Robinson Crusoe


Daniel Defoe

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Robinson Crusoe: Similes 3 key examples

Definition of Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like" or "as," but can also... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often... read full definition
Chapter 4
Explanation and Analysis—Desolate Island:

In Chapter 4, during his brief stint as a sugar planter in Brazil, Robinson begins to itch for adventure again. After being taken as a slave in Sallee, he has already had a taste of how horribly a life at sea can go for him. Nonetheless, he longs for a more exciting life. He also feels dissatisfied because he appears to be reaching exactly the middle station that his father had wanted for him—and so he feels like he might as well be living comfortably in England than in a foreign, far-off lace where he lacks family and friends. He uses a simile to describe his emotions:

I used to look upon my condition with the utmost regret. I had no body 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 liv'd just like a man cast away upon some desolate island, that had no body 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.

The simile in these reflections, that he lived like a man stranded on a desolate island, exaggerates Robinson's solitude and foreshadows the shipwreck in his near future. Although the reader does not yet know this, their narrator is an expert on what it means to be stuck on a desert island—it will prove greatly relevant to much of the novel's plot. The final sentence of the quote is what really pushes this ironically relevant simile into the realm of foreshadowing. Robinson frequently shares reflections such as this one regarding the forces of providence, fate, and divine will. In this moment, it is unlikely that the reader understands that he is suggesting that "Heaven" (divine providence) will literally exchange his present condition with life on a desolate island. Nonetheless, the simile foreshadows a looming change in Robinson's life. 

Chapter 7
Explanation and Analysis—Difficult Decisions:

In the April section of his journal, Robinson describes the work he did following the earthquake. He wants to move his house, but does not know how. Describing his drawn-out brainstorming and decision-making processes, Robinson uses a simple to compare himself to a statesman and judge:

[...] this cost me as much thought as a statesman would have bestow'd upon a grand point of politicks, or a judge upon the life and death of a man.

Robinson describes most of his decisions and projects on the island with great—at times rather excessive—detail. He is evidently a man who takes all of his actions very seriously. Although this tendency is undoubtedly grounded in the character's narcissism, it is also possible to see it from a more sympathetic angle. When one is stranded on a desert island with no one to talk to, investing care and consequence into one's tasks would appear to be a crucial strategy of survival. Nonetheless, the seriousness with which he engages in these tasks—and more so the seriousness with which he narrates them—shed light on Robinson's self-importance.

This simile offers insight into Robinson's thorough and tortured way of approaching questions and challenges. This seriousness is in part a method of survival. On another level, however, it is related to his narcissism and penchant for hyperbole. It also sheds light on the great, important men he compares himself to—even when he is as far as possible from the world of statesmen and judges.

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Chapter 16
Explanation and Analysis—Ultimate Contentment:

In his 23rd year on the island, Robinson finds that he is quite happy with his solitary, self-sufficient existence. He has figured out how to live there so well that he prefers living on his island over living anywhere else—at least if he discounts the "savages." To express this contentment, he uses a simile in which he likens himself to an old goat that he found in the cave behind his forest abode:

I was now in my twenty third year of residence in this island, and was so naturaliz'd to the place, and to the manner of living, that could I have but enjoy'd the certainty that no savages would come to the place to disturb me, I could have been content to have capitulated for spending the rest of my time there, even to the last moment, till I had laid me down and dy'd, like the old goat in the cave.

When Robinson first arrived, he would not let go of his hope of making contact with a passing ship and escaping the island. Even if he experienced moments of contentment, he would always return to lamenting his circumstances. Now, the character says he is so used to his life on the island that he would gladly stay there until death from old age, like an old goat that has no reason to expect or desire other circumstances.

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