A landmark, wildly popular 1719 novel by Daniel Defoe that many consider the first true English novel, Robinson Crusoe is Gabriel Betteredge’s favorite novel—and appears to be the only thing he has ever read (although he is on his seventh copy during the events of the novel). Robinson Crusoe’s title character spends 28 years stranded on a remote Caribbean island and has become a profound symbol of the British imperial attitude and Puritan Christian morality, as well as the most important figure in the long tradition of castaway fiction. Although he considers himself a serious and unsuperstitious man, Betteredge believes so deeply in Robinson Crusoe that he reads it over and over again (but does not seem to ever read anything else), places no trust in people who have not read the book (like Ezra Jennings), and even turns to the book for advice, opening to random pages and inevitably discovering hidden predictions and messages in the passages he encounters. “If that isn’t prophecy,” Betteredge writes after referring to one relevant passage, “what is?”
Robinson Crusoe’s immense popularity allows Collins to make an important argument about the role of literature in life—not only does life often imitate art, but art can also offer a lens through which to interpret life. Betteredge’s search for moral advice and clues about his future in Robinson Crusoe also parallels the way the reader must try to interpret the clues encountered throughout the search for the Moonstone in order to reconstruct the truth about its theft—Betteredge’s reading offers the reader a template to follow.
Indeed, the great pleasure Betteredge takes in relaxing with Robinson Crusoe and his pipe at the end of the day points to the changing role of literature in the mid-19th century, as reading became a popular pastime for people of all classes—a transformation without which The Moonstone could never have ignited a frenzy in London when its next installment came out every week (as many popular movies and television series do in the 21st century). Finally and most prophetically, Robinson Crusoe foreshadows the impact of Collins’s own novel, which has essentially defined the genre of detective fiction ever since.
Robinson Crusoe Quotes in The Moonstone
You are not to take it, if you please, as the saying of an ignorant man, when I express my opinion that such a book as Robinson Crusoe never was written, and never will be written again. I have tried that book for years—generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco—and I have found it my friend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life. When my spirits are bad—Robinson Crusoe. When I want advice Robinson Crusoe. In past times, when my wife plagued me; in present times, when I have had a drop too much—Robinson Crusoe. I have worn out six stout. Robinson Crusoe hard work in my service. On my lady's last birthday she gave me a seventh. I took a drop too much on the strength of it; and Robinson Crusoe put me right again. Price four shillings and sixpence, bound in blue, with a picture into the bargain.