Robinson Crusoe

by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe


Summary / Riassunto

Robinson Crusoe is a young man of about 18 years old who lives with his parents in York, England. Although his father wishes him to become a lawyer and advises him to choose a suitable life, he ignores him and leaves his hometown without saying goodbye. During his trip to London he is caught by a big storm. Robinson is so scared, that he promises himself to obey his parents and to give up his dreams. He thinks briefly about going home, but he can’t stand to be humiliated, so he decides to set sail to Guinea. On the way the ship is attacked by the Moorish pirates and Robinson is sold as a slave in North Africa.

For two years he plans to escape. One day, providing himself with a gun and some provisions, he escapes in a little boat with another slave called Xury. Fortunately a Portuguese ship rescues them, takes them aboard for free and brings them to Brazil. There Robinson takes up a sugar cane plantation. As manpower is needed to work the plantation, Robinson embarks on a ship to Guinea in order to get slaves for the plantation. On the way the ship shipwrecks and all his fellow sailors drown. The ship sinks and he reaches the coast of a desert island. After an initial examination he builds a house for himself near the top of a hill and surrounds it with a wall for protection against animals and intruders. He is able to rescue some provisions, sets a calendar, writes a journal, teaches a parrot some words and domesticates goats in order to have meat provisions during the season of bad weather. He begins to grow corn and make bread. He tries to build a boat and explore the coastal areas, but strong seas force him back to the island. After twelve years of loneliness, Crusoe finds a footstep on the beach, then he finds out rests of human bones. He realises that the island is periodically visited by the cannibals for their rituals. One day a Spanish ship is wrecked off the coast of the island. There aren’t survivors, but this supplies Robinson with new and fresh provisions.

Some years later the cannibals return and Robinson helps one of the prisoners to escape. The savage is named Friday and becomes his servant. Crusoe teaches him English, some Christian religion principles and civil habits. Friday reveals Robinson that the cannibals have Spanish prisoners. When the cannibals come to the island again, Friday and Crusoe rescue two of their prisoners, a Spaniard called Christianus and Friday’s father. In the meantime an English ship arrives. The ship is under the command of mutineers, but Crusoe and Friday make a strategic plan to persuade the mutineers and recover the ship. Crusoe finally sails from the island and after twenty years living on the island reaches England with Friday. Robinson is a rich man (his plantation in Brazil has thrived), he marries and has three children. When his wife dies, he returns to his old island, where he finds out that the mutineers have become a completed colony with men and women from Spanish America. He also thinks about returning to live there one day.


Must know / Da sapere

  • Inter-racial relationships
  • Economic aspects: Crusoe as the perfect homo economicus, a potential capitalist who aims at self-improvement and self-help
  • Crusoe’s strong spirit of survival, his self-determination and self-awareness
  • The exploration, the exploitation of nature and the transformation of wilderness into culture
  • Crusoe’s encounters with water associated with a kind of ordeal or with the rite of baptism, by which Christians prove their faith and enter a new life saved by Christ
  • Crusoe’s repentance and his dependence on God
  • The rescue of Friday and his religious conversion as the only way to spread Christianism
  • Western colonisation and the establishment of British colonial empire
  • Language as an important element of communication and dominion over under races

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