In Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe:
- What does Crusoe believe about Divine Providence at the end of the novel, especially in the events in his own life?
- Upon what has Crusoe's belief finally come to rest, as opposed to the fear that began his journey in faith?
- How does Crusoe's matured faith continue to manifest itself in his thoughts and actions after he leaves the island?
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In the exposition of Robinson Crusoe, Crusoe's father does everything to discourage his son from his adventurous dreams, telling him, Crusoe narrates, "God would not bless me." Moved by his father's words, he remains home for a year; however, nearly a year later when Crusoe learns that a friend is taking a voyage from Hull to London, the temptation is too great. In retrospect, Crusoe reflects upon his foolhardy actions made
...without asking God's Blessing, or my Father's, without any Consideration or Circumstances or Consequences, and in an ill Hour.
Certainly, Crusoe's adventures are life-changing. On this boat there is a terrible storm and Crusoe prays and promises God that he will never go on a ship again if he is saved. However, he soon breaks his vow and succumbs to "that evil influence" which caused him to disobey his father: He boards a vessel bound for the coast of Guinea. Then, when this voyage proves profitable, Crusoe goes on another towards the Canary Island and the African shore; unfortunately, Turkish pirates of Sallee chase them, kill some of the crew, and Crusoe and taken prisoner and made a slave to the captain. But, after a while, Crusoe manages to throw the Moor overboard on their outing with the fishing boat, and he and a slave name Xury make their escape. And, yet Crusoe still abandons his faith. Having made enough money to be middle-class as he could have been had he stayed in England, Crusoe agrees to sell to Africa to purchase slaves with thirteen others on board and the cabin boy. As he sails away in 1659, he remembers the words of his father, but greed propels him forward. After a dozen days a tremendous storm arises; the crew tries to make shore in a boat, but the waves are twenty feet high, and two or three of these carry Crusoe forward, dashing him against rocks. But, he makes it to the shore, and thanks God that his life has been saved. It is only later that he realizes he is the only survivor. The next day he begins salvaging what he can from the ship before it sinks.
Like a good Puritan of the work ethic, Crusoe builds himself shelters, fences his area, and arranges his possessions as safely as possible. Further, he decides to count the good things against the bad in columns in a journal. He notes that God has singled him out of the crew to be a survivor and
God wonderfully sent the ship in near enough to the shore that [it has] enabled me to supply myself as long as I live.
When he has first arrived on shore, Crusoe is not grateful to God, but, instead, he exclaims upon his misery, crying out that he has been "undone." Now, however, Crusoe returns to the Protestant faith of his father, by reading from the New Testament each day and by working hard to improve his existence. He writes,
In a word, as my life was a life of sorrow one way, so it was a life of mercy another; and I wanted nothing to make my sense of God's goodness to me, and...[let that] be my daily consolation....
Rather than boldly acting as he has before, Crusoe resigns himself to the will of God whereas he has hitherto been himself willful; moreover, he throws himself "wholly upon the disposal of His providence." In fact, Crusoe finds that prayer is far better than the enjoyment of human society. (This conversion follows the pattern of narratives in Defoe's era.) Still, he does enjoy the company of his man Friday.
After years of deprivation while he is "lost in the wilderness" in keeping with Puritan-conversion tales, Crusoe, the prodigal son, who has employed the Puritan creed of reason, work, and religious faith, returns home repentant and finds the forgiveness he seeks although his parents have died. He compensates the poor widow who has kept his papers and money safe, and he sails for Brazil to check on his plantation. It has done well and the captain has taken care of everything. Crusoe considers staying, but it is a time of persecution of Protestants, so he departs, not wanting to practice Catholicism as he has done in the past. So, he will retain his Protestant work ethic in line with England's Puritan roots.
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