Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*England. Home of Robinson Crusoe. When the novel opens, England is being ruled by Oliver Cromwell during the Puritan Revolution, and the middle class to which the young Crusoe belongs is expanding rapidly. To Crusoe, England promises a future of hard, monotonous work and strict Puritanism, so he takes passage on a ship looking for adventure elsewhere. Years later, he returns to England, made prosperous by his long years of work and struggle, and embraces the faith of his father.


*Sallee (sahl-LAY; now known as Salé). North African seaport in what is now known as Morocco that is the base of pirates who attack Crusoe’s ship and make him a slave. After two years in captivity in Sallee, Crusoe is rescued by a Portuguese captain, who advises him to return to England. However, Crusoe, still young and defiant, ignores the advice by continuing his travels.


*Brazil. Portuguese colony to which the Portuguese captain takes Crusoe. There, Crusoe sets up a sugar and tobacco plantation. After a few years, the plantation begins to show a profit, but Crusoe remains restless. Intent on making a fortune, and in need of labor, he leads a slaving expedition to West Africa. Shipwrecked before he reaches Africa, he is marooned on an uninhabited island.

Crusoe’s island

Crusoe’s island. Island on which Crusoe is marooned by himself, located somewhere off the northern coast of South America. With only the clothes on his back and odds and ends he salvages from the wrecked ship, Crusoe spends the next twenty-eight years of his life on the island. During his stay, Crusoe works diligently, building not only a serviceable home, but also almost every convenience to which he was accustomed in England. He thereby ironically ends up following the very Puritan dictates that he originally left England to escape.

On the island, Crusoe develops a sense of wholehearted inventiveness, precisely in keeping with Puritan dictates and, most important, returns to the Protestant religion he spurned by going to sea. With the help of his slave Friday, whom he rescues from cannibalism after twenty-four years completely alone, he builds a home, grows his food, makes clothes from animal skins, keeps animals, and builds a boat. By the end of the novel, when he is rescued and returned safely to England, he has amassed a fortune and becomes a gentleman. Thus, the island provides a means for him to move up the social ladder and climb out of his middle-class beginnings.

Although Crusoe spurns his father’s Protestant religion by going to sea, the deserted island is instrumental in his return to his father’s faith. As in the Bible’s prodigal son narrative and many Puritan-conversion narratives of Defoe’s era, Crusoe is lost in the wilderness but returns after a period of intense suffering, becomes repentant, and finds forgiveness.