|Realism in the novel Robinson Crusoe.
Defoe in his preface to the novel Robinson Crusoe described the book as “a just history of fact “ , . However, one thing can’t be denied : Robinson Crusoe was based upon the actual experiences of a real man called Alexander Selkirk who had spent four years alone , on the uninhabited island of Juan Fernandez. But , we shall keep in mind that Defoe’s story of Crusoe’s experiences and doings is largely factious and fantastic ; yet, while we are going through it we never pause to question the narrator’s credentials . Defoe’s technique of telling the story is such that we fall completely under its spell and go on reading it eagerly, and even breathlessly, without doubting its veracity. In short, Defoe is a realistic novelist. In Robison Crusoe , he gave his readers all kinds of minute details. Such details to be seen in Crusoe’s digging the cave, building the fence, collecting his crops of barely and wheat, hunting the animals , fighting the cannibals and the like.
Defoe, on the other hand, has used different techniques to bring realism into the novel. In the first place , he has used the circumstantial method : One of Crusoe’s most successful projects is the raising of the crops of barely and rice on the island. Another circumstantial method is that the presence of the wrecked ship near the sea shore which enabled Crusoe to bring the equipment and the material he needed to survive. On the other hand , there is realism in character –portrayal. Friday’s gratitude to Crusoe is perfectly natural. Friday becomes a devoted servant of Crusoe who has saved his life from the clutches of cannibals and many other characters in the novel seem to be real such as the English captain , the Portuguese Captain and the black boy Xury who has helped Crusoe to escape from the Turkish pirates. Yet, another device which adds to the realistic effect of the novel is a liberal of dates and geographical place- names. Crusoe was born in the year 1632, in the city of York. He got stranded on the desolate island on the 30th September 1659. He left the island on the 19th December 1686, after a stay of 28 years, two months, and nineteen days and the like.
Finally, the psychological truth of the story helps in bringing realism into the novel. Crusoe’s feelings after he has been swept ashore on an uninhabited island have been described so minutely and convincingly that we get the feeling of it. During his illness he draws comfort from prayer. However, Defoe claimed the novel was historical in a deeper sense than was generally understood by the term “historical” , and said that the book was an allegory of his own life.
Robison Crusoe has been regarded as a parable of the economic man.
Robinson Crusoe has been described by Karl Marx as a potential capitalist. But it is the critic Ian Watt who offers a most stimulating and illuminating interpretation of the novel from the economic point of view. This critic relates Crusoe’s predicament on the desolate island to the rise of bourgeois individualism. According to this critic all the characters of Defoe pursue money, according to the profit and loss and it runs in their blood .
Crusoe in the novel does have his parents with whom he lives , he leaves them for an economic motive, showing himself to be the economics, wanting to improve his economics condition. Something in his nature calls him to the sea and to adventure ; and in any case he is not content with the middle station of life in which God and nature have placed him .Late, Crusoe regards his dissatisfaction with the middle station as his “original sin “. At the same time the argument between his parents and himself at the beginning is a debate not about religion or about filial duty, but about his economic circumstances. Hr regarded the economic argument as the most important. And, of course , Crusoe actually gains by his original sin , and becomes richer than his father was. Crusoe’s original sin is really the dynamic tendency of capitalism itself. It is the fundamental tendency of economic individualism that prevents Crusoe from paying much heed to the ties of family , Nor does Crusoe at any time show any particular attachment as a sentimental kind to his country. Of all the sea voyages he has made , we can see Crusoe as a commercial traveler with profit as his motive/.
However, there are other important things in the novel which present Crusoe as an economic man . It seems that the dominance of economic individualism has not only diminished the importance of personal and group relationships but also undermined the sex- relationship. Romantic love is , for instance, almost absent from the novels of Defoe. Crusoe hardly never mentions , or thinks of women or sex desire. Only when his financial position has become fully secure, does he get married;
In fact , Crusoe treats all relationships in terms of their commodity value. The clearest case is that of Xury , the Moorish boy, who helped him to escape from slavery band who had even offered to sacrifice his life for Crusoe’s sake. He resolves to love Xury always and to make a great man of him . But eventually he sells the boy to the Portuguese sea- caption for a small amount of money.
The Psychological Development of the Protagonist in Defoe’s Novel Robinson Crusoe
Robinson Crusoe is as much the story of a man’s psychological development and spiritual progress as a tale of adventure in the physical sense. It tells the gripping story of the hardships and afflictions which the protagonist experiences, but it also gives us an engrossing account of the thoughts , emotions , and moods of the protagonist at various stages in his career .
If this novel had been no more than a story of exciting and even sensational adventures, it would not have been the masterpiece of fiction which it undoubtedly is. Crusoe is blessed with good fortune in brazil where he becomes fairly prosperous. He finds himself in that middle station of life which his father has strongly recommended to him. But he doesn’t feel content with this middle station of life. He now wishes to pursue a “ rash and immoderate desire to rise faster than the nature of the thing admitted .” He is overcome by his “ rambling thoughts and designs” to go on another voyage. This voyage also ends in disaster. He offers his thanks to God for having thus narrowly escaped from death. When he compares his blessings with his misfortunes , he finds that blessings outweigh the misfortunes. He finds himself to be the only survivor. However, the real transformation in Crusoe occurs when he falls ill. Here we have a turning- point in the spiritual life of Crusoe. Previously. If at all he had uttered any words of thankfulness to God, he had done so in a casual and mechanical manner. Crusoe now opens the Bible and reads the following words: “ Call on me in the day of trouble , and I will deliver, and thou shall glorify me”. He also reads :” I will never , never leave thee , nor forsake thee.” After reading this he begins to feel that it is possible for him to be more happy in this solitary condition than he could have been in any other particular condition in any other part of world.
Finally , This is not to say that Crusoe’s trust in God and his continent continue uninterrupted during the rest of his stay on the island. There are occasions when his faith is somewhat shaken . For instance, on seeing a foot-print in the sand , he is filled with greater fear. However, this mood of doubt doesn’t last long .Soon afterwards , he picks up the Bible and reads: “ Wait on the lord, and be of good cheer, and He shall strengthen thy heart.”