Student Question

Compare and contrast the books Deliverance and Robinson Crusoe.

Expert Answers

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Both novels are alike in being first person accounts of an adventure most people will not encounter. Both also involve a life changing experience that occurs outside of the boundaries of normal civilization.

The difference is in the nature of the encounters. Robinson Crusoe becomes the sole survivor of a shipwreck on a deserted island. This is traumatic but also redemptive as he learns not only how to survive but how to thrive as a master of his world and becomes closer to God in the process. He becomes the ruler of the nature he encounters, and when cannibals land on his island, he is able to scare them away with his superior weaponry (a gun) and indoctrinate the one he saves, Friday, into his European worldview.

On the contrary, Ed and Bobby don't master the wilderness environment they encounter when their canoe leaves the confines of civilization: they are captured and brutally raped and forced to perform sex acts by the men who "own" the forest. As with Crusoe's experience, this is a life changing encounter, but one that is far more traumatic. If Crusoe's encounter with nature outside of civilization shows him that is master of it, Ed and Bobby's step out of civilization confronts them with their own helplessness against malevolent forces. They may or may not kill their rapists but they can't wipe out what has happened to them.

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