Realism in “Robinson Crusoe”

Read the following short essay and discuss these extracts:

-“while we are going through it we never pause to question the narrator’s credentials”

-“Friday’s gratitude to Crusoe is perfectly natural.”

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.

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