The characteristic and the development of the personality of Robinson Crusoe
We could hardly find somebody who wouldn‘t know D. Defoe‘s novel Robinson Crusoe in the civilized world. It is one of the first novels written in the realm of English literature. In our short essay we would like to focus on the characteristic of Robinson Crusoe and on the development of his personality in the novel. We think, that nor all the situations and events in his life did change the basis of his personality. Although after his arrival from the island, he did see the life differently, his desire for adventure, the adventurous aspect of his character stayed unchanged.
The best way, how to tell something about a literally work, is to show our suggestions in the text itself. That‘s why we will use quotations to support our most important suggestions.
Before we get to the main point of this short essay, we would like to introduce shortly Defoe‘s novel Robinson Crusoe. It was written in 1719 when Defoe was about sixty years old. As we have already mentioned, it is one of the first novels in English literature. Moreover, it is probably the first realistic novel in English literature. It is based on the real life story of John Selkick, who was the prototype for Robinson Crusoe and spent four years on an island. The novel is written in 1st person narration (Ich-Erzählung). Because of this, there is no explicit characteristic of the hero. So we will have to deduce Crusoe’s character from his behaviour. There is one strong centre character in the novel. The narration is put in chronological order (the plot is identical with the story).
Let us now reach our aim and characterize our hero. As it is good known, the main aspect of the personality of Robinson Crusoe is his adventurous spirit. Crusoe was of good origin: „(…) that mine was the middle state, or what might be called the upper station of low life (…) was the best state in the world (…)“ He had a bright future in front of him. His father tried to persuade him to stay at home. He said: „(…) I might be well introduced, and had a prospect of raising my fortune by application and industry, with a life of ease and pleasure.“ On father‘s words he first decided to obey him: „and I resolved not to think of going abroad any more, but settle at home according to my father‘s desire.“ But after a few days his adventurous spirit won. He decided to run away. From the beginning on, he had to face many dangers. He decided to return home several times because of them, but he never obeyed his good intentions.
This was, as Crusoe is suggesting, the main reason of so many dangers and worries, he had to face during his life.
The adventurous spirit is one of the aspects of his character. What other important aspects were there in his personality? Somebody may say, that following aspects of Crusoe’s personality were developed under the pressure of the danger and worries he had to undergo. But we think there had to be some basis for this development in his character also before. To live a life of a castaway demanded a lot of diligence and patience: „(…) but labor and patience carried me through that and many other things.” Without his patience he probably wouldn’t be able manufacture all the necessities for his life on the island. He really needed a lot of skills to develop. But fortunately, he was skillful and docile, so he managed to prepare many things himself, some even not necessary (cakes, etc.) Thanks this he succeeded in making his life on the island more comfortable.
Crusoe realized he had everything he needed, and was actually satisfied with what he had. He didn’t feel any deficit of food: „(…) I was not driven to any extremities for food; but rather plenty, even to dainties.“ And as he had enough food and all the most important tools, he missed only one thing. The company of other human being. Not to fell alone, Crusoe caught a parrot and taught it to speak. But a parrot, although able to speak, is still only a parrot. It can only repeat what it has learned. That‘s why we think Crusoe desired for human company all the time, though only subconsciously.
Crusoe, as he was more less satisfied with his state, was able to be extremely happy about small things and achievements. „No joy at a thing of so mean a nature was ever equal to mine (…)“
Now, we‘re reaching other important point. There was something, what helped Crusoe to carry the absence of other human being on the island. Once he got very ill. As he was suffering, he was thinking about his life: „(…) conscience, that had slept so long began to awake, and I began to reproach myself with my past life, in which I had so evidently, by uncommon wickedness, provoked the justice of God to lay me under uncommon strokes, and to deal with me in so vindictive a manner. These reflections oppressed me for a second or third day of my distemper, and in the violence as well of the fever as of the dreadful reproaches of my conscience extorted some words from me, like praying to God, though I cannot say they were either a prayer attended with desires or with hopes; it was rather the voice of mere fright and distress;(…)“ But later on Crusoe began to pray.
He was honestly sorry that he disobeyed all the warnings of his relatives, friends and first of all God, so many times. He starts to practise habits of religious life: „I kept this day a solemn fast, setting it apart to religious exercise, prostrating myself on the ground with the most serious humiliation, confessing my sins to God, acknowledging His righteous judgements upon me, and praying to Him to have mercy on me, through Jesus Christ;(…)“ It‘s probably the relation to God what helped him to survive. From this relation he was gaining hope that all his troubles aren‘t pointless. And when he was depressed because of his situation, he was looking for some source of hope. And he found it: „ (…) I daily read the Word of God and applied all the comforts of it to my present state.“ Crusoe himself considered his relation with God as very important: „(…) if God does not forsake me, of what ill consequence can it be, or what matters it, though the world should all forsake me; seeing on the other hand, if I had all the world and should lose the favour and blessing of God, there would be no comparison in the loss?”
As we are coming closer to the end of our work, we would like to introduce one more aspect of Crusoe’s personality. After the arrival of Friday and the other persons on the island Crusoe is changing his behavior. He is behaving as if he was the ruler and the owner of the island. Even as a king: „My island was now peopled, and I thought myself very rich in subjects; and it was a merry reflection, which I frequently made, how like a king I looked. First of all, the whole country was my own mere property, so that I had undoubted right of dominion. Secondly, my people were perfectly subjected. I was absolute lord and lawgiver; (…)” And Crusoe was considering himself as a ruler and owner of the island also after he returned home. There are some more features of Crusoe’s character that we could mention. But they aren’t of so big importance.
We have showed, what we think are, the most important aspects of the personality of Robinson Crusoe. Undoubtedly, there are many more of them, which could be seen in Crusoe’s character. At the end we do have to prove one more thing. In the beginning we were suggesting, that the deepest aspect of Crusoe’s character, the adventurous spirit, wasn’t changed. The end of the novel can prove it. We would expect him to settle down and live a peaceful and calm life.
But the novel ends: „All these things, with some very surprising incidents in some new adventures of my own, for ten years more, I may perhaps give a further account of hereafter.“ This is the conclusion of the novel. And we think, we can conclude our essay as well, because we have reached the aim of it. We have characterized Robinson Crusoe and proved our suggestion from the beginnin.