Robinson Crusoe- Emergence Of The Modern Self

Essay, Research Paper

In the novel Robinson Crusoe, Defoe illustrates the contradictions that drench the thoughts and actions of man as he strives to reach for God while also forced to face the realization that he must ensure his own safety in the world. Defoe uses Crusoe?s journey on the canoe to exemplify how Crusoe lives in a world where he longs to please and obey God but must also contend with his instinct, which looks to himself for his savior.

In the passage in which Crusoe finally reaches land after a tumultuous experience at sea in his canoe, Crusoe falls to his ?knees and gave God Thanks for [his] Deliverance, resolving to lay aside all Thoughts of [his] Deliverance by [his] boat? (103). Crusoe strives for the Christian ideal, which is to look to God for assistance and not to humans because inevitably God holds the only power to give and take life. Crusoe appears to achieve the ideal when he drops to his knees and thanks God for his safe return; however, through the use of the word ?resolve,? Defoe shows that the ideal relationship with God contradicts man?s instinct. According to the Webster?s English Dictionary, resolves means 1. to come to a definite or earnest decision about; determine. 14. to come to a determination; make up one?s mind (786). Since Crusoe must come to a determination in order to lay aside his thoughts that his boat saved him and not God then Defoe shows that Crusoe?s first instinct is to look to his ?self? as his savior, and only after deliberation does he determine to call it providence that saves him. Although it may on the surface appear that Crusoe achieves this ideal relationship with God in which he praises Him and does not look to himself as having the power to save his own life, Defoe shows that this is just a superficial reading because Crusoe never mentions that he does believe that God saved him but only that he would not think about his boat as saving him.

Crusoe says that he will claim that God?s providence saved him that day and delivered him back to land after the life-threatening journey around the island, but the journey itself contradicts God?s providence. The journey is an act against God. The purpose of the journey in this man-made canoe is for Crusoe to obtain more knowledge. He says earlier in the novel that ?the Discoveries I made in that little Journey, [on land] made me very eager to see other Parts of the Coast and now I had a Boat, I thought of nothing but sailing round the island? (100). Like the world?s first man, Crusoe?s longing for knowledge almost costs him his life. Crusoe?s island, like the Garden of Eden, provides for all of man?s needs. Crusoe has complete dominion over this island and all of its inhabitants, an island that provides for his every need and holds no life-threatening beast to terrorize him, yet he still longs to know the other parts of the island. Like Adam, after his search for knowledge Crusoe must sleep on the hard cold ground ?being quite spent with the Labor and Fatigue of the Voyage? (103). Before the fall of man labor was not a source of fatigue. Here Defoe reminds us that God punishes man who is not content with what God provides but instead opts to look to the self for more than what God offers. Earlier in the novel Crusoe says that he ?had neither the Lust of Flesh, the Lust of Eye, or the Pride of Life? (94) but this journey proves that he does indeed have the Lust of the Eye because he longs for knowledge.

Defoe uses Crusoe?s journey on the canoe to show that Crusoe lives in a world inflicted with contradictions, many of which he does not even know exist. In a one-sentence paragraph, Defoe illustrates this conflict between living life according to the Bible and giving into instinct. Through his reference to the fall of man, he shows that man?s nature is like Crusoe, whose quest for knowledge and ingratitude for what God provides leads to punishment, which eventually leads man back to God.


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