Robinson Crusoe Questions and Answers
by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe book cover
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How is individualism showed in Robinson Crusoe?

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The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines individualism as the concept that all duties, values, and rights are derived from individuals rather than a group. Individualism expresses the idea that the needs and rights of the individual are of supreme importance.

With that definition in mind, we can clearly see how Robinson Crusoe expresses individualism. Crusoe, stranded all alone on a deserted island, is necessarily left to his own resources and has to make his own practical and ethical decisions. Though he is lonely in his new home, he forges onward and does what he needs to do to survive. When he does realize he is thriving in his new home, he is proud of his individualism and independence. Further, he does not perceive the land and resources...

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'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.