Daniel Defoe (1660 – 1731) lived a very rich life. He is typical of his time because he excelled, as many others, in his intelligence, energy, and spirit of enterprise and tried to fight for a good place in society. He represents the moderate wing of the English enlightenment. He was the son of a London butcher, Foe, a Presbyterian, and was also a tradesman. On his business trips he visited Spain, Germany, France, and Italy. When he was twenty-four years old, he married. In 1688 he joined the army of William of Orange.
The new king was a foreigner and when the aristocracy began to speak against him, Defoe wrote a satirical poem combating the popular prejudice against a king of foreign birth. In 1702 he wrote The Shortest Way with the Dissenters, in which he, himself a dissenter, ironically demand the total suppression of dissent. He suggested in it that all who were against the Anglican Church should be executed. At first it was considered to be the work of an Anglican, but when it was discovered, that Defoe was the author, he was pilloried and imprisoned. But several days before that he had written his Hymn to the Pillory, in which he said that the suppressers of freedom always acted similarly against those who defended the interests of the people. It was read everywhere while he was in prison. Defoe began to issue there his weekly, The Review of the Affairs of France, which was the first organ of political views independent of the government. He wrote about English matters instead of French, of course. But then Defoe made a compromise with the government and served as a secret agent, and that also at the preparations for the union of Scotland and England.
Thus he was well prepared for writing his best novels. He was about sixty when he wrote his greatest fictional work, The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York. The story is based on the actual experiences of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor, who was marooned on a desolate island in the Atlantic in 1704 and lived alone there for four years. Defoe captures the interest of the reader by simple, matter-of-fact, yet detailed narration, which maintains an illusion of truth, though the story is full of adventures. Defoe describes the life of the hero before he starts living his solitary years. Robinson becomes a sailor against the wishes of his parents. After a terrible storm on the sea he thinks of returning home. But an old captain persuades him to board a ship bound for Guinea. On the way he is captured by a Turkish pirate and sold into slavery, from which he escapes to Brazil. There he stays for some time as a sugar planter. But he soon joins another ship. Unfortunately the ship is wrecked off the coast of an uninhabited island. Robinson alone escapes to the shore and his new life begins. The author narrates in a minute detail how Robinson with the aid of some foodstuffs and utensils, which he saved from the wreck, builds himself a house, grows corn, keeps goats and makes himself a boat. He also describes the perturbation of Robinson’s mind caused by the visit of cannibals to his island, and how Robinson rescues from death one poor native, whom he names Friday. Finally an English ship approaches. But the crew are in state of mutiny. After some fighting the mutineers are subdued and Robinson is rescued. Defoe himself said that he had written the book for the instruction of mankind, to recommend patience and energy under the worst misery.
A similar moral and educational purpose may be found in The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, in which Robinson with Friday revisits his island, is attacked by savages in canoes on his departure and loses Friday in the encounter. The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders is a realistic picture of low life. Defoe the wrote several stories similar to this.
Later in his Essay upon Projects he propagates reforms in different walks of life, such as finance, trade, and education. His intellectual outlook was wholly modern. In the discussion of moral and social matters. Defoe for the first time let the actual voice of the average middle class be heard.
The Complete English Tradesman destroyed the literary privilege, which the Restoration had accorded to the circles of the aristocracy. The Complete English Gentleman gave definite utterance to the essential claim of the tradesman: “to attain to culture, and through it to integrate himself with the ruling classes, to sweep away the barrier of refinement, the only thing that still barred his progress. The sons of merchants, when duly educated, will no longer be distinguishable from the descendants of ancient families”. He showed the moral corruption of the nobility, the decline of the brutal country gentleman and said that “the future belongs to the class that toils, grows rich and will give itself the prestige of knowledge”. This class is in contact with reality. Intellectually it is brought up to respect the concrete and practical.
Ďaľšie referáty z kategórie
Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe and Jonathan Swift: Gulliver’s Travels
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