The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner, Written by Himself, as Daniel Defoe entitled his novel, is read as eagerly today as it was when it was first published. An exotic novel of travel and adventure, Robinson Crusoe functions primarily as Defoe’s defense of his bourgeois Protestantism. Crusoe’s adventures—the shipwrecks, his life as a planter in South America, and his years of isolation on the island—provide an apt context for his polemic. A political dissenter and pamphleteer, Defoe saw as his enemies the Tory aristocrats whose royalism in government and religion blocked the aspirations of the middle class. Like Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels (1726), Defoe in this novel presents a religiously and politically corrupt England. Both authors were intent on bringing about a moral revolution, and each uses his hero as an exemplum. Gulliver, however, represents a moral failure, whereas Crusoe’s adventures reveal his spiritual conversion, a return to the ethics and religion of his father. As one critic has said of Robinson Crusoe: We read it . . . to follow with meticulous interest and constant self-identification the hero’s success in building up, step by step, out of whatever material came to hand, a physical and moral replica of the world he had left behind him. If Robinson Crusoe is an adventure story, it is also a moral tale, a commercial accounting and a Puritan...
(The entire section is 1053 words.)
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