What are some examples of enlightenment-age ideas in Robinson Crusoe?

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

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While Robinson Crusoe was written during the Age of Enlightenment, it contains largely spiritual themes as opposed to enlightenment ideas. The difference between religious enlightenment and the Age of Enlightenment is the latter's promotion of science and reason over spirituality.

Crusoe defines his stay on the island with personal responsibility and practical thinking; while he comes to a religious conversion because of his unconscious guilt (he has been very lucky in surviving, but has not given proper thanks), Crusoe takes his life into his own hands, using his knowledge and personal abilities to survive rather than trusting entirely in his new-found faith. His prior actions, taking off for the sea in defiance of his father's wishes, are typical of the anti-authoritarian enlightenment attitude, as are his mistakes in figuring out how to survive on the island.

Possibly the most significant example of Enlightenment-Age ideas is Crusoe's relationship with Friday; although they act as master and slave, Crusoe discovers that Friday is perfectly intelligent and capable of reasoning, not an ignorant savage, and they become more like friends as the story goes on. Friday's sympathetic treatment, instead of a role as unseen slave laborer, is typical of the evolving views of race relations.


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