illustration of a man standing on an island and looking out at the ocean with the title Robison Crusoe written in the sky

Robinson Crusoe

by Daniel Defoe

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Chapters 17-18 Summary

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Robinson Crusoe decides he has had enough of venturing out to sea in his canoe, even though it took so much time and effort to build and launch it. He concentrates on perfecting his home life instead. He makes a potter’s wheel and thus is able to make passable stoneware for cooking and storing. He has been on the island for eleven years now, and his powder is growing more depleted. His earlier attempts at domesticating goats had not worked well; he has been unable to catch a male goat, and his one captured kid is now growing old and dying. Now he digs a pit and manages to catch several goats. Then he builds a corral at his country estate, where the goats breed and multiply until eventually he has forty-two head.

Crusoe’s only companions are his now-ancient dog, Poll the Parrot, and two cats (not the original two, which had died some time before). He makes himself clothing from the goat skins: a conical hat with a flap on the back, a short jacket, pants, and some foot coverings. He has razors from the ship, so he keeps his beard short, after having let it grow to almost a foot long. Crusoe still wants to explore around the island by canoe but does not want to risk getting caught in a current as happened previously. To solve this problem, Crusoe decides to build another canoe on the far shore. In this way, he will not have to cross the most dangerous area at sea. He improves his country estate as well; it now serves as his ranch.

One day, Crusoe comes across a footprint on the shore. He panics, fearing that cannibals have come to his island from the mainland. He rushes back to his cave and stays there for three days. He even imagines that it might be the footprint of the devil. He loses his confidence in God momentarily, but eventually he begins to trust once again in God’s deliverance. He realizes that it is probably the print of his own foot, which he could have made when coming back from his boat. Relieved, he goes to care for his goats, which suffered during the three days he was hiding in his cave. He returns to the footprint and realizes that this place is not where he has ever landed his canoe. Furthermore, the print is a mark of a foot smaller than his own. He once again panics and decides he must cover up his existence on the island. He makes another wall around his cave and plants a forest of trees to surround it. He moves his goats into a secluded valley in the interior (where he had been lost in a fog for three days). He takes all these precautions—and two years pass since the day he saw the footprint.

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