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Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe

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  • interesting characterisation
  • great discourse on religion and power
  • overly descriptive with little dialogue
  • slow pace
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    9 Reviews
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      06.09.2016 19:00
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      • "interesting characterisation "
      • "great discourse on religion and power "

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      • "overly descriptive with little dialogue "
      • "slow pace "

      A timeless historical review

      Warning! This review may contain minor spoilers. If you don't want to see any of them, then please don't read past the Synopsis.

      Introduction
      I read Daniel Defoe's The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe as part of my degree, as we were discussing the rise of the novel genre and the different stages that it went through. I would have certainly read this book at some point even if it were not on my reading list because it is a timeless classic that I think everyone should be familiar with. I have certainly enjoyed it and I would recommend it to everyone as a good read, however it is definitely not the kind of book that everyone would like. I may even argue that a lot of you wouldn't be able to finish the book. Either way, all of this will be discussed presently. This is what I have found upon having read Robinson Crusoe.

      About the product (book)
      Robinson Crusoe was written by the English writer Daniel Foe, better known as Daniel Defoe. His work, alongside that of other authors such as Samuel Richardson, formed the basis for the birth of the English novel. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe was first published in April 1719. The series contains two more (less well known) novels, The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Serious Reflections During the Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, With His Vision of the Angelic World (1720). The novel that I am going to be discussing in this review, namely the first book in the series, is commonly classed as historical fiction in view of its discussion of real events, such as the slave trade and the Spanish colonisation of the Americas.

      Synposis
      Robinson Crusoe tells the wonderfully touching story of a man stranded on an island for a gruelling twenty-eight years. This novel follows his struggle for survival, detailing his life in that dismal place. His existence was filled with many fascinating encounters that have deeply influenced him, completely changing his view of the world and of himself. Follow his amazing story to discover the true strength of the human spirit and the insurmountable will to survive.
      Ultimately, a better synopsis would actually be the original full title of this novel, which reads as follows: _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, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pyrates_ (this title is ridiculous and incredible at the same time).

      Do not read past this point if you wish to avoid any minor spoilers.

      Plot
      The reason why I think that not everyone would enjoy this book and that some of you may struggle to finish it is because it reads rather slowly, especially for an adventure novel. The entire plot line is basically summed up in the full title of this piece, and even though there is a lot that goes on in between the main events, there isn't anything especially shocking or mind-boggling as you would find in a crime novel, for instance. The book details the life of Robinson Crusoe on the island and his means of survival. The beginning of the novel touches upon his earlier life (to provide a contrast to the man that he later becomes), whereas the very end briefly sums up his return to England. Generally, this book is rather engaging (especially if you enjoy lengthy descriptions), but it is not the kind of novel that you would not be able to put down easily. This novel is more of the kind that you would read if you were interested in the history of the time (as it is ultimately historical fiction) or if you wanted to learn some rather interesting views on religion and the sovereignty of man (which will be further discussed in the themes section). This book has to be read at a leisurely pace as it requires quite a bit of musing and demands that you give it some serious thought on certain occasions; what I'm trying to say is don't take this book with you when you're on the tube to work, for instance. Overall, the plot offers a lot of interesting insight into contemporary history and religious faith, as well as the relationship between man and nature.

      Style
      Robinson Crusoe is above all a descriptive novel. Even though there is some dialogue at the beginning, in the middle and also towards the end, when Crusoe encounters other human beings, this book is largely all about description. A lot of detailed attention is given to the setting, especially to the manner in which Robinson Crusoe managed to fit into the kind of life that he had been destined to. Written from the first person, it largely reads as a memoir or as a lengthy diary entry, outlining his life on the island (and some other aspects of his existence).
      One other peculiar stylistic occurrence that I have noticed is extremely long sentences. Very often a single sentence would span for the length of an entire paragraph which would be about four of five lines long. Even though my first language normally has very long sentences, I still struggled at times to keep up with what was going on, and have often found myself having to read over certain parts twice (which is rather annoying, to be honest). Crusoe's thoughts tend to be very lengthy and detailed, and therefore difficult to follow. This isn't a disadvantage of any sort, as this is simply the style in which the author has chosen to write, but I must say that it can get a bit boring when you're sat there reading endless descriptions and thoughts without a single bit of dialogue to break it all up. This novel certainly requires a lot of concentration, which renders it a bad pick for those kind of readers that enjoy speedier action novels.

      Characters
      Robinson Crusoe: the main character of this novel is a very complicated one indeed. What I really enjoyed about this book was how it detailed his journey as a human being and the changes that his life had produced in him. Arguably, he was a different character at the beginning of the piece as opposed to the end, having learned to view the world differently. I think that this is a great moral story which can be appreciated even by those of you who are agnostic or atheist (considering that the majority of the change is focused around Crusoe's discovery of religion). The main point that is being conveyed is not how he arrived at certain conclusions, but rather the fact that he managed to alter himself to become a better and worthier human being. Ultimately, he is a really interesting character and he (obviously) drives the entire story. I would definitely recommend this book, if only for the development of this one character.

      Friday: the savage whom Robinson Crusoe managed to tame and make his faithful servant. This character plays a very important role in the novel, and I would even argue that he is more interesting to explore that Crusoe himself. Friday essentially represents all of what Crusoe is not, making the progression of their relationship very engaging to observe. Being a man of the wild and more of a man of nature than the main character, he embodies what is more natural (and if you will, savage and brutal) in a human being. His journey to becoming a somewhat learned man is interestingly offset by his inability to truly let go of his roots. Friday is certainly the kind of character who brings a lot of emotion into this novel, making it a more entertaining read.

      I will not mention any other characters, as I don't really see any point, considering that they have not really had any specific impact on the storyline.

      Themes
      Religion: this is by far the biggest theme in this novel. Having been stranded on the island, Crusoe discovers God in a new way and learns to believe in Providence. He begins to associate everything that happened to him with the Divine, refusing to believe that it could be due to chance or luck. The road that he takes to arrive at this understanding of God is very interesting to observe, whether or not you may be religious or atheist. I think that for those of you that are interested in religion, you will be able to learn a lot from Crusoe's interpretation of the Word of God; whereas those of you that don't believe in God will still be interested in how fascinating Robinson's life and deliverance had been.

      Power: this is another dominant theme in this novel which is explored through Robinson Crusoe's relationship with nature (and arguably other characters). Having lived on the island as its sole inhabitant, he began to believe that he was the governor of it all and that everything (as well as everyone) was subject to him. Now this kind of reasoning does seem fair, however it raises the interesting question of whether or not we do have dominion over nature. The Bible does claim so (which may be why Crusoe was so certain of his sovereignty), yet one may argue that we are to live in harmony with the world around us. However, it may be said that eventually Crusoe does learn to use the resources around him more sparingly which, however, may be due to his fear of starving to death. This raises an interesting moral dilemma which I think any reader can enjoy exploring within the context of this novel.

      Price and availability
      Now onto the more monetary side of things. I read this novel as a free pdf online (so technically all of you can just read it for free), but if you would like to purchase a hard copy of it, then you would be able to find it in the following places (with the average prices included):

      Amazon.co.uk - £7.99 for a paperback
      eBay.com - £11.50
      Foyles - £5.99 for a paperback
      Waterstones - £6.99 for a paperback
      It is free on Kindle (obviously provided you've already got one).

      Final thoughts
      Would I recommend this novel? Yes, as it is a great piece of renowned literature that has played an important role in forming the genre of the novel. However, due to its relatively slow pace and lengthy discourse on certain issues, this is not a book that everyone would enjoy. Make sure to read this if you are interested in history and religion, as well as if you are willing to spare some hours out of your free time to fully appreciate the depth of this piece.
      Thank you for reading my review

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      01.06.2009 11:30
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      This really is a fantastic novel that I would really recommend!

      Robinson Crusoe is a beautiful novel that was written by Daniel Defoe, it was first published in 1719. It was arguably the first novel to ever be published which is no suprise given the date! The book really is superbly written throughout and I found it a real pleasure to read. The novel is about 270 pages and contains an epilogue. Daniel Defoe is seen by many to be one of the most famous writers in English Literature and after reading this novel it is easy to see why; I would really recommend it.

      The novel is actually a fiction autobiography about the man named Robinson Crusoe. He is a man who is the sole survivor of a shipwreck just off Venesuila and he encounters many things across his journey before actually being rescued. He is stranded on an island that is no way near any ships and the island is completely unihabited. Robinson Crusoe can't stand it at first but he then manages to make this horrible island into a paradise of his own. He was stranded on this island for 24 years with out any company but he then one day rescued a prisoner and things change. The novel is supposedly based on facts and so is a fictional novel.

      I really found the plot line to be superb throughout the novel and I found it easy to follow. The novel is beautifully written and very well structured really adding to the excellence. If you like tropical island get away novels or films rather like "The lord of the flies" I would really recommend this novel. I hope this was useful and thank you very much for reading.

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      29.01.2009 16:08
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      A rewarding book,recommended for anyone interested in politics or economics

      Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, depicts an 18th century trader gripped by a wanderlust who finds himself shipwrecked on a tropical island where he is forced to cultivate hidden survival skills, re-evaluating his own values in the process. The story is told retrospectively by Crusoe and written in a style which is extremely dry and thorough, and much of it is very tedious to read through.

      Crusoe busies himself not just with the business of survival but with technological and economic advancement and the pursuit of luxury, all of which is documented exhaustively. The reader is subjected to endless painstaking descriptions of Crusoe's trial and error attempts to bake clay pots, breed goats and sow corn, interspersed with jaunts across the deserted island as Crusoe does his best to stave off loneliness and boredom. The often crushing monotony of his life is replicated very successfully, but is hardly riveting. Furthermore, Crusoe himself is not the most exciting of characters, and at times it feels like being trapped on an island with a middle aged accountant from Slough.

      Whilst I didn't enjoy the book much at the time, looking back I think this might be because I overlooked a lot of its deeper symbolism. The story is more interesting if viewed as an observation on western imperialism, colonialism and economic theory- Crusoe feels compelled to control every aspect of his environment, from the livestock to the fauna to the people. Rather than choosing to live an idyllic life in the Eden into which fate has placed him, Crusoe is only happy when he is altering his surroundings in the name of progress; extending and embellishing the enclave in which he lives, turning more and more land over to crops, hoarding wealth in the form of useless diamonds and obsessing in a paranoid manner over the strengthening of his elaborate defences against in the local natives. After rescuing Friday from death at the hands of his own people, Crusoe immediately establishes himself as his master, and insists that Friday learns to speak English, exposing a mentality of perceived cultural superiority, as if other cultures are there to be subdued and assimilated.

      Crusoe is also quite hard to sympathise with in that he moulds his religious ideals to fit around his own desires by employing circular logic, justifying the killing of natives when afraid of them by convincing himself that the natives are 'godless savages' and therefore can be killed legitimately by a Christian, before later deciding that they are mere 'helpless children' and therefore deserve his protection as poor unenlightened inferiors. God's will and the policy of the state can be subverted to serve the state's own best interests, it would seem. Defoe does exhibit some prescience however, having Crusoe eventually conclude that slavery and subordination are immoral as his affection towards Friday deepens.

      After eventually being rescued (hardly a spoiler- how else would his diaries have survived?), Crusoe settles down on a plantation in South America before undertaking a further adventure in Eastern Europe, though this addition feels very much like an afterthought.

      Robinson Crusoe is very rewarding and interesting when read as an observation on modern western political thought, and though hugely politically incorrect today, Defoe was of course writing at a time when slavery and the doctrine of manifest destiny were deemed widely acceptable. Whilst often slow-paced and dull, the book has a lot of depth and is worth the effort to read. Its enjoyable too, so long as you approach it with the right expectations, and I plan to read it again myself with that very point in mind.

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      11.11.2008 16:07
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      A classic that actually is a classic

      OK time for another review of one of the books that I have to study for my English degree. This time the book is Robinson Crusoe and despite the opinions of many other students I really enjoyed reading the book.

      Robinson Crusoe was written by Daniel Defoe and published in 1719. The book despite being written in his sixtieth year was Defoe's first novel and is quite often seen as the first English novel.

      Robinson Crusoe is a trader. His father is also a trader and he believes strongly in the middle-life and tries to impose this way of living on his son. Robinson however rejects this way of life viewing it as the boring road and chooses for himself a life at sea. Despite some initial problems at sea Robinson prospers somewhat in new lands and becomes a reasonably wealthy man. All this however is soon to be thrown into disrepute.

      On a voyage to gather ships for his plantation in Brazil, Robinson becomes shipwrecked and ultimately marooned on a remote desert island far from the civilisation he has come to know so well. It is here, stripped of goods and money that he must rely on his own resourcefulness. The only limits to his survival are those of his own knowledge and skills.

      Upon building his skills Robinson once again begins to prosper but this time in a completely different way, as on the island gold has no monetary value what so ever. Rescuing a man who he quickly calls Friday provides him with an element of companionship but Robinson's urge to rule over his island soon takes hold.

      Some people argue that Robinson Crusoe is an adventure story and this can easily be seen through the very nature of him being shipwrecked on the island and the trials he must overcome to ultimately survive. Other however argue that the story is more of a spiritual autobiography and once again this is also apparent in the novel, as throughout his time on the island Robinson learns to respect the power of nature and brings himself closer to God.

      I am of the opinion therefore that the book cannot be classified as either or and should be pitched more as a narrative in which the lead character adventures to find himself. I am led to this opinion due to the fact that Robinson must tackle many difficult situations to survive but not all of these situations are physical ones as just as many are psychological and test not only his physical strength but also the strength of his character and his want to succeed.

      To be perfectly honest I have no real idea why I enjoyed this story so much because in many places the story is rather sketchy and seems to simply be a list of items or events that are not tied together or even down into the story with any deal of consideration. I do however like this story and feel that it is one that even though you may find it tough reading at first is well worth persevering with.

      I can see however how some people find the novel very tough to read, as it can be very difficult to relate to due to the period it was written in. In the early 1700's England was a very religious country. One in which the majority of the population believed strongly in ideas of fate and the will of God. The belief that God would punish you for disobeying him was also one that had firm grounding. It is also important to note that during this period Britain was also building up it's colonial Empire and that imperialism was something that was frequently discussed.

      I mention these ideas simply because at times within the novel imperialistic and religious ideas crop up strongly and without understanding the context within which the novel was written it can be very difficult to understand the journey through which Robinson Crusoe is taking the reading.

      All in all however this is one classic that I would definitely recommend. To can be a little hard to get your teeth into at the start but is one that in my opinion is very rewarding when you have finished it, as ultimately is highlights how the very strength of the human spirit is enough to pull us through even the most difficult of times.

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        31.01.2004 19:14
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        There are very few books I ever read more than once. Robinson Crusoe is one of these few. What is the story about? I know we should not give the end away, and I also believe we should not gvie too much of the plot away, but in the case of this book, there are some elements which are part of common every day knowledge, at least in Anglo-Saxon countries. Robinson has a bit of trouble while seafaring and is lucky to get somehow on the shore. There are no internet cafes, no 5 star hotels, and, in fact, after some strolling around the beach, it dawns on our fella that this is an island. Unable to think about exploiting the whole place and turn it into a luxury resort, Robinson prefers a different economic approach, that would have an influence on Marx works, and decide to grow purely what he needs for his life. Years pass, Robinson spends his time harvesting grapes, sun drying them, and other kind of agricultural jobs. We are never told how he satisfies his sexual needs, and, from what we are given to know, we are not even sure if he has any. Later, he will befriend one of the cannibals that from time to time come on shore to eat their victims, in fact it is one of these victims he befriends, to be more specific. He turns him into slave, pays no National Insurance, and allows this immigrant to stay on his island when his Visa expire, partly becaue Robinson self appoints himself in charge of the whole island and its Home Office too. Probably realizing that he would miss the first Football World cup to be held in about a couple of century, he finally decides to make an escape from the island. But there are dangers to overcome, the sea is infested by cannibals, and some of them did not appreciate that Robinson had previosuly slaughtered a fair number of them, then the sea is some time rough, and also, how would he adapt to civilization against? I will not give away the end of this book, but I can asusre you that there i
        s real suspance towards the end.

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          08.06.2001 17:27
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          In recent times, this classic children's text has been reconsidered in some surprising ways. I first read Robinson Crusoe when I was about ten (Understanding not all of it.)and re read it several years ago as part of my English literature degree. From my childhood, I remember a fairly harmles story about a bloks stuck on an island rearing goats, growing corn and trying to make pots. Oh, and there was man Friday. These days, Robinson Crusoe is regarded by academics as being a book about colonialism. After all, we have one English man becoming King of an island (which is clearly home to some other people.) Crusoe's treatment of Man Friday is troubling to a modern audience (or perhaps should be at any rate.) Firstly, it is clear that Friday (so named by Crusoe)must learn English - Crusoe makes no effort to discover any language Friday might have. Friday is instructed to call Crusoe master and treated much like a slave. These men are both outcasts on an island. They have idfferent languages and cultures, differnt skin colours. Both Crusoe and the text assume that the white man is the superior. It s also a story that really speaking has no women in it. More of that in a moment. Robinson Crusoe has attracted revisionary writing - for anyone who has not encountered this, it is a new genre in which modern writers retell old stories from a different perspective in order to cast new light on them. If you would like to challenge your ideas about Robinson Crusoe, I would recomend reading "Foe" by J.M. Cotzee (spelling uncertain)This is the tale of a woman who is cast up on a barren island where she finds a white man planting rocks and a black man who has had his tongue cot out. When the woman escapes from the island, she sells her tale to one Mr Foe - a book writer. WE know that there is no owman in Robinson crusoe, and this book suggests that the woman has been deliberatly cut out. It is a curious and disturbing read - wel
          l worth the effort though. Definatley something to follow up on Robinson Crusoe with. It's also about a tenth of the size!

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          31.10.2000 03:16

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          Robinson Crusoe is a tale that we all know. Defoe's story was once compulsory reading in schools. At least they tried to make us read it.Have you ever read it right through? The first thing that hit me was that it was long winded and it seemed to take far too long to get to the bit that I know as the story. The part that actually knew as the 'tale' of Robinson Crusoe is actually only a very small part of the book. The desert island and Man Friday are only a fraction of it. Defoes story is really about human endeavour and the triumph of the human spirit which rises up against adversity and wins through. If you haven't read this book from an adult perspective you might be suprised at what you find in it!

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          07.10.2000 21:54
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          Given that the book has been so aggressively bowdlerised as a kid's classic, actually reading 'Robinson Crusoe' is effectively discovering something new, and full of surprises (not all of them pleasant by any means). The first big surprise is how long Defoe actually takes to get to what we imagine is the story - Crusoe takes ages to be alone, and goes through quite a bit of gratuitous slave-trading before he is marooned. The large desert island sequence is one of Crusoe's many adventures herein. This is a book shot through with Defoe's trademark admiration for the human spirit, and human endeavour. But you have to bear in mind that Defoe once toured Britain and marvelled at how small children were able to earn a living, whereas today we might cringe at such a jolly spin on child labour. Equally, Crusoe views other human beings as perfectly suitable commodities, and some of the descriptions of 'savages' don't bear too much scrutiny either. Like 'Moll Flanders', Defoe's favourite technique is to just rain calamities down on his protagonist, and this at least ensures that book is readable, but you really need to bear in mind when the book was written before embarking on it.

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          21.08.2000 05:29
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          We all know the story of Robinson Crusoe - but have you actually read it? I read it for the first time in my life this year. I was astonished. The underlying idea, of survival against all the odds, is strong enough to motivate a fair number of spin-offs (Defoe wrote a couple himself), and even Desert Island Discs. When you consider that it is claimed by some as one of the first novels to be written in the English language and that it is nearly 300 years old, it is astonishingly fresh. The fact that I knew its story - even only in sketchy outline - did not at all detract from its power over me. I found myself quite gripped by Crusoe's heroic attempt to make bread! Sounds silly, but then read it and you will be surprised. Defoe, always the spy, spending a great deal of his life passing himself off as something other than what he really was, and obsessed with secrecy, is determined to pass of Crusoe as authentic - a fact that is disguised by the fact that it is now published as a novel under his name. There is no question that it is hugely plausible. It's full of unexpected implications - for colonialism, for what it means to be an individual, for what it takes to write a "realist" narrative, for religious belief (about which it is tantalisingly ambiguous). Crusoe himself is an extraordinary phenomenon - phlegmatic, dogged, businesslike, and utterly sexless. A great Irishman regarded Crusoe as the archetypal Englishman.

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        • Product Details

          Daniel Defoe relates the tale of an English sailor marooned on a desert island for nearly three decades. An ordinary man struggling to survive in extraordinary circumstances, Robinson Crusoe wrestles with fate and the nature of God. This edition features maps.