Compare moral allegory in the novel Robinson Crusoe by Defoe and Rasselas by Johnson.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe is written in moral allegory tradition called a pilgrim allegory. The pattern of such a moral allegory is that the son, representative of the Prodigal son in the Biblical parable, leaves home, usually in a rupture of unhappiness or discontent; travels into misadventures; realizes the error of his choices; seeks to make his life right with God and then with his father; and returns home to accept the fate he ran from. This is the pattern that Robinson Crusoe follows. 

Samuel Johnson's work Rasselas contains either a gloomy or a tragic moral about either choosing the eternal over life or about relief from the pains and difficulties of a tragic life. There has been much scholarly debate about what exactly Johnson did in Rasselas, but its appeal and importance continues today and is, in fact, growing. Some critics say that Johnson's moral ends in despair because life is abandoned while eternity is sought. Other critics says his moral ends as a tragic situation where the pains of life must be escaped; that their quest for abindant happiness was mistaken. Some critics call Rasselas a pseudo-oriental novel and note it is a genre that had a very brief life in Johnson's era before being overwhelmed by the quest for greater and greater realism in the novel genre.