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 19-20 Summary

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Crusoe explores the southwestern portion of the island, a section he has seldom visited. As he stands on a hill, he looks out to sea and thinks he sees a boat. He does not have his telescope with him and so cannot be sure. He vows to always bring his telescope with him from now on. On the beach he sees a large fire and human bones scattered about. Cannibals have landed here, on his island, for a hideous feast. Crusoe feels more outraged at human degeneracy than fearful for himself, and he considers ways he can wipe out the cannibals on their next visit. He ponders the possibility of placing gunpowder below the fire pit. He decides against this both because he is short on gunpowder and because he cannot be sure the explosion would do any more than startle them.

For two years, Crusoe thinks of this new incursion to his island. After much reflection, Crusoe wonders if he is right to sit in judgment of them. They obviously do not resort to cannibalism as a crime any more than Europeans killing each other in war is considered a crime. He comes to the conclusion that he must leave the judgment of the cannibals to God rather than take it upon himself to inflict vengeance for an act that belongs to a culture not his own. Crusoe maintains this frame of mind for about a year; he stays away from that side of the island so he will not encounter the cannibals again and change his mind. He contemplates what would have happened if the cannibals had captured him, and once again he feels grateful to God for his deliverance from such a fate.

While Crusoe is cutting down trees to make charcoal, he comes across a large hollow behind some bushes. He goes in to find a cave that is small but large enough for him to stand up in it. He sees a pair of eyes shining in the dark and leaves immediately, thinking it might be the devil. He recovers from his fear and reenters the cave to find a dying male goat. He tries to get it out but cannot. He returns later with candles and finds that the goat has died. He looks around the cave and sees that the walls are covered with some mineral or gems that give off multiple reflections. He decides this will be a perfect place to keep his arsenal.

He has been on the island for almost twenty-three years. His dog has died, but Poll the Parrot still lives. Crusoe has acquired a couple of other parrots, but he does not teach them to speak as he did Poll. His domestic cats he keeps down to two by drowning the kittens and shooting the remainder to avoid being overrun by the pests.

Crusoe travels again to the other side of the island and spots a fire. There are several cannibals there, enjoying their “feast.” Crusoe once again decides he must get rid of such degenerate human beings.

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Chapters 17-18 Summary


Chapters 21-22 Summary