Robinson Crusoe: Wikis


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Robinson Crusoe  
Robinson Cruose 1719 1st edition.jpg
Title page from the first edition
Author Daniel Defoe
Illustrator unknown
Country England
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher W. Taylor
Publication date April 25, 1719
Media type Print
Followed by The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, where-in all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pyrates. Written by Himself, or simply Robinson Crusoe, is a novel by Daniel Defoe. First published in 1719, it is sometimes considered to be the first novel in English. The book is a fictional autobiography of the title character—a castaway who spends 27 years on a remote tropical island near Venezuela, encountering Native Americans, captives, and mutineers before being rescued.

The story was likely influenced by the real-life Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish castaway who lived four years on the Pacific island called "Más a Tierra" (in 1966 its name was changed to Robinson Crusoe Island), Chile. However, the details of Crusoe's island were probably based on the Caribbean island of Tobago, since that island lies a short distance north of the Venezuelan coast near the mouth of the Orinoco river, and in sight of the island of Trinidad.[1] It is also likely that Defoe was inspired by the Latin or English translations of Ibn Tufail's Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, an earlier novel also set on a desert island.[2][3][4][5] Another source for Defoe's novel may have been Robert Knox's account of his abduction by the King of Ceylon in 1659 in "An Historical Account of the Island Ceylon," Glasgow: James MacLehose and Sons (Publishers to the University), 1911.[6]


Plot summary

Pictorial map of Crusoe's island, aka "Island of Despair," showing incidents from the book

Crusoe (the family name transcribed from the German name "Kreutznaer" or "Kreutznär") sets sail from the Queen's Dock in Hull on a sea voyage in September 1651, against the wishes of his parents, who want him to stay home and assume a career in law. After a tumultuous journey that sees his ship wrecked by a vicious storm, his lust for the sea remains so strong that he sets out to sea again. This journey too ends in disaster as the ship is taken over by Salé pirates, and Crusoe becomes the slave of a Moor. He manages to escape with a boat and a boy named Xury; later, Crusoe is befriended by the Captain of a Portuguese ship off the western coast of Africa. The ship is en route to Brazil. There, with the help of the captain, Crusoe becomes owner of a plantation.

Years later, he joins an expedition to bring slaves from Africa, but his shipwrecked in a storm about forty miles out to sea on an island (which he calls the Island of Despair) near the mouth of the Orinoco river on September 30, 1659. His companions all die. Having overcome his despair, he fetches arms, tools, and other supplies from the ship before it breaks apart and sinks. He proceeds to build a fenced-in habitation near a cave which he excavates himself. He keeps a calendar by making marks in a wooden cross built by himself, hunts, grows corn and rice, dries grapes to make raisins for the winter months, learns to make pottery, raises goats, etc., using tools created from stone and wood which he harvests on the island, and adopts a small parrot. He reads the Bible and suddenly becomes religious, thanking God for his fate in which nothing is missing but society.

Years later, he discovers native cannibals who occasionally visit the island to kill and eat prisoners. At first he plans to kill them for committing an abomination, but later realizes that he has no right to do so as the cannibals do not knowingly commit a crime. He dreams of obtaining one or two servants by freeing some prisoners; and indeed, when a prisoner manages to escape, Crusoe helps him, naming his new companion "Friday" after the day of the week he appeared. Crusoe then teaches him English and converts him to Christianity.

After another party of natives arrives to partake in a cannibal feast, Crusoe and Friday manage to kill most of the natives and save two of the prisoners. One is Friday's father and the other is a Spaniard, who informs Crusoe that there are other Spaniards shipwrecked on the mainland. A plan is devised wherein the Spaniard would return with Friday's father to the mainland and bring back the others, build a ship, and sail to a Spanish port.

Before the Spaniards return, an English ship appears; mutineers have taken control of the ship and intend to maroon their former captain on the island. Crusoe and the ship's captain strike a deal, in which he helps the captain and the loyalist sailors retake the ship from the mutineers, whereupon they intend to leave the worst of the mutineers on the island. Before they leave for England, Crusoe shows the former mutineers how he lived on the island, and states that there will be more men coming. Crusoe leaves the island December 19, 1686, and arrives back in England June 11, 1687. He learns that his family believed him dead and there was nothing in his father's will for him. Crusoe then departs for Lisbon to reclaim the profits of his estate in Brazil, which has granted him a large amount of wealth. In conclusion, he takes his wealth over land to England to avoid traveling at sea. Friday comes with him and along the way they endure one last adventure together as they fight off hundreds of famished wolves while crossing the Pyrenees.

Reception and sequels

Plaque in Queen's Gardens, Hull – the former Queen's Dock from which Crusoe sailed – showing him on his island

The book was published on April 25, 1719. The positive reception was immediate and universal. Before the end of the year, this first volume had run through four editions. Within years, it had reached an audience as wide as any book ever written in English.

By the end of the 19th century, no book in the history of Western literature had spawned more editions, spin-offs, and translations (even into languages such as Inuit, Coptic, and Maltese) than Robinson Crusoe, with more than 700 such alternative versions, including children's versions with mainly pictures and no text.[7]

The term "Robinsonade" has been coined to describe the genre of stories similar to Robinson Crusoe.

Defoe went on to write a lesser-known sequel, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. It was intended to be the last part of his stories, according to the original title-page of its first edition, but in fact a third part, entitled Serious Reflections of Robinson Crusoe, was written; it is a mostly forgotten series of moral essays with Crusoe's name attached to give interest.

Real-life castaways

There were many stories of real-life castaways in Defoe's time. Defoe's initial inspiration for Crusoe is usually thought to be a Scottish sailor named Alexander Selkirk, who was rescued in 1709 by Woodes Rogers' expedition after four years on the uninhabited island of Más a Tierra in the Juan Fernández Islands off the Chilean coast. Rogers' "Cruising Voyage" was published in 1712, with an account of Alexander Selkirk's ordeal. However, Robinson Crusoe is far from a copy of Woodes Rogers' account: Selkirk was marooned at his own request, while Crusoe was shipwrecked; the islands are different; Selkirk lived alone for the whole time, while Crusoe found companions; while Selkirk stayed on his island for four years, not twenty-eight. Furthermore, much of the appeal of Defoe's novel is the detailed and captivating account of Crusoe's thoughts, occupations and activities which goes far beyond that of Rogers' basic descriptions of Selkirk, which account for only a few pages.[citation needed]

Tim Severin's book Seeking Robinson Crusoe (2002) unravels a much wider and more plausible range of potential sources of inspiration, and concludes by identifying castaway surgeon Henry Pitman as the most likely. An employee of the Duke of Monmouth, Pitman played a part in the Monmouth Rebellion. His short book about his desperate escape from a Caribbean penal colony, followed by his shipwrecking and subsequent desert island misadventures, was published by J. Taylor of Paternoster Row, London, whose son William Taylor later published Defoe's novel. Severin argues that since Pitman appears to have lived in the lodgings above the father's publishing house and that Defoe himself was a mercer in the area at the time, Defoe may have met Pitman in person and learned of his experiences first-hand, or possibly through submission of a draft.[citation needed]

Severin also discusses another publicised case of a marooned man named only as Will, of the Miskito people of Central America, who may have led to the depiction of Man Friday.[8]


Despite its complicated narrative style and the absence of the supposedly indispensable love motive, it was received well in the literary world. The book is considered one of the most widely published books in history (behind some of the sacred texts).[citation needed] It has been a hit since the day it was published, and continues to be highly regarded to this day.



Crusoe standing over Friday after he frees him from the cannibals.

Novelist James Joyce noted that the true symbol of the British conquest is Robinson Crusoe: "He is the true prototype of the British colonist. … The whole Anglo-Saxon spirit is in Crusoe: the manly independence, the unconscious cruelty, the persistence, the slow yet efficient intelligence, the sexual apathy, the calculating taciturnity."[9]

In a sense Crusoe attempts to replicate his own society on the island. This is achieved through the application of European technology, agriculture, and even a rudimentary political hierarchy. Several times in the novel Crusoe refers to himself as the 'king' of the island, whilst the captain describes him as the 'governor' to the mutineers. At the very end of the novel the island is explicitly referred to as a 'colony.' The idealized master-servant relationship Defoe depicts between Crusoe and Friday can also be seen in terms of cultural imperialism. Crusoe represents the 'enlightened' European whilst Friday is the 'savage' who can only be redeemed from his supposedly barbarous way of life through assimilation into Crusoe's culture. Nevertheless, within the novel Defoe also takes the opportunity to criticize the historic Spanish conquest of South America.


According to J.P. Hunter, Robinson is not a hero, but an everyman. He begins as a wanderer, aimless on a sea he does not understand, and ends as a pilgrim, crossing a final mountain to enter the promised land. The book tells the story of how Robinson becomes closer to God, not through listening to sermons in a church but through spending time alone amongst nature with only a Bible to read.

Robinson Crusoe is filled with religious aspects. Defoe was himself a Puritan moralist, and normally worked in the guide tradition, writing books on how to be a good Puritan Christian, such as The New Family Instructor (1728) and Religious Courtship (1732). While Robinson Crusoe is far more than a guide, it shares many of the same themes and theological and moral points of view. The very name "Crusoe" may have been taken from Timothy Cruso, a classmate of Defoe's who had written guide books himself, including God the Guide of Youth (1685), before dying at an early age — just eight years before Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe. Cruso would still have been remembered by contemporaries and the association with guide books is clear. It has even been suggested that God the Guide of Youth inspired Robinson Crusoe because of a number of passages in that work that are closely tied to the novel; however this is speculative.[10]

The Biblical story of Jonah is alluded to in the first part of the novel. Like Jonah, Crusoe neglects his 'duty' and is punished at sea.

A central concern of Defoe's in the novel is the Christian notion of Providence. Crusoe often feels himself guided by a divinely ordained fate, thus explaining his robust optimism in the face of apparent hopelessness. His various fortunate intuitions are taken as evidence of a benign spirit world. Defoe also foregrounds this theme by arranging highly significant events in the novel to occur on Crusoe's birthday.


When confronted with the cannibals, Crusoe wrestles with the problem of cultural relativism. Despite his disgust, he feels unjustified in holding the natives morally responsible for a practice so deeply ingrained in their culture. Nevertheless he retains his belief in an absolute standard of morality; he regards cannibalism as a 'national crime' and forbids Friday from practicing it. Modern readers may also note that despite Crusoe's apparently superior morality, in common with the culture of his day, he uncritically accepts the institution of slavery.


In classical and neoclassical economics, Crusoe is regularly used to illustrate the theory of production and choice in the absence of trade, money and prices.[11] Crusoe must allocate effort between production and leisure, and must choose between alternative production possibilities to meet his needs. The arrival of Friday is then used to illustrate the possibility of, and gains from, trade.

The classical treatment of the Crusoe economy has been discussed and criticised from a variety of perspectives.

Karl Marx made an analysis of Crusoe, while also mocking the heavy use in classical economics of the fictional story, in his classic work Capital. In Marxist terms, Crusoe's experiences on the island represents the inherent economic value of labour over capital. Crusoe frequently observes that the money he salvaged from the ship is worthless on the island, especially when compared to his tools.

For the literary critic Angus Ross, Defoe's point is that money has no intrinsic value and is only valuable insofar as it can be used in trade. There is also a notable correlation between Crusoe's spiritual and financial development as the novel progresses, possibly signifying Defoe's belief in the Protestant work ethic.

The Crusoe model has also been assessed from the perspectives of feminism [12] and Austrian economics. [13]


The book proved so popular that the names of the two main protagonists have entered the language. The term "Robinson Crusoe" is virtually synonymous with the word "castaway" and is often used as a metaphor for being rejected. Robinson Crusoe usually referred to his servant as "my man Friday", from which the term "Man Friday" (or "Girl Friday") originated, referring to a dedicated personal assistant, servant, or companion.


The success of the book spawned many imitators, and castaway novels became quite popular in Europe in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Most of these have fallen into obscurity, but some became established in their own right, including The Swiss Family Robinson.

Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, published seven years after Robinson Crusoe, may be read as a systematic rebuttal of Defoe's optimistic account of human capability. In The Unthinkable Swift: The Spontaneous Philosophy of a Church of England Man Warren Montag argues that Swift was concerned to refute the notion that the individual precedes society, as Defoe's novel seems to suggest. Swift regarded such thought as a dangerous endorsement of Thomas Hobbes' radical political philosophy and for this reason Gulliver repeatedly encounters established societies rather than desolate islands. The captain who invites Gulliver to serve as a surgeon aboard his ship on the disastrous third voyage is named Robinson.

In Jean-Jacques Rousseau's treatise on education, Emile: Or, On Education, the one book the main character, Emile, is allowed to read before the age of twelve is Robinson Crusoe. Rousseau wants Emile to identify himself as Crusoe so he could rely upon himself for all of his needs. In Rousseau's view, Emile needs to imitate Crusoe's experience, allowing necessity to determine what is to be learned and accomplished. This is one of the main themes of Rousseau's educational model.

Robinson Crusoe Bookstore on İstiklal Avenue, Istanbul.

In The Tale of Little Pig Robinson, Beatrix Potter directs the reader to Robinson Crusoe for a detailed description of the island (the land of the Bong tree) to which her eponymous hero moves. She describes the land of the Bong tree as being similar to Robinson Crusoe's, "only without its drawbacks."

In Wilkie Collins's most popular novel, The Moonstone, one of the chief characters and narrators, Gabriel Betteredge, places implicit faith in all that Robinson Crusoe says, and uses the book for a sort of divination. He considers 'The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe' the finest book ever written, and considers a man but poorly read if he had happened not to read the book.

In Kenneth Gardner's award winning 2002 novel, Rich Man's Coffin, he portrays the true story of a black American slave who escapes on a whaling ship to New Zealand to become chief of one of the cannibal Maori tribes. This is a reversal of racial roles, with the black man taking the lead role of the Robinson Crusoe figure.

French novelist Michel Tournier wrote Friday (French Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique) published in 1967. His novel explores themes including civilization versus nature, the psychology of solitude, as well as death and sexuality, in a retelling of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe story. Tournier's Robinson chooses to remain on the island, rejecting civilization when offered the chance to escape 28 years after being shipwrecked.

"Crusoe in England" is a 183-line poem by Elizabeth Bishop.

Stage and film

Jacques Offenbach wrote an opéra comique called Robinson Crusoé which was first performed at the Opéra-Comique, Salle Favart on 23 November 1867. This was based on the British pantomime version rather than the novel itself. The libretto was by Eugène Cormon and Hector-Jonathan Crémieux. The opera includes a duet by Robinson Crusoe and Friday.


In the mid 1990's there was a humorous French cartoon called Robinson Sucroe. In the cartoon, Robinson was a failed journalist for the New York Herald. Seeking a life of adventure, he desired to settle on an island and wished to write his weekly journal. After getting an O.K from his boss, he sets sail and he is left on an inhabited island (or so he thought). Robinson discovers that the island is inhabited by French and British pirates as well as the survivor of a shipwreck, who called themselves "toutlejours" (the Everydays). Robinson befriend a fellow named Mercredi (Wednesday). Robinson tries to write a colorful journal but he is incapable of doing so, instead Wednesday writes fictitious stories for him. these stories achieve much success and few suspect their authenticity. [3]


  • Robinson Crusoe, Oneworld Classics 2008. ISBN 978-1-94749-012-4
  • Robinson Crusoe, Penguin Classics 2003. ISBN 978-0141439822
  • Robinson Crusoe, Oxford World's Classics 2007. ISBN 978-0192833426


  1. ^ Robinson Crusoe, Chapter 23.
  2. ^ Nawal Muhammad Hassan (1980), Hayy bin Yaqzan and Robinson Crusoe: A study of an early Arabic impact on English literature, Al-Rashid House for Publication.
  3. ^ Cyril Glasse (2001), New Encyclopedia of Islam, p. 202, Rowman Altamira, ISBN 0759101906.
  4. ^ Amber Haque (2004), "Psychology from Islamic Perspective: Contributions of Early Muslim Scholars and Challenges to Contemporary Muslim Psychologists", Journal of Religion and Health 43 (4): 357-377 [369].
  5. ^ Martin Wainwright, Desert island scripts, The Guardian, 22 March 2003.
  6. ^ see Alan Filreis
  7. ^ Ian Watt. "Robinson Crusoe as a Myth", from Essays in Criticism (April 1951). Reprinted in the Norton Critical Edition (second edition, 1994) of Robinson Crusoe.
  8. ^ William Dampier, A New Voyage round the World, 1697 [1].
  9. ^ James Joyce, “Daniel Defoe,” translated from Italian manuscript and edited by Joseph Prescott, Buffalo Studies 1 (1964): 24-25
  10. ^ Hunter, J. Paul (1968) The Reluctant Pilgrim. As found in Norton Critical Edition (see References).
  11. ^ Varian, Hal R. (1990). Intermediate microeconomics: a modern approach. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-95924-4. 
  12. ^ "Robinson Crusoe: The quintessential economic man? - Feminist Economics". 
  13. ^ Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, 1982, Chapter 6 [2]


  • Shinagel, Michael, ed. (1994). Robinson Crusoe. Norton Critical Edition. ISBN 0-393-96452-3. Includes textual annotations, contemporary and modern criticisms, bibliography.
  • Ross, Angus, ed. (1965) Robinson Crusoe. Penguin.

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in 1719 and sometimes regarded as the first novel in English. The original was presented without distinct chapters.

See also the index.

  1. Start in Life
  2. Slavery and Escape
  3. Wrecked on a Desert Island
  4. First Weeks on the Island
  5. Build a House - The Journal
  6. Ill and Conscience-stricken
  7. Agricultural Experiment
  8. Surveys his Position
  9. A Boat
  10. Tames Goats
  11. Finds Print of Man's Foot on the Sand
  12. A Cave Retreat
  13. Wreck of a Spanish Ship
  14. A Dream Realized
  15. Friday's Education
  16. Rescue of Prisoners from Cannibals
  17. Visit of Mutineers
  18. The Ship Recovered
  19. Return to England
  20. Fight Between Friday and a Bear
PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Proper noun

Robinson Crusoe


Robinson Crusoe

  1. A fictional castaway

Related terms

  • Man Friday


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