What basic points are to be considered while writing an essay on the theme of Individuality in Robinson Crusoe?
Throughout the novel, Crusoe longs to fulfill his own individuality. From the very beginning of the novel, Crusoe feels the need to emancipate himself from the authority of family tradition. Robinson suffers for the constraints put upon him by his family milieu and his “head began to be filled very early with rambling thoughts”. He is completely alienated from the mercantile class to which his father and his family belong, although, in the course of the novel, he will come to embody those very values of economic profitability (including the profitability of the slave trade) that he had rejected at the beginning.
An important point to make is that Crusoe’s yearn for freedom is predicated upon the enslavement of others. The novel celebrates Crusoe’s individual agency and his ability to manipulate and domesticate the exotic locales and the exotic people, or “savages” as he defines them, that he encounters in the course of his adventures. Thanks to his resourcefulness, Crusoe prospers on the desert island where he is shipwrecked, especially in the area of farming and raising sheep. Crusoe also succeeds in civilizing Friday, the savage he saves from a cannibalistic ritual. The novel thus presents Crusoe’s entrepreneurial spirit and becomes a strong contribution to the argument for the civilizing mission of Europeans in foreign and far-away lands.
As the South-African Nobel-Prize novelist J. M. Coetzee writes in his introduction to the novel: “Robinson Crusoe is unabashed propaganda for the extension of British mercantile power in the New World and the establishment of new British colonies” (1999 ix). Defoe’s narrative inextricably links the enslavement of savages, the advancement of European colonization and of Christianity and the financial and economic progress of its prototypical capitalist main character.
Robinson Crusoe's individuality as a figure is an important theme indeed. The very premise of the plot is about a severing of the bond between the individual and his community. Crusoe's existence as a lonely man in the island where he is shipwrecked, in itself negates the pole of the community and accentuates the pole of the individual.
But the story is not just about the heroism of this disconnected individuality under trying circumstances. There is a reconnecting process at work here.
It is a story of community-building. If we go by the contemporary reception of Defoe's text, as shown by Coetzee and mentioned in the first answer to this question, the plot is an allegory of colonization at the geographical level through the act of discovery. Crusoe's relation with Friday, his black slave and the tribal people who are the natives of the island are the formation of a colonizer-colonized relation where there is a political re-linking of the individual with his community but this time as a master of the community.
hmm thanks :)