How is individualism showed in Robinson Crusoe?

Expert Answers
belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Individualism is shown most strongly by Robinson Crusoe himself, who acts to keep himself alive without help for a long time. Since he is the only survivor of his shipwreck, there is no one to help him in the first months of his solitude. Refusing to give up, Crusoe begins to build a shelter out of debris even before the wrecked ship floats closer to shore. Once he has access to tools and better supplies (such as tarp canvas from the ship's sails) Crusoe begins to create an entire household for himself, including farmlands and domestic animals. Although he comes to a religious conversion, he does not give over his personal responsibility, instead thanking God for helping him while still working to help himself. In this fashion, his individualism comes into full force because of his trials, and is the primary factor in his continuing survival and success.

roykartik | Student

'Robinson Crusoe' is a fundamentally important work by Daniel Defoe regarding the rise of individualism. The novel is about relationships that create the individual's world. When we find Crusoe all alone on an uninhabited island, we are reminded of those famous lines in Coleridge's poem, The Ancient Mariner:

Alone, alone, all, all alone,

Alone on a wide, wide sea !

On his island Crusoe enjoys absolute intellectual, social and economic freedom. Crusoe's intellectual freedom on the island made the French philospher Rousseau regard this novel as essential reading for a growing boy. Being all alone, Crusoe is free from all social restrictions on the island. The island gives Crusoe that laissez-faire which the economic man needs to realize his aims. In England, the market conditions, the taxation and the problems of the availability of the labour would make it impossible for an individual to control every aspect of production, distribution and exchange. The interference from this is obvious. Let the individual go to a place where there are no owners and no competitions and let him build there his personal empire with the help of a man Friday who needs no wages. This is the positive and prophetic side of Defoe's story, that side which makes Crusoe a source of inspiration to economics and the empire-builders.

But there is also a negative side to teh story. The basis for Crusoe's prosperity is the original stock of tools which he obtained from the stranded ship. Without these tools, he could have achieved nothing. Crusoe does not have achieved prosperity entirely through his own efforts, because the goods which he has obtained from the stranded ship were the product of the labours of scores of other individuals. In short, all the data available to us show that the novel Robinson Crusoe is a plea for the advancement and promotion of the concept of economic individualism.