Robinson Crusoe Questions and Answers
by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What is the plot of Robinson Crusoe?

Expert Answers info

Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write7,045 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe was published on 25 April 1719. It is written in the form of an autobiography of its fictional eponymous narrator. Crusoe leaves for his first sea voyage on August 1651, but that ends in a shipwreck. After several years of additional adventures, he decides to join an expedition of slave traders and sets sail from Brazil, where he had been living, to Africa. 

On 30 September 1659, this voyage too ends in a shipwreck and Crusoe lands on an isolated, deserted island, the Island of Despair, which is approximately forty miles from where the Orinoco River meets the sea. 

The main body of the novel concerns Crusoe's life and adventures on this island. First, we observe him using his skills and ingenuity to build shelter and obtain a regular food supply. Over the next 24 years, Crusoe builds a comfortable life on the island, lacking only human companionship. He also finds consolation in reading the Bible and develops a providential understanding of his world.

Native cannibals occasionally visit the island. One of their prisoners escapes and Crusoe names his Friday and teaches him English and Christianity. He eventually helps rescue others from the cannibals including Friday's father. An English ship crewed by mutinous sailors passes by. Crusoe helps the captain regain control of the ship, and returns on it to England. His earlier investments have prospered although his family is dead. He marries and has children. After his wife dies, he visits his island again to find it flourishing, has more adventures on the high seas, and then returns home to live out the rest of his life until his "final voyage" of death and eventual resurrection. 


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Robinson Crusoe comes from York, England and is the youngest son of a German merchant. Despite his family’s wishes that he study law and live a quiet life, Robinson Crusoe expresses his desire to go to sea. We perhaps reflect that he should have listened to his parents as his early shipping voyages do not bode well. Going on a ship to London, a storm nearly kills him. After some success, in a later voyage his ship is taken by Moorish Pirates. Later, he embarks on a slave-capturing expedition but his vessel is shipwrecked off the coast of Trinidad.

Then the story of his survival begins. He keeps careful notes of how he survives on the island, being the only person left. He goes back to the ship various times for supplies and finds meat and begins to farm and build on the island. He plants a cross, inscribed with the date of his arrival, and puts a notch in it for each day he is there. After a hallucinatory illness, Crusoe undergoes a religious conversion, realising he is alive thanks to God. Following this, he becomes more positive, calling himself "King" of his island. His work expands, and he takes a parrot and goats as pets and builds a boat. He lives several years in peace.

One day Crusoe finds a footprint on the island. Concluding it is from one of the cannibals who are known to live in this region, Crusoe is afraid and takes protective measures, building an underground cellar to herd his goats into at night. One day he hears shots and sees another shipwrecked vessel. Upon investigation, there are no survivors, but the beach is full of human remains. Later, he sees cannibals with some prisoners. One tries to escape and Crusoe protects him, killing some of the cannibals with his superior weapons. The prisoner pledges himself completely to Crusoe and Crusoe names him Friday because of the day of his rescue.

Friday is "civilised" by Crusoe who teaches him his religion and some English. Friday explains the cannibal society to Crusoe and says the sailors on the shipwrecked ship are actually Spaniards and are prisoners. Crusoe and Friday go to see them and find a group of cannibals with some prisoners. Crusoe and Friday kill most of the cannibals, and discover that one of the prisoners is from Spain and another is Friday's father. Crusoe prepares to invite these men into his community.

The arrival of an English ship triggers the end of the island experience. Crusoe realises that it has been seized by mutineers and eventually tricks them into believing that he is an English governor and rescues the sailors and goes back home. When he reaches England he realises his earlier investments have made him a man of some fortune. He settles down, in spite of a remaining wanderlust, until his wife dies. Then he travels and revisits his island, commenting that the Spaniards are governing it well.



check Approved by eNotes Editorial