Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Robinson Crusoe Review

Sarah and I just finished reading Daniel Defoe's classic adventure novel, Robinson Crusoe.  This is considered the first full-length novel to be written in the English language, and its story has captured the imagination of the world for almost 300 years. 
The basic story line is well known.  However, a few details significantly enrich the plot.  Crusoe's father encouraged him to settle down for a quiet but satisfying middle-class life.  However, Crusoe's hunger for adventure sent him sailing the seas.  He was captured by Moroccan pirates and made into a slave.  He managed to escape by boat, lost his bearings, and became adrift at sea.  A Portuguese vessel rescued him and took him to Brazil, where he settled and began developing a prosperous plantation.  However, greed pushed him to make an illegal slave trading mission to Africa.  On the way, his boat was shipwrecked and he was the lone survivor on an uninhabited island near Trinidad.
At this point the more familiar story begins.  Crusoe must learn to survive alone and without most of the technology he knows.  Slowly and falteringly, which much labor and struggle and trial and error, he becomes master of his island.  Also, with only the Bible to read, he has a deep spiritual awakening.  His one great complaint is loneliness.
Eventually, he discovers that South American cannibals occasionally visit his island for feasts of the meat of prisoners of war.  From this point forward, he lives in constant fear of his life.  However, he eventually manages to rescue one prisoner of war, whom he names Friday.  Friday immediately commits himself body and soul to Crusoe. 
Later, Friday and Crusoe are able to rescue others from certain death, and these rescues combine to provide a way off the island and back to Europe for Crusoe.  After almost 30 years of being "lost," Crusoe discovers that his Brazilian plantation, which he left in trust with his partners has prospered and he is now a man of some wealth. 
Through it all, he gives persistent credit to God for his provision and miraculous protection and mercy.  We were both surprised at the spiritual elements of this story.  However, we were also put off by Crusoe's open prejudice against the South American natives and willing acceptance of slavery.  It was strange to read of spiritual awakenings on one page and desires to slaughter savages (because of their cannibalism) on the next page.  However, I guess that's often how our life goes.  Even as we get light in one area of our lives, we remain blind in another.
This is a thrilling and intriguing story.  However, the details of his struggles for technological innovation and his long stay on the island grew monotonous in the middle section of the book.  The introduction warned us of this, though, so we pushed through and the pace picked up quite a bit once Crusoe saw the first footprint of another human on his island.
This is a great read, and it only looses one J because of its slow pace in the middle: JJJJ.
Post a Comment