The Downfall of Man in Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe

The Downfall of Man in Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe

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I would like to comment about how Crusoe lived with himself after he became the master in a heirarchy where he was once the slave. He is so unhappy with his role of slave he takes the first opportunity given to him to escape. He also takes the first opportunity given to him to become the master of those left on the boat. This is unforgivable. He throws a man over board because he does not believe he can trust him, but he knows he can trust the first boat that sails his way. Does this sound funny to anyone else? He also offers to give all of his possetions to the captain of the boat that saves him: "I immediatlely offered all I had to the Captain of the Ship..."(204) How did he know the captain was not going to kill him and keep his possetions anyway. The captain turns down the opportunity to take Crusoe's desperate offer. However, he does offer him money for a boat that does not belong to Crusoe and the poor Boy Xury, who does not belong to anyone. How soon Crusoe forgets the horrible life of being a slave!! It is humorous how it is only those who are in the possition of master who think slavery is a good idea. Crusoe then meets Friday. He saves his life, much the way the captain saved Crusoe's life. Friday offers all he has (which is not much) to Crusoe, much like Crusoe did for the captain. However, Crusoe is too selfish to turn Friday down on his offer as the captain did. He takes advantage of the man and immediatly introduces him to slavery. Crusoe is an example of the downfall of man. Humans are sometimes so obsessed with power they only focus on who can be controlled. Whether it is separated by class, gender, color, or as Courtney said religion one group must always feel as if it has power over another. This is common theme in litersature and in life.

 

As I read the excerpt from Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" in "Oronooko" I found myself confused with the point that Defoe was trying to make. Allison, I agree with you completely when you say that the actions of Crusoe "sound kind of funny." I too feel that Crusoe is an example of the downfall of man. First reading the

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biographical information on Defoe and learning that he defended the slave trade in periodical essays and reviews and owned stock in the Royal African Company, as well as writing political journalism and social commentary, then wrote Robinson Crusoe is interesting. The fact that Crusoe, a white man is taken as a slave and reacts the way that he does in the process of escaping is very ironc; maybe that is what Defoe was trying to convey to the reader, however if Defoe's sympathies are with the slave trade, as his stock options suggest then maybe it is not that surprizing. As Allison points out that when escaping, Crusoe throws one man on the boat overboard and sells Xury, with the "promise" of freedom (possibly to ease his conscience?), after so recently being in a similar situation, makes one question his humanity. And the subtle references to the Moors and the physical description of Friday makes it obvious that one's ethnic origin is of great importance in this story. Crusoe does not define Friday as a black man, but rather as a man with a "not quite black, but very twany; and yet not of an ugly yellow nauseous twany...but a bright kind of dun olive Colour..."(206) Crusoe immediately begins his common theme of domination, by being so presumptuous as to name the man Friday (Crusoe has a God conplex?) and teach him his name, Master and the necessary words, yes and no. As I read the beginning of Wheeler essay and her thoughts on Toni Morrison's views I found myself thinking that race seems like an over-inflated issue, but now I find myself confused. Crusoe does not define Friday as being black, but rather not white, which makes a hierarchical structure possible, so then yes race is an issue, however I see the power struggle as being a less black and white issue, because as Wheeler points out, one is not dealing with black and white, but rather a colonial struggle. Crusoe is the personification of the ideology of the colonizers. Is this what Defoe is trying to get at? Maybe I am too caught up on Crusoe and trying to decode him and in turn Defoe's message. Is Crusoe a control freak, who feels that wealth and domesticy is the answer to the world's problems? Is Crusoe symbolic of the conquering power of Western Europe in terms of people and land? Is Defoe attempting to humanize dehumanizing acts of superiority through this character? If anyone has answers or suggestions let me know.

 

Hi ladies. Hope you are all having wonderful weekends thus far. I am the first this week I suppose to get my response in because i have plans tomorrow that will not allow me to be around.
The first text I read was by Defoe from Robinson Crusoe. It was a good text to read following last week's assignment in Oronooko because of the similar storyline of a wealthy/self suficient man becoming a slave. Although, in this text we may be left wondering how Crusoe can himself stand to become a master when his own life of slavery (brief as it was) made him miserable. Just as we wonder this, though, we read Wheeler's article, "My Savage, My Man."
Wheeler had a very interesting article that touched on a lot of history that could be considered to show the true origin of some of the "racial" questions brought up by those who read Robinson Crusoe.
One of my favorite things that she says, for some reason, reminds me of T. S. Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent." She says that we only believe that the text contains racial topics because we come from a time where we are more sensitive to those topics. It reminded me of how Eliot states that sometimes we take our own emotions and feeling and get stuck in them instead of exploring beyond emotion. Toni Morrison, I believe, does exactly this. I see Morrison not only as a writer but as an activist. I believe she jumped ahead to assume that Robinson Crusoe contained racial incidents without doing her research. Wheeler points out how if she (morrison) had checked out a little history, she would have known that the assumption that Friday is like Selkirk is debatable. I enjoyed how Wheeler writes that Morrison created "fiction in the fiction" by mistaking an Amerindian slave for a black slave. Don't get me wrong, i thoroughly have enjoyed every book I have read by Morrison thus far, but I find it satisfying that someone comes forward to point out where Ms. Morrison may be incorrect.


I also found the history in Wheeler's article interesting and found my self agreeing to what she was telling when I compared it to Robinson Crusoe. A savage really was defined not by skin tone, but by clothes (most importantly) and religion. These are like clues in the story just like scarey music in a movie lets you know when something is about to occur, although the fact that Friday is naked comes about five pages after his introduction. We as readers seem to always assume that a "savage," a "cannibal" is hideous. Now we know they can be decent looking but watch out if they're naked! :)


Crusoe is a colonial narrative that is definitely profit oriented. We know Crusoe only wants to get back on his boat and sail as a Merchant. He is an Englishman who is not phases all that much by his brief stunt as a slave. (We also learn that a slave is defined more by religion and heritage than skin tone). Though Crusoe is digusted in his role as slave, upon his escape he resumes his old self with nothing more gained as he decides he is Xury's master and sells him.

 

 
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