This isn’t my first time reading Robinson Crusoe, and I have to say it’s pretty enjoyable re-experiencing the story all over again.
One of my favorite themes from the story is how Crusoe must adapt and adjust to a completely different way of life. After stranded and isolated from civilization, Robinson must produce a variety of items and preform tasks that society had once made readily available for him. His successful status and fortune as a Brazilian tobacco farmer is worthless in his new setting. Even as he stumbles upon a series of treasure troves, he realizes wealth’s futility without others to trade with. He’s furious and acknowledges that these possessions do nothing to aid him. He prays that he would stumble upon conventional items such as a spoon or metal pot. How often do we praise our possession or value of these things? One of his most difficult and trialing tasks on the island is simply creating a ceramic bowl, and after continuous efforts it proves to be one of his greatest victories.
Crusoe’s greatest flaw and continual impediment is his lack of skills. He frequently laments upon the fact that he lived a life of luxury and never spent any due time acquiring any skills that would aid him in everyday life. Sewing, farming, cooking and craftsmanship are initially daunting tasks that frequently result in his failure. How many of us know how to sew or even create rope? How many of us could create a makeshift canoe or create a hammer or axe from scratch? I certainly couldn’t. Do most of us even know common first-aid? Just think of how much we rely upon civilization and it’s numerous trades to help us in our everyday necessities. We don’t grow our own food, we don’t create our own tools, and we certainly can’t build our own houses. If the world ended tomorrow how helpless would majority of the population be? If for some reason we all succumbed to anarchy how many of us would survive the first week without civilization to protect us?
It’s simply fascinating to just take a moment and realize how much we rely on other to produce our everyday necessities and how this this processes has dumbed down our species as a whole. Three centuries ago, the ability to farm, sew and create fire would be just common sense. Can the average person do any of these effectively without the aid of a manufactured tool? Everyday tasks such as washing clothes and churning butter would be difficult but well known tasks amongst most people. Is this new shift to mass production and reliance upon technology such as calculators, washing machines, microwaves and furnace heating really worth it’s benefits? What crucial knowledge are we sacrificing to achieve these lives of luxuries? When will it be our downfall?
After the disappointment of The Tempest, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Robinson Crusoe. I’ve always been fascinated by this adventurous tales of survival, contemplating my actions if I were in the same situation. However, I found Crusoe to be almost too perfect a character, the author almost trying to make his one flaw that of his religious ineptitude. Whilst I appreciate the significance of religion at the time, and now, Crusoe’s life upon the island appeared really to have no qualms for the first twenty-five years, with the exception of his divine epiphany. Continuing along this line of his lack of flaws, when compared to many other tales of survival, such as Castaway with Tom Hanks, there was always a certain amount of mental degredation, the protagonist gradually losing his civility and becoming more and more animalistic in nature. I feel that this aspect presents a far more real version of a castaway. Crusoe does remark that he longs for human companionship at a point, but aside from merely mentioning it, the concept does not really present itself. Humans do possess a basic need for interaction, thus explaining the certain level of lunacy or madness that possesses many upon being locked in solitary confinement. Crusoe’s character just seemed unrealistic.
As well, I also noted that Crusoe’s seemingly savage state of being appeared far more civilized than his beloved European society. Although his island lacks modern technology, and all the fancy gadgets, Crusoe’s lifestyle was worlds away from his homeland. In the so-called “Modern” society, his human counterparts acted far more savagely than Crusoe during his quest for survival. The greed and selfishness that corrupts our world, through pointless means, such as gold or paper, really have no significance in life, yet we spend a majority of our lives devoted to it. Crusoe’s simplistic lifestyle presented a far more rational one than this world of his and ours, where we all allow ourselves to be slaves to the almighty profit.
Finally, it irritated me how Crusoe exerted kingly status upon himself over his island. It was just such a supremacist viewpoint. How on Earth does he know that he is the first to inhabit this island? The natives probably have been utilizing it for far longer than Crusoe’s entire lifespan, just not continuously inhabiting it. As well, why must he declare himself Lord over all those he saves? It really appeared a far more Prospero-like option, finding everyone indebted to him. The only reason I can possibly think of lies in a want for Defoe to express the nature of European explorers during this time, claiming any land and exerting authority where there was no right for authority to be given.
Woo-hoo! Our first novel in arts one, we can actually call this a book and be right! That was a little exciting. I like novels, though I’ll admit it was a little frustrating reading with the deadline, being much more rushed than I usually would be with a novel, and the language took some getting used to, though I eventually got into the flow of it. And it didn’t really read very much like a novel, if that makes any sense. The lack of chapters and the narrative writing made me feel more like I was reading an autobiography of a man who really lived. Especially with the journal being thrown in there. I would almost call it a bit of a mesh between Columbus (the four voyages) and The Odyssey. The Odyssey because it displays so prominently the conflict of man vs. nature, which Odysseus has to face when he sails. And both have the element of religion being the cause for their suffering, though in very different ways. The god Crusoe believes in is not a physical thing that he interacts with, but he believes that his god causes his suffering, and similarly Zeus causes much of Odysseus’ troubles. There’s also the quest for home which takes much longer than expected that they share. With The Four Voyages, Crusoe and Columbus both have themes of colonialism and, again, voyaging across the sea, as well as the journal-y feel, though Columbus was writing letters which served a fairly specific purpose.
I was very interested in Crusoe as a character, as the situation of being isolated and alone on an island is very intriguing. But as a person, being in his head sometimes (reading his thoughts) was very frustrating. He makes his own kingdom and names slaves much the same way Prospero does. I’m wondering if I should interpret this as a comment by the part of Dafoe on human nature. Do we all wish in some sense to be rulers, when put in a situation where it’s possible? Do we naturally define ourselves as kings when presented with a plot of land devoid of others who we’d define as people? Also the fact that Crusoe relies so heavily to religion, and believes he’s being punished by god. Is Dafoe inferring we turn to religion in desperation? Or, was Dafoe religious himself, and trying to teach a lesson? Since it’s an older book it’s likely that the author was religious I suppose.
I’ll give it to Crusoe that I was impressed with some of his accomplishments of agriculture, as well as the things he makes and builds. In the back of my mind I was wondering how long I would last, trapped alone on an island. I wouldn’t stay sane too long I suspect, without anyone to talk to. Friday saves Crusoe in a very big way. Would he have lasted much longer without a friend?
As irritatingly long as this novel was, it was also interesting enough that I at times actually became motivated to read for the content. The story is a classic adventure tale, containing a somewhat compelling protagonist and a lot of extremely convenient plot devices which were integrated well enough overall. My biggest problem would be with the way it was written, but considering the context of when it was written, I suppose that there’s not much point in complaining about that.
Now, not that I’m an animal rights activist or anything, but the way Crusoe proclaims himself the undisputed king of his island felt rather pretentious considering the variety of wildlife already existing in it. This mindset really shows just how sad it is when the guy, out of loneliness, maims a bunch of birds and other animals to keep him company. He drowns puppies and shoots cats, but keeps a few as pets for his entertainment. PETA would have a field day with this novel had it been written in modern times (which would definitely be more plausible than attacking Pokémon).
That aside, there is an interesting tension in the plot (the main tension) where Crusoe fights with himself on whether to seek adventure or stay at home. In a sense, this represents two desires—the desire for change, and the desire for stability. I find this an interesting psychological topic as there are many instances of both being true in regards to the human condition, which may show that neither of the two are absolute desires. On a philosophical level, however, I have yet to be proven wrong that all humans require change (i.e. conflict) on some level in order to exist, and this is no exception. Translated into psychology, I’d say that the desire for stability stems from mental conflict whereas the desire for change stems from physical conflict. Someone seeks change when they desire physical interaction and conflict with their surroundings, whereas someone seeks stability when they are in constant mental/inner conflict. Everything, of course, needs to be considered in their relative rather than absolute terms, and in reality every perceivable factor influences their reference to some degree. In the case of Crusoe, his desire for change may have formed due to an excess of stability (i.e. his father). Being guaranteed a life of comfort is basically the same as being told how your life is going to play out, and Crusoe most likely perceived this guarantee as a stagnation of conflict. Thus, being naturally compelled to seek conflict, he chose to go to sea. Of course, he regretted it soon after as he found that the stability he took for granted was in fact not so guaranteed, but even so, we see that he forsook his many chances to return home in favour of eventually getting shipwrecked on an isolated island. We see, then, that poor Crusoe suffered from a common case of short-term memory throughout his life.
Master of the Island. That is what Robinson Crusoe became at the end of his adventure. In a sense, Dafoe has created in Crusoe, the perfect colonist. I’ve read Robinson Crusoe once (abridged version) and kind of enjoyed it, though it tended to bore me at points. Though I have to say that I found the first novel written in the English language rather tedious to read at times, I still have to say that it is a masterpiece adventure, with some interesting themes.
Crusoe, is a very complex character with a personality and a set of skills to match. Its how he survives on the island. He has a unique set of abilities to match his own unique flaws. He does tend to be impulsive, building his house on the first fortifiable ground as opposed to the fertile plain and the incident with the canoe shows that nature. Yet, Crusoe can at times, be very resourceful, able to find a way to make clay pots, grow his own food, tame his own animals. These make him able to master the nature and environment on his island. Crusoe can also be very paranoid, but this aids him, for when he faces the savages, he is ready and waiting. That’s not all about Crusoe, but that’s what springs out to me.
The other thing that I noticed about Robinson Crusoe was it’s similarity to The Tempests, something without a doubt most of us have noticed. One of the main things was the master-servant relationship. Like Prospero, Robinson Crusoe has servants, nature and man. Unlike Prospero, Crusoe seems to manage his servants better. If Caliban represents the island’s natives, let the animals represent Crusoe’s Caliban. Prospero doesn’t manage Caliban very well, letting him turn against him. Crusoe tames the island’s animals under him and in the end, rules over them. Like Prospero though, Crusoe has his own form of magic, that aids him in securing a faithful servant. If Prospero had magic to free Ariel, Crusoe had firearms. But the similarities end there, in my opinion Crusoe and Friday share a much better relationship than Prospero and Ariel. Ariel constantly tries to rebel against Prospero, but Friday doesn’t. Crusoe rewards Friday, (his form of reward), by converting him, teaching him some of his ‘magic’ (the use of firearms) and in return, is kept company. There are times, when Crusoe has to assert his authority, but it’s quite clear he cares deeply for his servant. If anything, I’d describe Crusoe and Friday’s relationship as a perfect master-servant relationship, Dafoe’s ideal.
The novel is scattered with contextual references and is heavily influenced by british views. The idea of the master-servant relationship, the european mastering the savage and the savage island. The book is primarily, a boy’s or man’s adventure. There are no important developed female characters, which all do to reflect the times. It does not detract on the novel, but it makes one wonder, that if the first novel contained so much views influenced by English government, how much of the first novel has trickled into our modern novels?
I first encountered “Robinson Crusoe” in one of my least favourite elementary schools. My teacher read us a rewritten version of Daniel Defoe’s famous work. Back then, I didn’t pay much attention to it because, well, I found it boring. To be fair, I was in Grade four at the time and I guess any nine year old would probably agree with me. The next time I read “Robinson Crusoe”, I read an abridged version. I managed to finish it in two days and I found it more enjoyable than when I first had it read to me in Grade four. My third time reading it was recently, for Arts One. It took me little less than a week to finish the entire book, and I admit, the beginning was very dull. However, the book picked up action when you get to the middle and end, and then reading became less of a chore and was actually -if you’d believe it- exciting.
I found the part where Robinson Crusoe encounters the cannibals and mutineers very interesting. It’s not as interesting to hear Robinson talk about his life before the shipwreck, but once he is stranded on the island, the book becomes much more worth reading. One of the things that makes Daniel Defoe’s work very debatable is Robinson’s habit of lecturing the reader. By “debatable” I mean discussable. Robinson Crusoe talks about his former sins and the need to appreciate what one has in life a number of times throughout the book. Sometimes, I found it annoying. The abridged version I read years ago cut out all of his philosophizing and concentrated on the overall story. But I admit, reading the complete “Robinson Crusoe” was more illuminating than the abridged version. Sure, it got dull at times, but you do find a treasure trove of material to discuss from the book.
A recurring theme that I found in the book was that of religion and Christianity. God appears many times in “Robinson Crusoe”- once, in Robinson’s dream, where He is depicted as angry and wishes to destroy Robinson for his inability to appreciate what God has already given him. God’s powers and mercy towards humankind are also present throughout the book. In some ways, I found that the book was about learning to respect what we had, and that what we take for granted everyday can be easily taken away by God. In other ways, “Robinson Crusoe” can also be a coming-of-age story. It’s true that Robinson is not what you would call “young” even in the beginning, but he does mature rapidly throughout the book. He learns to embrace religion and even tolerate cannibalism because, as he reasons, cannibals don’t realize that it’s morally wrong to eat human flesh. Nor did most people in Defoe’s time believe that eating animal flesh was wrong. Vegetarians were few and far between.
Coming back to Shakespeare feels rather natural, having done one of his plays every year of high school, and preformed a few of them throughout elementary. Though I’m more used to his tragedies than comedies, so this was a bit of a change. I do admittedly enjoy Shakespeare, having done so much with it in the past. The language isn’t as foreign or tricky anymore, though it does still have its challenges, just to a lesser extent. Perhaps it’s just because I’m used to Shakespeare’s plays that I like them, I feel a little more confident in my ability to write an essay on one.
Though I wouldn’t say The Tempest was my favourite play, I did like it. I found, for one thing, a few Machiavellian ideas that ran through it, prominently with Prospero. Arial does his dirty work, and so he very effectively keeps his hands clean. He’s certainly manipulative and deceiving, never letting on to how much he’s pulling the strings.
I found the most interesting characters of this play to be Caliban and Ariel. I guess I’m intrigued by their suffering, I feel as though these characters had the most depth of them all. Though I’m not discounting the others, I do believe they all have very multi-layered complexity and are by no means overly simplistic. It’s just that Caliban and Ariel most caught my curiosity. This could have something to do with the fact that I read a book a few years ago called “eyes like stars” by Lisa Mantchev, which portrayed Ariel as a very significant character who was slightly villain like, and deceptive and tricky. So, coming into the book, that was the impression I had of Ariel. While reading the book, however, I didn’t interpret Ariel like that. Though he certainly causes trickery and deception, I took this as only to be Prospero’s bidding, which he’s doing to serve his desire to be freed. He’s not like puck, who takes more joy in his mischief.
I pictured Caliban as a sort of hunchbacked man, somewhat like Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre-Dame. He was given fish-like qualities but I interpreted that as greasy hair and his odd frame. I suppose that my mind went to lengths to picture him as human, despite evidence to the contrary. I was reminded of Richard III, probably largely because of the hunchback, but they both seemed misinterpreted by those around them. Caliban is not as cruel as Richard III was depicted to be, however. But his appearance did play a very large role in how he was thought of.
The Tempest is the first Shakespearean work I ever had to read. It was also the day I learnt that Shakespeare, the guy I had formerly knew as the guy with the skull, says “to be or not to be, that is the question” and had written a love story called Romeo and Juliet. And to this day I still thoroughly enjoy it. My secondary school did a take on The Tempest working with the physical theatre group called the Zen Zen Zo. The tempest and the depiction of it was so good, they had a whole load of Ariels above flicking water into the audience as the ships crew fought it out with the ship. It was amazing and that is how I tend to view the play. The most memorable moment of the play, when I watched what I believe to be an animated version, I cannot really remember since I was in the 5th or 6th grade, was the part where Caliban meets Trincolo and Stephano.
The Tempest is a very interesting play; this tempest, that shipwrecks Alonzo and company, is completely orchestrated by Prospero. I like the idea that the play is contained on a, essentially, deserted island and every aspect of the marooned peoples is controlled by Prospero. Prospero himself is an interesting character he is shown to be very controlling over everything, from the shipwrecked to his servants (Ariel and Caliban), even his daughter’s relationship! (Although that sort of stuff was normal of the time). It is nice to see that, after his brother betrays him, he becomes more cautious of people and their thoughts since before he would hack away at studying while he let his brother govern for him.
After writing a paper on Machiavelli and Medea, I would say that Prospero does a pretty bad job in Machiavelli’s books. A Machiavellian prince for instance would have killed the original inhabitants, especially if they tried to kill him. Prospero is neither feared nor loved by Caliban or Ariel.
To end, I have watched a pretty strange rendition of Romeo and Juliet. It was FANTASTIC, despite having the strangest ending ever. The end of this animated Romeo and Juliet ended with Romeo being killed by a tree lady (A lady who had like tree arms) and Juliet becoming a tree to save everyone. I felt that took away from the tragedy, but it was fun and romantic along the way. I wish we did Romeo and Juliet, but that might be because there is so much fun in it! I better stop here before my love of the Act 1, Scene 1 fight between the house of Capulet and the house of Montague take over this post.
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