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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How does Crusoe become a master and what are his achievements in Robinson Crusoe?

Quick answer:

Crusoe in Defoe's Robinson Crusoe becomes a master by mastering himself and learning mechanical skills, and then by working hard to cultivate his island. His achievements include building two plantations of rough dwellings, cultivating two fields of grain, keeping a herd of goats, and gathering and storing all the timber and food he could possibly need. Hard work, experimentation, persistence, and planning afford him a comfortable life.

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To become a master of the island on which he is stranded, Crusoe first has to master his "despondency" at being all alone in a deserted place. He does this by making a chart of all he has to be despondent about, but counters this with all he has to be grateful about. Second, he realizes he has to use his reason to master "every mechanic art" so that he can build whatever he needs.

Crusoe masters "his" island at this point by applying European ideas of agriculture and ownership to it. He thinks of it as his, and surveys it to see what resources it offers, such as wild melons, lemons, limes, and grapes. He picks out a fruitful place to settle and over time makes the most of the land. He plants barley and rice, learning through experimentation when to sow, and ultimately being able to manage two harvests a year.

Crusoe achieves self-sufficiency, with more turtle, timber, and grain than he knows what to do with, two plantations or homes to live in made of tenting and including caves, a wall, orchards, two "corn" fields, and a stand of trees, as well as his herd of domesticated goats to provide him with milk and meat, and a "couch" made of soft animal skins. Through hard work, planning, frugality, persistence, and experimentation, all middle-class virtues, Crusoe has made a comfortable life for himself. This life becomes even better when he rescues Friday and has companionship.

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