughout my dominions.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker), Friday, Friday's Father, The Spanish Prisoner
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

After having begun his time on the island entirely alone, Robinson now has a relatively thriving community around him. The irony is that he has spent much of the book learning to embrace his isolated existence on the island, even claiming its superiority to the temptations of society. But rather than attempt to create another kind of society once he has assembled a group of people around him, Robinson seems to recreate a social hierarchy, making himself the king and the others his subjects.

Robinson does consider himself relatively more enlightened than European monarchs, since he allows freedom of religion in his "kingdom" - not something that was historically common at the time. He thus shows more openness towards different peoples and customs than might be expected for an Englishman of his time and place. At the same time, however, Robinson has hardly let go of the cultural and social assumptions with which he began his stay on the island.

So little do we see before us in the world, and so much reason have we to depend cheerfully upon the great Maker of the world, that He does not leave His creatures so absolutely destitute, but that in the worst circumstances they have always something to be thankful for, and sometimes are nearer deliverance than they imagine; nay, are even brought to their deliverance by the means by which they seem to be brought to their destruction.

Related Characters: Robinson Crusoe (speaker)
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

As Robinson looks at the English prisoners, he is reminded of how he himself felt when he first arrived on the island, as a prisoner not of a single person or group of men but of his own circumstances. This remembrance causes him to remind himself once again that even when he believed he was absolutely desperate, God's will was behind everything that was happening to him.

Indeed, Robinson can now comfort himself - with the benefit of hindsight - that he was never truly alone. Indeed, he has come to believe that everything he thought was a sign of his impending doom, such as his shipwreck and the lack of other humans on the island, was actually crucial in allowing him to survive, and thus was contributing to his "deliverance." Of course, it seems that this is a lesson that can only be learned little by little, according to a person's own experience, so it is doubtful whether or not Robinson's lessons are entirely relevant to the prisoners that now find themselves in a different desperate situation.

No matches.