Daniel Defoe followed many professions and his fortunes were up and down. Correlate Defoe's life with the life of Robinson Crusoe.Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Daniel Defoe's misfortunes in life were of many sorts but none similar to what Robinson Crusoe experienced on the island in Defoe's novel, Robinson Crusoe. Defoe's suffering began when just a boy. At the age of ten, he suffered the tragedy of his mother's death, which was followed closely by being sent to boarding school. After finishing his schooling at Charles Morton's academy, he entered business and was greatly successful. He erred by overextending his investments and was eventually sent to Debtor's Prison. His rescue came when the friendships he had previously made in government secured him the patronage of King William III who started Defoe on the way to repaired fortunes.

His next decline in fortunes came when William III died and was succeeded by Queen Anne. He found difficulty from Queen Anne when an anonymously written satirical pamphlet (meaning to advocate the opposite of what it actually said) was attributed, correctly, to his authorship. The pamphlet, The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1702), advocated exterminating religious dissenters who denied the authority of the Anglican Church. He spent three days in the pillory on public display and simultaneously went bankrupt.

His fortunes rose again when Robert Harley, a Tory, enlisted Defoe, a Whig, as a spy. Awkward to spy for a political party you oppose.... During this period, Defoe made investments in Scotland and owned all the newspapers in Edinburgh. When Queen Anne died, he was also imprisoned for pro-Tory remarks (made while spying for Harley) when Torys were in disfavor. Lord Chief Justice Parker rescued Defoe and made him a Whig spy. During this period Defoe was writing prose and experimenting with fiction.In 1719 he published his second novel, Robinson Crusoe. His fortunes in life were stable after this until his death in 1731.

The similarities that seem most readily apparent between Defoe's life and Crusoe's occur in Part 2 when he invests in goods for trade and later when he is captured by the Moors. Further, both Crusoe and Defoe are Protestant Christians. Defoe's loss of his mother and subsequent separation from his family is reflected in Crusoe's separation from his family, first as a sailor and second as a cast-away. Another similarity is that Defoe's misfortunes were always redeemed, he was rescued, and he ended his life in stability and steady prosperity gained from his writing. Differences between them are: Defoe did not go against his families advice; he was not an adventure seeker, only a businessman with lots of adventures; he never needed to build all of civilization from scratch.

On the other hand, as a spy for the wrong party, one he didn't believe in, he would have had to conquer his fear. Further, he did have to start from scratch and rebuild his life three times, four if you count initially starting in business: 91) after over investing; (2) after displeasing Queen Anne with his Protestant Dissenter satirical pamphlet; (3) after being imprisoned for (seemingly) pro-tory remarks. Crusoe certainly needed to conquer his fear and he certainly needed to rebuild his life from scratch--literally. It seems Defoe's personal experiences are reflected in these themes and in Crusoe's reliance on reason, order and civilization, which must have helped Defoe get through his difficulties and periods of rebuilding.

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Robinson Crusoe

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