Robinson Crusoe

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Money Symbol Icon
Money in Robinson Crusoe is something highly valued (and valuable) in society, but utterly useless in nature. Robinson is enticed to go back to sea after making some money on his first voyage to Africa, and the possibility of profit is what drives him to establish a plantation in Brazil. However, once he is stranded on his island, money is completely useless to him. He finds money on his old ship and in the wrecked Spanish vessel, both times remarking that it was of no use to him on the island. In nature, Robinson discovers that things are only worth what they can be used for—he finds food, tools, and water much more valuable than coins. Moreover, money causes greed, from which he is free during his solitary life on the island. Money thus symbolizes the faulty value systems of society, in contrast to the authentic life Robinson discovers on his island. However, Robinson keeps his money on the island and takes it with him when he leaves. Moreover, once he returns to society he needs his fortune in order to establish a life (and repay the loyal widow and the Portuguese captain). While Defoe's novel explores the artificiality or falseness of money's value, it presents it as still necessary for life among society.

Money Quotes in Robinson Crusoe

The Robinson Crusoe quotes below all refer to the symbol of Money. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Christianity and Divine Providence Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Robinson Crusoe published in 2003.
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.  

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Money Symbol Timeline in Robinson Crusoe

The timeline below shows where the symbol Money appears in Robinson Crusoe. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Contentment vs. Desire and Ambition Theme Icon
...of the Guinea vessel had died and been replaced. Leaving two hundred pounds of his money with the old captain's widow, he voyaged to Guinea again, but "fell into terrible misfortunes." (full context)
Chapter 4
Contentment vs. Desire and Ambition Theme Icon
Robinson had a safe voyage to Brazil and the Portuguese captain gave him money for some of his cargo. Robinson lived for some time on a sugar plantation and,... (full context)
Society, Individuality, and Isolation Theme Icon
Strangers, Savages, and the Unknown Theme Icon
The kind Portuguese captain offered to have some of Robinson's money in England sent to Lisbon, so that he could then bring it to Robinson in... (full context)
Chapter 5
Society, Individuality, and Isolation Theme Icon
...food, tools, guns, and various scrap parts of the ship. One time, he found some money on the ship and laughed at how useless it was. He used the ship's sail... (full context)
Chapter 11
Society, Individuality, and Isolation Theme Icon
...he needed and concluded that the only value of things was in their use. The money he had salvaged from the ship, for example, was utterly useless on the island. (full context)
Chapter 18
Christianity and Divine Providence Theme Icon
Society, Individuality, and Isolation Theme Icon
...saw a drowned boy from the ship wash ashore and found in his pockets some money and a tobacco pipe. He says that the pipe was much more useful to him... (full context)
Society, Individuality, and Isolation Theme Icon
...island. In the chests, he found some clothes, some bottles, and a good deal of money, which Robinson says was as useless to him as dirt. (full context)
Chapter 24
Christianity and Divine Providence Theme Icon
Society, Individuality, and Isolation Theme Icon
...Robinson brought with him his goat-skin cap, his umbrella, one of his parrots, and the money that had so long been useless to him on the island. After a long voyage,... (full context)
Chapter 25
Society, Individuality, and Isolation Theme Icon
...had never been known there." He found the widow with whom he had left his money, and promised to help her when he had recovered his fortune from the Brazil plantation.... (full context)
Society, Individuality, and Isolation Theme Icon
Contentment vs. Desire and Ambition Theme Icon
...that Robinson send an official letter on a merchant ship to Brazil to have his money sent back to Lisbon. Robinson did this and in seven months received all sorts of... (full context)
Society, Individuality, and Isolation Theme Icon
...silent state of life in the island," as he didn't know where to keep his money safely. He wanted to go back to Brazil, but was also reluctant to live in... (full context)