Regarding Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe, explain how the Biblical stories of the Prodigal Son and Job relate to Robinson Crusoe's salvation on the deserted island.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is a curious happenstance that when a youth rebels against the "pulpits" of his father and society, and becomes so far removed from the comforts of his own environment that he finds himself endangered, he often reaches back for the lifeline of his family culture and faith as a means of sustaining his spirit. Having ignored the "serious and excellent counsel" of his father, Robinson commences a seafaring career in the hope of satisfying his "wandering inclination." Acting as a prodigal son, Crusoe departs from home without having 

... sent them [his parents] Word of it; but leaving them to hear of it as they might, without asking God's Blessing, or my Father's, without any Consideration of Circumstances or Consequences and in an ill Hour, God knows. On the first of September 1651 I went on Board a Ship bound for London.

After Crusoe's first shipwreck, he alludes to the parable of the Prodigal Son: 

Had I now had the sense to have gone back to Hull, and...home, I had been happy, and my father, an emblem of our blessed Saviour's parable, had even killed the fatted calf for me....But my ill fate pushed me on now with an obstinancy that nothing could resist....

Crusoe then boards another ship which meets an ill fate also as Crusoe is captured by Turks, who make him a slave. Nevertheless, he is fortunate enough to make an escape with Xury as he commanders a boat from a Moor, whom he throws overboard. A Portugese ship comes along and Crusoe gives Xury to the captain and selfishly goes on to Brazil where he makes a fortune. But, as he later writes, Crusoe is punished for his sins and ignoring the advice of the captain, who represents the wisdom of Providence, as he, once again, is shipwrecked, but this time he is the sole survivor bereft of anything but what he can salvage from the ship. 

Alone and dependent upon his own survival skills, Crusoe finally draws from his spiritual past and the upbringing of his father. When he begins to despair, his faith in God returns to his heart and restores his spirits:

All Evills are to be consider'd with the Good that is in them, and with what worse attends them.

Much like Job of the Old Testament, Robinson Crusoe realizes that he has scorned his father's wisdom. In the biblical story of Job, a friend named Elihu tells Job that God speaks to human beings in two ways: with visions and with physical pain, a pain which provides an opportunity for the sufferer to truly acknowledge God's forgiveness and love once he is well again. For, then he comprehends that God has "ransomed" him from an impending death (33:24). Thus, Crusoe sits in humiliation of his rejection of God's teachings of honoring one's father and mother and of ignoring the signs from God after he has survived previous danger. So, like Job, Crusoe, having read from the Bible on the island, regains his faith in God.

After his return to England, although he learns his parent have died so he cannot return as has the Prodigal Son of the Bible, Crusoe yet finds much religious significance in what happens to him:

I might well say, now indeed, the latter End of Job was better than the Beginning. It is impossible to express here the Flutterings of my very Heart, when I look'd over these Letters, and especially when I found all my Wealth about me; for as the Brasil Ships come all in Fleets, the same Ships which brought my Letters, brought my Goods; and the Effects were safe in the River before the Letters came to my Hand.

Having never completely lost his faith in God--certainly, having restored it while on the island--Crusoe perceives himself as a likeness of Job, albeit one who is rewarded with wealth.

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mlsldy3's profile pic

mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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For many years now, Robinson Crusoe, has been compared to biblical stories. It is a story of redemption, which can be found in the Bible everywhere. The stories of the Prodigal Son and Job, are so prevalent to Robinson Crusoe.

The first story of the Prodigal Son, is one that is so famous in the Bible. The son leaves his father's farm, and the guarantee of a bright future, to go out on his own. The father is sad, but will always welcome his beloved son home. Robinson Crusoe leaves his parents home, and his father warns him that he will end up alone. Robinson Crusoe calls leaving his father, his first sin.

"As I had once done thus in my breaking away from my parents, so I could not be content now, but I must go and leave the happy view I had of being a rich and thriving man in my new plantation, only to pursue a rash and immoderate desire of rising faster than the nature of the thing admitted; and thus I cast myself down again into the deepest Gulph of human misery that ever man fell into, or perhaps could be consistent with life and a state of health in the world."

The story of Job, is one of pure suffering. Job is put to every test known to man, and while he is being tested, he never gives up on God. He may get angry and ask God why, but he never loses his faith in God. Robinson Crusoe, was tested in much the same way. While on the island, he is put to many tests. He is alone, he gets sick and he starts to have dreams about God. This is when Robinson Crusoe gets his salvation. Although he has been tested, almost beyond his limits, he learns to trust in God and accept that God is in control and knows that God will protect him. 

"I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted (Job, 42:2).

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