Comparing Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels

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In both Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the main characters suddenly find themselves in radically different environments than what they are used to. Robinson Crusoe finds himself shipwrecked on an uninhabited island, and Gulliver is forced onto a strange island by his wayward crew. The endings of these stories could not be more different from each other. Gulliver is tragically unable to transition back into normal society. In fact, he has developed a bitter disdain for humanity, and meeting his family for first time in years “filled me only with hatred, disgust, and contempt.” Crusoe manages to regain some semblance of normal human interaction such as worrying about debts, previous business associates, getting married, having children, and (perhaps above all) planning new adventures! Indeed, one of the criticisms of Robinson Crusoe is that the solitude did not change him enough, as Charles Dickens writes “...Robinson Crusoe is perfectly contemptible, in the glaring defect that it exhibits the man who was 30 years on that desert island with no visible effect made on his character…” It would seem that Crusoe, who was in an even more isolated state than Gulliver, would have a more difficult time reentering society, so why is it not so? I would point to two key factors. First, within the stories themselves, we can see that the characters adapt differently to their new environments: these differences carry over to their returns. Crusoe controls his environment, thus remaining relatively sane, while Gulliver allows his environment to control him, thereby losing the norms of human society. While Crusoe tries to lead as normal a life as possible, Gulliver does his best to learn the ways of the Houyh... ... middle of paper ... way of dragging it into the water. All of these imperfections give the character a level of relatability that is both charming and engaging. We all have family drama. We all develop close friendships. We all make mistakes. Admittedly, there are parts of Crusoe’s personality which may be unrelatable to many, such as his lazze ferre views on his marriage and his treating Friday as property. However, similar behaviour (Marriages of convenience, Slavery,) can be found in our society either now or in the not-so-distant past. On the other hand, Swift, (through Gulliver,) laudes aspects of hyuhmmmmm society which, frankly, are unrelatable to humans. Compassion, emotion, love, perseverance are qualities that are looked down upon - people with flaws are vilified. These themes are to be expected considering the misanthropic message that Swift is attempting to perpetuate.

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