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What are the post-colonial themes in Robinson Crusoe?

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malikalmaliky | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 15, 2013 at 8:34 PM via iOS

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What are the post-colonial themes in Robinson Crusoe?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 16, 2013 at 5:32 AM (Answer #1)

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The major post-colonial theme that is extremely troubling to readers of the book today, particularly perhaps for Western readers, is the way that Robinson Crusoe seems to assume an ownership over property that he has no actual claim over, simply because of who he is. Note, for example, what he says in Chapter 25 when he comments upon his situation on the island now that he has discovered a few other people on it:

My island was now peopled, and I thought myself very rich in subjects; and it was a merry reflection, which I frequently made, how like a king I looked. First of all, the whole country was my own mere property, Baso that I had an undoubted right of dominion. Secondly, my people were perfectly subjected. I was absolute lord and lawgiver, they all owed their lives to me, and were ready to lay down their lives, if there had been occasion of it, for me.

For the reader of today, this attitude reveals the breathtaking arrogance and self-righteousness that lies at the heart of colonialism. Crusoe automatically assumes that what he sees belongs to him, even though he has no claim over anything and he is just another human being on this island. This is shown through his selling of Xury even though he does not own him. Note how he views himself as a "king," and sees the island as "my own mere property." It is also interesting to note that whilst he is happy to view himself as "absolute lord and lawgiver," there is no mention of any obligation that he feels he has towards his people. This quote is incredibly disturbing when considered through a post-colonial lense, because it suggests the breathtaking arrogance and pride that lay at the heart of the colonial endeavour. 

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