What is an analysis of Robinson Crusoe?

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Much celebrated for its realism and often referred to as the first English novel, Robinson Crusoe has inspired both intense devotion and intense revulsion. Few critics, however, remain neutral about it.

Virginia Woolf, who writes appreciatively of this novel in her second Common Reader, says this of it:

A middle class had come into existence, able to read and anxious to read not only about the loves of princes and princesses, but about themselves and the details of their humdrum lives. Stretched upon a thousand pens, prose had accommodated itself to the demand; it had fitted itself to express the facts of life rather than the poetry.

Woolf's stance has been a common take on the novel: Robinson Crusoe celebrates the thrift, self-reliance, and common sense of a growing middle class which depended on its own wits and resourcefulness to rise in the world rather than on inherited titles or wealth.

In the modern era, however, critics have been prone to critique it. Franz Fanon, in The Wretched of the Earth, attacks its colonialist mindset and suggests Friday should have taken Crusoe's gun and gotten rid of his oppressor. French theorist Gilles Deleuze, in his essay "Desert Islands," notes that property is everything in the novel and "nothing is invented." He decries Friday's happiness at being a slave and states that any "healthy" reader would wish to see Friday eat Crusoe.

While the novel has been critiqued by post-colonialists for its celebration of Eurocentric, protestant, middle-class bourgeois values, it is also much loved as an engaging and realistic story into which one can enter imaginatively, enjoying the many ways Crusoe makes the most of his situation and builds a comfortable life for himself against the odds.

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Danie Defoe's Robinson Crusoe is not only a classic adventure tale, one of the first novels of England, but it is also a moral tale of a prodigal son who rejects the Puritan faith and work ethic of his father, engaging in greedy ventures and a slave trading, but in the end turns to these very concepts as his sole means of survival. Especially after he is shipwrecked and keeps a diary, Crusoe finally turns to God and the Bible; thus, Defoe's novel is also a maturation novel as young and ingenuous Robinson sets sail but knows nothing about the sea or the world. But, after his twenty-eight years on a deserted island teach him that "the middle" of which his father urged him in the beginning of the narrative,

...the middle station of life was calculated for all kind of virtues and all kind of enjoyments; that peace and plenty were the handmaids of a middle fortune; that temperance, moderation,...all agreeable diversion, and all desirable pleasures, were the blessings attending the middle station of life; that this way men went silently and smoothly through the world....

When left to his own ingenuity and spiritual devices, Robinson Crusoe returns to these teachings of his father, and is certainly a better man.

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