April 4: Class 11
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
Introduction and pp. 1-161
Post 5 Group A -- Response 5 Group B
Robinson Crusoe was published in 1719 to great acclaim, and it would be difficult to overestimate
its popularity since that time. It has spawned innumerable adaptations, one of which we will view later
this term. It has never been out of print, and it has been translated into languages from around the world.
For our purposes, it allows us to explore the idea of place and travel in the eighteenth century, and to compare
the developed prose narrative to works by Behn, Swift and Johnson.
We will be discussing this work over the course of two weeks. Your first reading assignment takes you half-way
through the novel, to where Crusoe seems settled alone on his island.
Reading Notes and Discussion Questions:
Examine the form of the narrative. How does Defoe present the text and what might this suggest about the emerging novel
form in the early eighteenth century?
From the start, Defoe makes this a story about Providence. What are the implications for Crusoe disobeying his father?
Examine the role of desire in the character of Crusoe. Why does he yearn to be at sea? What is the desire that motivates
One might say that Robinson Crusoe is about finding one's place. Trace Crusoe's travel in the first section of the
novel using the world map provided in the introductory materials of the Broadview edition.
What is your response to Crusoe's sudden acts of betrayal, for example, selling Xury?
What is your response to the representation of slavery in the novel? Does anything about it surprise you? How does this complicate
the picture of historical slavery we learned about in Oroonoko?
How does Crusoe make the island -- which he does not actually find until p. 86 -- his place?
What role does the journal serve for Crusoe?
How does the island experience serve to defamiliarize daily life for Crusoe? What are the implications for a reader?
Examine and evaluate Crusoe's understanding of God and God's relationship to him.
What happens when Crusoe finds the bible?
How does Crusoe adapt to his place, i.e. the tropical island? (This is a different question from how does he make the island his place.)
Why does Crusoe fear cannibals?
What lesson does Crusoe learn fro building his canoe?
Back to Top of Page