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ENL 3230
British Literature 1616-1780

    April 11: Class 12

      Reading Assignment:

      Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
      finish pp. 161-304; appendix D 350-373; Appendix H 404-414

      Post 5 Group B -- Response 5 Group A

      With our conclusion of Robinson Crusoe, I would also like you to explore two appendices in this Broadview Edition, the Explorations of Solitude and the Illustrations of Crusoe's rescuing Friday.

      Reading Notes and Discussion Questions:

      How does the second half of the novel compare with the first? Do you see any evidence for a development in character? Do you see the fruition of themes or plots that emerged in the first?

      As our editor notes in Appendix D, "Crusoe's solitude is psychologically unrealistic: as Defoe knew, castaways who spend extended time alone (like prisoners placed in unbroken solitary confinement) frequently lost control of their mental faculties.... But as a mythical topos, Crusoe's solitude has made him an important figure of autonomy and individualism" (350). Examine the fluctuations of Crusoe's spirit in light of the psychological conditions of isolation. How does he respond? What changes when human beings join his "kingdom"?

      One measure of this psychological state can be seen in his reaction to the impression of a human foot in the sand. This is one of the two chief iconic moments in the second half of the novel (the other being the rescuing of Friday). Examine the passage:

        "It happen'd one Day about Noon going towards my Boat, I was exceedingly surpriz'd with the Print of a Man's naked Foot on the Shore, which was very plain to be seen in the Sand; I stood like one Thunder-struck, or as if I had seen an Apparition; I listen'd, I look'd round me, I could hear nothing, nor see any Thing, I went up to a rising Ground to look father, I went up the Shore and down the Shore, but it as all one, I could see no other Impression but that one, I went to it again to see if there were any more, and to observe if it might not be my Fancy; but there was no Room for that, for there was exactly the very Print of a Foot, Toes, Heel, and every Part of a Foot; how it came thither, I knew not, nor could in the least imagine" (176).

      What is Crusoe's reaction to the footprint? How does this affect his relations to human beings?

      How does Crusoe respond to the presence of cannibals on the island?

      Examine Crusoe's rescue of Friday. Why does he rescue Friday? How does Friday respond? What language is used to represent this?

      Examine the images of Friday's rescue in later editions of Robinson Crusoe, in appendix H. What do these visual interpretations of the event suggest about this part of the story? How might it be interpreted?

      How does Friday's presence change things for Crusoe?

      What kind of relationship do Friday and Crusoe have? (Please consider the entire novel in answering this question.)

      Over the course of the novel, how do the actual "savages" compare with Crusoe's imagination of them?

      How does war compare with cannibalism as an aggressive act between nations?

      In what ways does Crusoe's attitude toward the island change over the course of the novel? How does he feel toward it at the end of the novel and why?

      How might you understand the representation of Spanish people and English people in the last part of the novel? In what ways might this serve as a commentary on the attitudes toward the "savages" represented by Crusoe?

      Consider the themes of moral revelation we discussed in the first half of the novel. Crusoe learns to read his situation as a just punishment for his primary sin against his father. This type of hermeneutic or interpretation continues throughout the latter part of the novel, as Crusoe continues to understand his place in a morally ordered and designed universe. Ultimately, what does his "deliverance" mean? How does he understand the series of miracles that follow his return to "civilization"?

      Is Robinson Crusoe meant to be an exemplar? If so, of what kind? (This might help you determine if you see this book primarily as an adventure tale of individual survival, a moral tale in Christian duty, or an economic tale of shrewd self-interest.)

      As previously mentioned, Robinson Crusoe generated hundreds of sequels, adaptations, translations and editions. Why do you think this story is so immensely popular over time and throughout the world?

      Robinson Crusoe also becomes a popular children's story and, more particularly, a story recommended to young girls in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. What about this book might be suitable for such an audience?

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