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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1. The true story of Alexander Selkirk, popularized in various narratives during the eighteenth century, is generally held to be the major source for Robinson Crusoe. Certainly there are parallels in the settings, the dress adopted by the two men, and the ways in which they spend their time in exile. Discuss the similarities and differences between the novel and the true story. In what ways does Defoe improve on the original tale?

2. Robinson Crusoe has often been adapted for young children. What elements of the novel remain in these children's versions? What elements are changed or removed entirely, and for what reasons?

3. Like Robinson Crusoe, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) is the story of an average Englishman forced by circumstances to survive in unknown and often hostile territory. Compare the two books.

4. Defoe and many of his contemporaries believed strongly in Providence— the intervention of God in the affairs of human beings. They interpreted natural phenomena as the marks of divine approval or disapproval; they believed that natural occurrences were ordained by God as rewards for goodness or punishments for evil. In what ways does this idea of Providence contribute to Robinson Crusoe?

5. Robinson Crusoe and Friday are both products of their environments. Discuss the differences between the two men in the light of what you know about their early lives. Are there any similarities between the two men?

6. Find a copy of a film version of Robinson Crusoe and watch it carefully. Compare the film and the book. How much of the book is retained in the film? What changes have been made? Why are those changes necessary?

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