What are the impacts of nature on Robinson Crusoe?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nature in Robinson Crusoe does not have an adverse physical impact on Crusoe: he quickly realizes after being stranded on the deserted island that he will need goods from the damaged ship, and  he manages to obtain these. He retrieves tools, builds a shelter, and plants crops. He has a goat, and also has taken bullets and gunpowder from the ship so that he can hunt. Crusoe makes a prudent conquest of the island's resources, in particular, exploiting a favorable climate and ample, arable land. The island is a veritable Eden. Crusoe records:

I found different fruits, and particularly I found melons upon the ground, in great abundance, and grapes upon the trees. The vines had spread, indeed, over the trees, and the clusters of grapes were just now in their prime, very ripe and rich. This was a surprising discovery, and I was exceeding glad of them.

Crusoe dines on turtle's eggs, builds a bower, encloses nature by building fences, dries his grapes into raisins, and overall, lives very well. 

Animals are a part of nature, and at the 2017 College English Association conference scholar Alan Chalmers discussed how animal studies in English literature have recently led to a reexamination of Crusoe's relationship with animals. 

According to Chalmers, Defoe offers complex and sympathetic reactions to animals. In Crusoe, animal and human relationships are crucial, Chalmers says. Crusoe himself enters into relationship with animals, needing them for companionship in his isolated situation, but he also establishes an animal hierarchy based on utility.

     For Crusoe, compassion and empathy come into conflict with his desire to exploit the animals. For Crusoe, exploitation wins. 

In the end, Crusoe sees the natural world, both plants and animals, as existing for his use and benefit. Nevertheless, Crusoe's moral development benefits from his years of solitude in nature. 



belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nature, as personified by the deserted island, is not seen as a separate character in the novel but instead as a pure setting. As a setting, nature does not present much of an obstacles to Crusoe, as the island is fertile, populated by many animals, and contains several stands of edible plants such as wheat and corn. In this fashion, Crusoe is not so much carving his place in the wild out as he is simply taking advantage of the existing benefits.

The main impact of nature is the solitude and its effects on Crusoe. While he spends most of his time working on survival, he does wish for a companion, and barely mentions his animals, which obviously do not provide much companionship. His appreciation of nature comes more from his eventual realization that he has been immensely lucky; without the animal and plant life on the island, his survival would have been far harder.