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.