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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What is the moral of Robinson Crusoe?

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The moral of the story of Robinson Crusoe is that a person can succeed against all odds with the right combination of hard work, planning, thrift, resourcefulness, and religious faith.

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Robinson Crusoe has often been called a middle-class novel. This is because its moral lessons uphold core middle-class virtues. Crusoe thrives through hard work, careful planning, frugality, and resourcefulness, all key values of the rising British middle class in the eighteenth century.

The term middle class in a British context can be confusing to American readers, as we do not have an aristocratic class. In Defoe's context, the term refers to people who were not born to inherit landed wealth. Aristocrats inherited huge landed estates—very big farms, essentially—and lived on renting the land to others. They were distinguished by not having to work for a living. Middle-class people, in contrast, did not have inheritance and landed wealth to fall back on, so they had to create their own wealth through hard work, frugality, planning, and resourcefulness, all key attributes of Crusoe's success and prosperity.

Another key value Crusoe represents is Protestant religious faith. He hardly starts off as a faithful Christian, but his extraordinary experience of shipwreck brings him to a renewal of faith and a sense that God has a special hand in his life. This kind of faith in a direct relationship with God was central to the rising middle class in Defoe's period as well. The religious virtues that led to success—thrift, soberness, lack of lavish display, and self-discipline—are all key elements of Crusoe's character.

The moral of the novel is that a person can succeed against the odds through the right combination of virtues. Hard-work, resourcefulness, and faith in God are key.

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What lesson did Robinson Crusoe learn from his adventure?

The primary lesson Robinson Crusoe learns from his adventures, which he restates in various ways throughout the narrative, can be summed up as follows:

I acquiesced in the dispositions of Providence, which I began now to own and to believe ordered everything for the best.

In other words, he changes from being a person who seldom thinks about God to a person who believes and accepts that God has the world in his hand and has arranged everything for the best of purposes. Crusoe initially credits God mercy and provision for making his survival easier: the natural bounty the island offers, even to wild grains he finds growing, seems like a miracle to him, as does the fact he is able to salvage so much from the ship before it is destroyed.

Although not a naturally introspective man, when he finds he has nobody left to talk to, Crusoe does turn to contemplation. From this, he learns deeper lessons about the role of God in his life. He realizes that being stranded on the island has allowed him to correct his former faults, to "mourn for [his] wickedness, and repent." God provides him with moral regeneration as well as the necessities for survival.

As he learns to depend on God and undergoes moral regeneration, Crusoe also learns to emphasize the positive. As explains,

I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed rather than what I wanted.

He finds a surprising amount of joy in this attitude and begins to realize that discontent springs from a lack of gratitude for God's provision.

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What lesson did Robinson Crusoe learn from his adventure?

Robinson Crusoe does some deep soul-searching when he is alone on the island, and he discovers that, particularly in recent years, he has taken the divine power of God for granted.

Spending eight years in "seafaring wickedness" has placed Crusoe in constant association with others who are as "wicked and profane" as he assesses his own nature to be. Thus, he realizes that he has spent years ignoring God and has become a "hardened" man who neither fears nor thanks God.

Crusoe begins to cry as he realizes that his survival is entirely dependent on God's mercies and provisions. Crusoe reflects upon his previous life and realizes that God had "mercifully" placed him in a position that afforded a "happy and easy" existence. However, Crusoe had not appreciated God's provisions, nor had he shown thanks for his parents' assistance; thus, he finds himself completely alone and with no one to help or comfort him.

Offering his first true prayer in years, Crusoe asks God to "be [his] help" when he find himself in great "distress." This prayer sparks a renewed faith, and Crusoe begins to fully comprehend that the Creator of the "earth and sea, the air and sky" has the ability to "guide and direct" His creations, as well.

Thus, God is fully aware of Crusoe's predicament and struggles; indeed, God "appointed all this to befall" Crusoe because of his sins. Crusoe finally offers prayers of heartfelt thanksgiving to God for delivering him from death and for healing him from his illness. His soul is stirred as he begins to appreciate God's provisions, and Crusoe learns to focus on his blessings.

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