Essay on Religion Vs. Self-interest in Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe

Essay on Religion Vs. Self-interest in Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe

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This paper is an attempt to examine the seeming opposition of religion vs. self-interest with respect to the character of Robinson Crusoe. I will venture to demonstrate that in the novel, Defoe illustrates the contradictions with which Crusoe must contend as he strives to please God while ensuring his own survival in the world. In part, I will endeavor to show that a distorted sense of Puritanism as well as the existing colonial mindset exacerbated this opposition, and resulted in what I propose to be Defoe's (possibly retroactive) imposition of a religious justification for Crusoe's actions.

Crusoe's journey in the canoe exemplifies the reality of his life in that, although he longs to please and obey God, he must also contend with his instincts for self-preservation, looking to himself as his own savior. When Crusoe finally reaches land after a tumultuous experience at sea in his canoe, he states ."..I fell to my knees and gave God thanks for my deliverance, resolving to lay aside all thoughts of my deliverance by my boat,..." (112). Crusoe strives for the Christian ideal, an ideal that leads him to look to God for assistance and not to man/himself because God holds the only power to give and take life. When Crusoe drops to his knees in gratitude to God for his safe return, he appears to have achieved this ideal. However, one must note the use of the word "resolve" in this passage. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word "resolve" as used in the eighteenth century as follows: to decide, to determine, or to convince one of something. The fact that Crusoe had to convince himself and come to a determination in order to lay aside his thoughts of his boat saving him rather than God, reveals to the reader that C...


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... to further the image of Crusoe as a morally superior and religious person, when in fact, he has lived his life concerned with his own self-preservation and economic success, giving into his own will over God's when convenient to such preservation and success. Although it seems that Defoe/Crusoe did not see the two (religious awakening/self-interest) as mutually exclusive, it is obvious that in many instances in the novel, they indeed were at odds, and, in my view, Crusoe's life was guided not be religion, but solely by self-interest. The religious thread of the story, I purport, was imposed on it in order to ensure the reader's confidence in Crusoe's moral superiority, thus guaranteeing his status as the realistic "hero" of the novel.


Works Cited

Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. Ed. Thomas Keymer. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Print. Oxford World's Classics.

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Essay on Religion Vs. Self-interest in Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe

- This paper is an attempt to examine the seeming opposition of religion vs. self-interest with respect to the character of Robinson Crusoe. I will venture to demonstrate that in the novel, Defoe illustrates the contradictions with which Crusoe must contend as he strives to please God while ensuring his own survival in the world. In part, I will endeavor to show that a distorted sense of Puritanism as well as the existing colonial mindset exacerbated this opposition, and resulted in what I propose to be Defoe's (possibly retroactive) imposition of a religious justification for Crusoe's actions....   [tags: Robinson Crusoe Essays]

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