Our first step in analyzing Robinson Crusoe as a Bildungsroman is to define “Bildungsroman” and discuss the characteristics of this genre. Bildungsroman is a German word that literally translates as “education-novel.” It presents the education and especially the psychological and moral formation of a young person. The Bildungsroman is generally written from the first-person perspective of the young person in question, and it is sometimes labeled as a “coming-of-age” story, for that is its primary theme. The character must become a mature adult.
Now let's see how Robinson Crusoe fits the Bildungsroman pattern. The story is told from the first-person perspective of the title character. He is a young man as the tale opens and all set to strike out on his own. He wants to go to sea and have adventures, but his father wants him to study law and settle down to a modest, secure life. Young Crusoe has every intention of obeying his father until the lure of the sea becomes too tempting and he set out on a merchant ship. The voyage goes well, and Crusoe makes money, so he sets out yet again.
This time, though, Crusoe ends up shipwrecked and stuck by himself on an island. Crusoe must grow up in a hurry. He learns how to grow and raise his own food, provide shelter for himself, and find or make what he needs to live. He also experiences a spiritual and religious awakening as he comes to terms with his past sins and discovers God's forgiveness. Crusoe continues to grow and develop through his “education” on the island and as he learns more and more about himself. By the time he is rescued, he is a completely different person than he was at the time he was shipwrecked. He has truly come of age. His education may not be traditional, but it is education nonetheless, and we can see how Robinson Crusoe is very much a Bildungsroman.