Discuss how Daniel Defoe achieves verisimilitude in Robinson Crusoe and provide two examples.

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ssengupta eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, I would look up the explanation of verisimilitude given in the Robinson Crusoe Study Guide, under "Style." You will find that verisimilitude is a literary technique by which writers used to produce the SEMBLENCE of reality in their works. The very fact that "Robinson Crusue" was formally entitles, "The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe," implies that its author, Defoe, wanted his readers to think of his story as a true story. Many late seventeenth century and early eighteenth century novels were called "history" for the same reason.

So, to answer your question, I would say the WHOLE novel would be the first example of verisimitude. Defoe gives a pseudo-historical account of his protagonist, Crusoe, and the stories that follow, follow in a historical sequence, all the way up to his return to England and settling down once again.

But, of coure, there are also many, many individual examples.

One of the principal examples of verisimilitude is the whole section (or sections) where Defoe describes Crusoe constructing for himself all the things he would need to survive alone in the island: he cooks, creates a shelter for himself and makes a boat. When he discovers that a shipwrecked boat has floated on to the beach, bereft of any survivors, Crusoe makes numerous trips to it in his little boat, to and fro, bringing things he needs to live his life from the boat. To many readers, this part can seem to be awfully tedious and repitative, but the very technique of repitation, inducing the tediousness, is a technique of verisimilitude.

The second example of verisimilitude -- this time a much more interesting one, I think, is his meeting with Man Friday, the man Crusoe rescues. It is interesting because in this story about discovering Friday, civilizing him according to English culture, converting him to Christianity, then rescuing his captive father by waging a war on the cannibals who had captured the "senior Friday" and finally extending the war-effort to capture and eventually become a leader of these natives constitutes a whole model of conquering a foreign, usually a "backward" people, colonizing them and making them do as bid. In the late seventeenth century, Britain was very much into colonizing parts of Africa and Asia (just as the Spaniards and Portugese colonized the Americas). This was considered to be a great achievement on the part of English men, and Defoe's creation of the very process of colonialism through this type of verisimilitude was hugely appreciated by his readers.

I hope this response helps.

afi80fl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You can think of verisimilitude as including a "slice of life" in a piece of writing or work of literature.  In other words, it's imagery-packed and extremely realistic.  If the descriptions are so real that you can actually see what the characters see, hear what they hear, know what they know, etc., then you know the author of the book you're reading is including a good bit of verisimilitude. 

As far as specific incidents in the story, what about the lush descriptions of the landscape?  The sense of adventure, fear, loneliness, abandonment, etc?  It's hard to mess up if you just look for the best examples of detailed descriptions that really draw you into the work.

jayjay2011 | Student

i agree with sbeckett it is not a slice of life

sbeckett | Student

I Have to disagree slightly with the teacher who says that, including a 'slice of life' is the major means of creating verisimilitude in defoe's works.  certainly literary technique is an important part of verisimilitude.  However, Defoe, being above all a satirist, used, above all, the techique of the involved narrator, the passive objective journalist to apply verisimilitude.  This techique, at the time Defoe was writing, gave immediacy and journalistic truth to his tales.  Best examples are Robinson Crusoe (of course) and 'The Fortunate Mistress'.  It is important to realise that the narrator in all Defoe's stories is not Defoe himself but an unvented 'naive observer'.  Defoe (of neccessity) had to hide himself behind many cloaks.

John Tufail

veronicasierra | Student


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