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.