What narrative techniques are used in Robinson Crusoe?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The two main narrative techniques used in Robinson Crusoe are epistolary and memoir.

The book is presented as the memoirs of Crusoe after his adventures, and incorporate his diaries into their narrative. The memoir-style is used to present a more realistic, immediate experience, rather than a third-person recounting of events that happened to other people. It also allows Crusoe to look back and comment on his earlier actions from a position of greater wisdom.

Epistolary narrative is the style of using what appear to be authentic letters or documents in the narrative. As Crusoe keeps a diary on the island, he uses entries from it to directly show his feelings at the time:

JUNE 18. -Rained all day, and I stayed within. I thought at this time the rain felt cold, and I was something chilly; which I knew was not usual in that latitude.

JUNE 19. -Very ill, and shivering, as if the weather had been cold.

JUNE 20. -No rest all night; violent pains in my head, and feverish.
(Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, eNotes eText)

By using his diary in this manner, Crusoe is able to both show his developing personal beliefs, and comment on his younger self. The diary format makes his stay on the island more believable, as it reads less like an edited and considered manuscript and more like something written on the spur of the moment.


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