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 are characters constructed in Robinson Crusoe?

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In Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, the author focuses on constructing his main character, the protagonist, Crusoe himself, above all. We watch as he develops throughout the novel, and we see the other characters only through his eyes.

Robinson Crusoe is a man who tends to focus mostly on himself. At the beginning of the story, he is a young man who is intent upon having adventures and making money. His father would prefer that he settle down to a study of law, but Crusoe wants to go to sea. Security means little to him.

As he finds success in his first ventures, Crusoe's tendencies toward individualism and even selfishness are intensified. He becomes involved in the slave trade, showing that his own prosperity means much more to him than the suffering of other people. He neglects God, too.

But then, Crusoe experiences the shipwreck that changes his life and, eventually, his outlook on the world. He still tends to be focused on himself, but now, that is out of necessity, for he must do everything for himself if he is going to survive on the island. Crusoe does, however, come to some important realizations that help him grow as a person. He learns the fleeting nature of prosperity, for one thing. As far as he is concerned, he no longer has wealth, for even if his investments are still stable, he cannot access them. He is left with nothing, and he must readjust his priorities.

Further, on the island, Crusoe realizes that the God he has so long neglected is the one who has saved his life. He experiences a religious conversion that leads him to a much deeper relationship with God. Crusoe also learns many practical skills, and he discovers something about the nature of compassion when he rescues Friday and adopts him as a companion. He learns how to care for another person rather than just himself.

Crusoe eventually escapes from the island. He is certainly not the same person he was when he landed there. He is much more kind and compassionate towards others. He actually marries and gives away a good share of his money. Yet after his wife dies, the old desire for adventure surfaces once again, and Crusoe sets out for the East Indies.

Thus, the character construction in this novel shows us how a person can learn and grow through tragedy and hardship.

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