In what ways is Robinson Crusoe typical of its era?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Robinson Crusoe represents several norms and ideals present in 18th century culture and society. For example, Crusoe's lust for adventure and travel was typical of the upper-class youth, who often grew up confined to their studies and single residences. His refusal to obey his father's wishes could be seen as a representation of the American Colonists who defied their British "fathers" in seceding from Great Britain.

Another example is Crusoe's treatment of non-white native peoples. Although he is as casually racist as most people of the time were, he also shows signs of empathy towards Friday, and even begins to understand that Friday is as smart as himself, only in different ways. Like all change, this takes time, and in other ways Crusoe's evangelical drive to convert represents the last remnants of the Church and its Crusades to destroy other faiths.

Another example is the spread of European influences across the world. Crusoe, in his travels, impresses his will on most others that he meets, doing so not out of malice but out of a sincere desire to improve other people. While his adventures are idealized compared to the long and bloody wars of European expansion, he represents the best possible outcomes as a missionary and diplomat. 

Finally, the novel itself is written as an epistolary work, one composed of diary entries. This was typical for fiction in that time, since it allowed the pretense of a factual document that was found or delivered for publication. Many later novels drew on Robinson Crusoe's influences, making the epistolary novel a classic feature of the 18th and 19th centuries.