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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Discuss the relationship between Man Friday and Robinson Crusoe in the novel Robinson Crusoe.

Quick answer:

The relationship between Man Friday and Robinson Crusoe in "Robinson Crusoe" is multifaceted, imbued with elements of master-slave dynamics and father-son intimacy. Crusoe, exerting superiority, names Friday, a common practice of masters in Defoe's era. However, Friday's servitude is seemingly rooted in gratitude, after being saved by Crusoe. Despite this, Crusoe regards Friday more as a loyal servant than an equal, often disregarding his ideas and contributions. The relationship thus oscillates between authoritarian and paternalistic tones.

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The relationship between Crusoe and Man Friday has been examined eagerly by a number of critics, especially in recent times postcolonialists.

Their relationship certainly seems to be ambiguous and open to interpretation. There are times when it appears to be almost based on a father-son type of intimacy, but others suggest that there is a clear master-slave element to their relationship. This latter perspective is reinforced throughout the text. For example: "I made him know that his name was to be Friday... I likewise taught him to say Master". The naming of slaves by their masters was key in Defoe's times, and the fact that Man Friday never knows the true name of his master indicates an attitude of extreme superiority.

Man Friday, however, appears to be incredibly grateful to his servitude to Robinson Crusoe, and places Robinson Crusoe's foot on his head in a manner that "seems was in token of swearing to be my slave forever." Thus Man Friday's "slavery" might have been in gratitude for being saved by Robinson Crusoe. Crusoe certainly seems pleased to have Man Friday with him: "I took him up, and made much of him, and encourag'd him all I could..." yet we are left unsure whether this is due to any essential goodness in his nature or just sheer relief at having someone else to talk to, for "they were the first sound of a Man's voice, mine own excepted, that I had heard, for 25 years."

Thus there are two main views: the master - servant relationship, as evidenced by the authoritarian way in which Crusoe treats Friday, and the father - son relationship, in that Crusoe does seem to genuinely care for Friday's well-being.

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Robinson Crusoe was uncomfortable in the presence of "savages" until his experience with Friday. After Crusoe rescues him, Friday becomes a competent and loyal servant to Crusoe.

While he is no longer afraid of the savage, he does not change in his perspective of the type of person he is. Crusoe does not feel that Friday has anything of value to contribute, and therefore does not engage in an exchange of ideas with him. Friday attempted to show him an easier way to burn the inside of the boat, but Crusoe refused to hear it.

In the end, he is still property, and Crusoe will sell both Friday and the boat. He does not see the time and experiences they have shared as anything worth considering. It does not change his outlook on Friday.

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