Robinson Crusoe is the eponymous protagonist of a novel by Daniel Defoe initially published on 25 April 1719. The novel is framed as the autobiography of the protagonist and details his experiences as a castaway on a remote island. Its choice of protagonist reflects the popularity of travelers' tales in a great age of exploration when Europeans were encountering what were for them exotic cultures on distant continents.
The narrative follows Crusoe as he struggles to survive after his shipwreck. In the narrative, Crusoe illustrates the values of self-reliance, practical skills, and determination, all of which modeled important masculine virtues for the readers. These are values Defoe praised in his works of nonfiction as well and saw as particularly associated with Dissent. Crusoe is independent, adventurous, intelligent, rational, pious, and has a wide range of practical skills and knowledge.
The author Defoe was what was called a Dissenter, an English Protestant who was not a member of the established Church of England. Dissent tended to be theologically Calvinist and emphasized individual hard work, moral virtue, and personal piety. Religious belief sustains Crusoe on the island.
The encounter with Friday reflects English colonialism as it was enacted in the Caribbean. The relationship is strongly paternalistic. Crusoe's conversion of Friday to Christianity replicates in microcosm the way English missionary activity was seen as "civilizing" native populations.