In Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, does his dismissal of his pact with God make Crusoe a hopeless rebel?
Even though Crusoe presumably had been raised in a pious household, he dismisses his pact with God so easily. "...in that one night's wickedness, I drowned all my repentance, all my past conduct, and all my resolutions for the future. [...] "...I entirely forgot the vows and promises I made in my distress." (p.14) Why would he forget such a solemn oath to God so easily? Does this make Crusoe a hopeless rebel?
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In Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, I don't know that Crusoe's change of heart towards God indicates that he is a "hopeless rebel." I assume this term means that he cannot help but be a rebel. Human nature may tend to push one naturally toward Crusoe's behavior. In the heat of the moment, when fear is so overwhelming, the basic instinct of a human being is to do whatever is necessary to survive.
After the fear has passed, it is also not unusual that promises made under duress would be forgotten as quickly as they were made. Crusoe admits that this is what happens to him. However, he does not wholly lose sight of his brief encounter with God:
I found, indeed, some intervals of reflection; and the serious thoughts did, as it were, endeavour to return again sometimes; but I shook them off, and roused myself from them as it were from a distemper, and applying myself to drinking and company, soon mastered the return of those fits—for so I called them…
Crusoe speaks of God numerous times throughout the story. He reports that when he first is washed ashore while everyone else perishes, he does not thank God (we assume he infers "as he should have,") but runs about wringing his hands like a madman until he collapses.
With the "miraculous" growth of corn on the island, Crusoe once again "sees" God, but this, too, is temporary.
...and then the wonder began to cease; and I must confess my religious thankfulness to God’s providence began to abate, too, upon the discovering that all this was nothing but what was common...
A permanent change eventually does come over the castaway. At one point, when he becomes seriously ill—close to dying—Crusoe begins to think about his lack of a relationship with God, his father's prediction that rejecting his parents' wishes would not bode well for him, and it might well be that God's hand is present in his current separation from civilization:
I had no more sense of God or His judgments—much less of the present affliction of my circumstances being from His hand—than if I had been in the most prosperous condition of life. But now, when I began to be sick, and a leisurely view of the miseries of death came to place itself before me; when my spirits began to sink under the burden of a strong distemper, and nature was exhausted with the violence of the fever; conscience, that had slept so long, began to awake, and I began to reproach myself with my past life, in which I had so evidently, by uncommon wickedness, provoked the justice of God to lay me under uncommon strokes, and to deal with me in so vindictive a manner.
What began to work in Crusoe earlier in the story disappeared when the threats were gone. He was, however, younger then, and as he himself concludes, this independence from God is not unusual for a young man who believes all is well with his life—that he need depend on no one.
Human nature shows that when change is about to come over us in whatever fashion, it may take several "life-altering kicks" before we are aware that life is trying to get our attention. Crusoe was raised in a good home, and in that he is growing as a person—seeing how insignificant he is, alone in the universe—I would not assume that he is truly a hopeless rebel. I would think simply that he will stop fighting life and look for a peace regarding his circumstances which will allow him to survive. Recognizing that God has a hand in this disaster, he can see, too, the blessings Crusoe has received.
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