In Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, why does Crusoe try so hard at preserving his English customs when he's so far away from home?
In reading Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, I believe that Crusoe does all he can to preserve and abide by the English customs he was raised with in order to preserve his own sanity. In trying to conduct his day in as normal a fashion as possible under the circumstances, it gives him a sense of the familiar and well as a sense of purpose. It is a wise move in that he is on the island for many years.
Finding himself alone in a deserted island, Crusoe struggles to maintain reason, order, and civilization.
One of the story's themes is "industrialization." This is the concept of being able to do things in a more modern way, such as making dresses that could be bought "off the rack" rather than going to a dressmaker, who made one dress at a time. In Defoe's time, this reflected the "specialized" services available in most villages. For example:
People began to buy bread instead of baking it.
Since one went to a specialist to have things done, the skills one might have had before in doing many things within a household or on one's property were now the "specialty" of those who "specialized" in one thing, such as baking, carpentry, etc.
For Crusoe, he does not have a grasp of doing many of the things that have been completed by one trained in a specific area, so he must learn by improvisation or relearn things he has forgotten, but these things become the projects that occupy his mind.
He immediately sets out to be productive and self-sufficient on the island.
Crusoe strips the beached shipwreck of as much usable material as he can gather and remove. This takes many days. He has to build himself a shelter of sorts to protect himself from the elements and wild animals that he perceives might be on the island when he arrives. He has to store his gunpowder in little caches so that should lightning strike, he does lose his entire supply or his life. He hunts. He builds. He eventually keeps wild goats. He fashions as much as he can to mimic his life at home: building a table, a chair, and a shelf, for example. He also makes candles so that he can have light after the day ends at 7:00.
I came provided with six large candles of my own making (for I made very good candles now of goat’s tallow, but was hard set for candle-wick, using sometimes rags or rope-yarn, and sometimes the dried rind of a weed like nettles)...
When Crusoe is shipwrecked he faces many challenges. One is fear:
[Crusoe] is forced to confront his fear about being alone...
It seems that the best way for him to address his fear and retain his sanity is by maintaining a lifestyle as close to the one he knew in England. He also reasons, after so much accomplishment, that in surviving as long as he has under dire circumstances, can there be anything he need fear? It is with this frame of mind that Crusoe faces his fear and is able to gain control over his existence and maintain his sanity for the many years he is alone.