As one scholar has observed, Robinson Crusoe is on one level a meditation on the "redeeming qualities offered by the labor of colonialism for the Englishman. Defoe suggests that hard work is the way to create a civilization out of the wilderness of the New World and to achieve God's plan for English Protestants.
Crusoe, an Englishman, overcomes nature (in that he survives) through his work ethic and ingenuity. He overcomes his fear of the unknown in the process, and eventually brings nature, and people, under his control:
First of all, the whole country was my own mere property, Baso that I had an undoubted right of dominion. Secondly, my people were perfectly subjected. I was absolute lord and lawgiver, they all owed their lives to me, and were ready to lay down their lives, if there had been occasion of it, for me.
On the other hand, this struggle against nature is made necessary by Crusoe's rejection of his station in life, as Defoe makes clear:
I have been in all my Circumstances a Memento to those who are touched with the general Plague of Mankind, whence, for ought I know, one half of their Miseries flow; I mean, that of not being satisfy'd with the Station wherein God and Nature has plac'd them; for not to look back upon my primitive Condition, and the excellent Advice of my Father, the Opposition to which was, as I may call it, my ORIGINAL SIN.
Even as Defoe demonstrates the ability of mankind to tame and bring order to the wilderness and to allegedly inferior peoples, he also criticizes the grasping and materialistic culture (this is the time of the South Sea Bubble) that led men to that wilderness in the first place. These issues reached to the heart of the colonial project and to many important questions confronting Englishmen in the first half of the eighteenth century.