ROBINSON CRUSOE (published 1719)
LITERARY TREND AND AUTHOR CANON
Realism in Defoe’s novels:
- The novels are presented as memoirs or autobiographies in order to convince Puritan readers that they are true (Puritans had an aversion to fiction, which was considered a lie);
- Narrated in the 1st person;
- The setting is contemporary to the author and realistic;
- The protagonist is presented in a chronological series of episodes which represent the basis of the plot;
- The main character overcomes misfortune through self-reliance, hard work, and belief in God;
- Plain but effective prose style.
LITERARY GENRE AND TECHNIQUES
Sub-genre: travel fiction
- Realistic; describes plausible behaviour of an ordinary person;
- Mimics the first-person account of a shipwreck adventure;
- Based on a true story (Alexander Selkirk was stranded on an uninhabited island between 1704 and 1709);
- Set on an exotic isolated island;
- The travel fiction aspect is a literary technique meant to attract the Puritan readers of the Augustan Age, as travel fiction was sought after in the period, because it rendered real events, whereas literary fiction was considered a lie.
- A remote, tropical island.
Main theme: the human condition
The entire novel is a meditation on the human condition. Alone on a deserted island, Robinson Crusoe struggles to maintain reason, order, and civilization. He triumphs over nature (the purpose of mankind, according to the book, is to triumph over nature – Enlightenment, positivist philosophy). He brings order to an uncivilized world.
Robinson Crusoe is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. He manages to find a deserted island and survives there in almost complete isolation for 28 years until he is rescued by an English ship.
Characters presented in the analysis of the literary fragment should be adapted to the fragment itself.
- Robinson Crusoe – self-sufficient Englishman, who, after spending some years at sea, is cast away on a small, remote island. He is practical and farsighted and manages to make the island comfortable and save the life of a man, Friday.
- Mr. Crusoe – Robinson Crusoe’s father, a middle-class Englishman, wants his son to remain home, not to go to sea.
- Friday – a native of a nearby island whom Robinson Crusoe rescues from cannibal captors. He becomes Crusoe’s friend and companion.
POINT OF VIEW
- First-person point of view.
- Robinson Crusoe apparently writes it when he is an old man. However, the story and the character are FICTIONAL.
- Grounded, scientific, and mostly detached. The author avoids dramatic storytelling. Defoe is credited as one of the first realist prose writers partly due to this choice of tone.
- Fictional autobiography, written from the first-person point of view;
- The story includes material from a diary, which is integrated into the novel.
- The narrative style emulates scientific literature style, to gain the reader’s confidence;
- Lots of details, almost journalistic writing technique. Everything is presented in order to give the reader the impression of reality;
- The novel is a spiritual autobiography, a description of the soul. This is done through the characterization of the main’s character’s emotions, perceivable behind the pseudo-scientific style and behind the narration of actual events.