In Robinson Crusoe, on seeing his ship hulled but partially intact on the rocks, why are Robinson's feelings conflicted?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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After his first few weeks living a spartan existence on the deserted island, Robinson Crusoe wakes up to find that his ship, which is not yet totally destroyed by the rocks has been floated closer to the shore by the tides. This is a surprise, as he had expected it to be dragged off by the tides and sunk. Seeing it there fills him with both happiness and sadness:

...seeing her set upright, and not broken to pieces, I hoped, if the wind abated, I might get on board, and get some food and necessaries out of her for my relief - so, on the other hand, it renewed my grief at the loss of my comrades, who, I imagined, if we had all stayed on board, might have saved the ship...
(Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, eNotes eText)

Having both the raw materials of the ship -- treated wood and metal parts -- and whatever supplies survived the crash will help Robinson in establishing a life on the island. He knows that he is better-off with whatever he can scavenge. However, seeing it so close fills him with sadness because he realizes how easily two or more men could survive than just one; alone, he can bring materials to shore and build a house, but with others, he it might have been possible to escape the island much sooner. However, pragmatism takes hold and he spends several days looting the ship for supplies.


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