Robinson Crusoe ~ A Capsule Book Review

Robinson Crusoe cover
Robinson Crusoe
~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp ~

English author Daniel Defoe lived from 1660 to 1731. He was a prolific writer whose most famous work is the novel Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719. Robinson Crusoe is generally considered the first English novel and has appeared in many reprints and translations. It is the famous story of an “everyman” who is shipwrecked alone on an uninhabited island in the Caribbean, as all his shipmates perish.

As a young man, Robinson Crusoe (the man, not the novel) can’t decide what profession to take up. Against the better advice of his father, he becomes a sailor. After a brief (and might have been successful) stint as a plantation owner in Brazil, he goes to sea on a commercial voyage to the Caribbean. There is a terrible storm and (you guessed it), the ship that Robinson is on is wrecked. All his shipmates drown but he, miraculously, survives. He washes up on a tiny, uninhabited, isolated, tropic island in the Caribbean, which turns out to be forty miles from Trinidad.

At age twenty-six, Robinson has never learned how to be on his own and he doesn’t know how to do much of anything; he doesn’t have what we might call “survival skills.” Luckily he is able to retrieve some essential supplies from the shipwreck, such as tools, rum, gunpowder, guns, clothes, and some food items. He has also salvaged some seeds for planting, which will prove useful to him later on.

Alone on this terrible island, he must learn to survive, or he will die. He must construct a shelter of some kind to protect himself from the tropical rainstorms, hurricane winds and sweltering heat. When he first comes to the island, he lives in fear that he will be devoured by wild animals or eaten by cannibals, which, he believes, live nearby. He must learn to find enough food to eat to keep himself alive. He must cope with isolation, loneliness and his own fear. He lives always with the hope that he will see a friendly ship on the horizon, coming his way.

As the novel progresses, we see how Robinson Crusoe is transformed. He must learn to do the things he never imagined he would have to do, such as killing animals for food, planting crops, making bread, making pottery, baskets and building himself a sturdy shelter to protect himself from whatever might be out there. He comes to realize after being on the island for years that God played a part in his salvation, when all the others on board his ship died. He sees how God played a part in providing everything he needed to sustain life. Without God helping him, he would have died. How he changes, how he is transformed from one kind of man into another kind, is the emotional core of the novel.

It’s many years before Robinson Crusoe finds a way off the island. He endures and somehow he thrives and becomes stronger. He finds happiness, comfort, peace and contentment. The irony is that he probably wouldn’t have had those things if he had stayed at home in England where he was born.

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp

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