Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe, a Quaker mariner from York, England. At the age of twenty-two, as a tall, red-haired, slender young man, he leaves his family to seek a fortune in the New World, but this ambition is thwarted by a shipwreck off an island on the South American coast. Robinson is the only human survivor. At first, he rails against his fate and his haven. He names the island “Desolation,” and he builds a ship, the Escape, but cannot launch it. Robinson then experiences the first in a series of rebirths of personality and philosophy that occur during his twenty-eight-year ordeal. He rechristens the island “Speranza,” and his pious, obsessive nature comes to the fore. He cultivates more crops than he could possibly need, and he legislates and codifies his existence. Robinson believes that he can even stop time when he chooses to shut off his water clock. He is, during this phase, a dry and avaricious man, yet he is ethical, successful, and moral by societal standards. After discovering a cavern on the island, Robinson adopts a more Earth-oriented, nonconventional outlook, and he develops a sensual nature. The island literally becomes his mistress; he copulates in the cave, in a tree, and in the soil itself. When this period of emotional and physical awareness is interrupted by the arrival of Friday, Robinson returns to the psyche that loves order, until Friday inadvertently blows up the island’s buildings. Then, Robinson adopts a persona inspired by his Araucanian (South American Indian) companion. He lives in the present and enjoys nature but does not exploit it, he allows his hair to...

(The entire section is 667 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Tournier’s published commentary and the novel’s title would argue that Friday is the primary character, but this conclusion is not supported by the novel itself. There is quantitatively less material devoted to Friday. Friday does not have his own narrative voice and is seen only in Robinson’s terms; Robinson keeps the logbook; Friday’s identity is constructed in counterpoint to that of Robinson; Friday’s longest episode with Andoar the he-goat is designed to kill the old Robinson and empower the new; and finally, Friday was replaced. Nevertheless, Friday’s role is massively greater than it was in Defoe’s work, and it is not unfair to think of Friday as the “hero” of the novel, since it is he who wins the internal battle under way within Robinson.

Robinson is a red-haired, light-skinned English Quaker, twenty-two years old at the beginning of the story and fifty at the end. At first, his morals are the sum of his Puritan virtues, and his functions are programmed by societal stereotypes. Production is good, consumption is bad, and nonprocreative sex is punished. He can play supply clerk, census taker, cartographer, and stenographer with equal ease. Very early in the novel, however, another person begins gestating inside Robinson. This other expresses itself through behavioral leakages: Robinson’s first nudity on the island is joyful; his first journal entry replaces Christian virtue with male virility; he mocks John Bunyan’s Slough of...

(The entire section is 510 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cloonan, William. “Vendredi: Ou, Les Limbes du Pacifique,” in Michel Tournier, 1985.

Koster, Serge. Michel Tournier, 1986.

Shattuck, Roger. “Locating Michel Tournier,” in The Innocent Eye: On Modern Literature and the Arts, 1984.

Stirn, Francois. Vendredi: Ou, Les Limbes du Pacifique, Tournier, 1984.

Sud. January, 1986. Special Tournier issue.