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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Chapter 1: Advice to a Son
Robinson Crusoe, the protagonist of the novel, is born in the year 1632 in the city of York in England. One of his two brothers dies in battle and the other disappears. As a result, his father wants to make certain his third son is a success and tries to make a lawyer out of young Crusoe. The boy, however, longs to go to sea, despite the protests of family and friends. His father, a wise and somber man, specifically advises Crusoe not to become a sailor. One morning he summons the young Crusoe to his room, where he is confined with illness. In an almost prophetic manner, he tells his son that if he goes so sea against his father's counsel, he will surely live to regret it. At the end of the chapter, the old man is in tears, so moved with emotions that he cannot continue.
The first chapter introduces the hero of the novel, Robinson Crusoe, and presents some of his background. It also establishes him as the first person narrator of the tale. Because Crusoe is the only remaining son, his father expects him to settle down and become a lawyer. Crusoe, however, longs only to become a sailor. His father totally disapproves of this idea and warns his son against it. The father's warning sets the tense tone of the entire novel and foreshadows the bad fortune that will plague Crusoe through much of the novel.
Defoe presents Crusoe as the "prodigal son," who will spend much of the novel being rebellious. Early in life, he asks his father for his freedom, for he wants to go out in the world to do what he likes and to make his fortune. When his father refuses his request, the young Crusoe runs away to become a sailor at the first opportunity. Defoe builds on the theme of the prodigal son throughout most of the novel. In the New Testament of the Bible, the prodigal leaves home and has his adventures; after his fortune is wasted, he then becomes remorseful, returns home, receives his father's blessing, and proves he is a changed man. Each time Crusoe is in trouble, a merciful God gives him the opportunity to mend his ways, but Crusoe finds it difficult to change. Although he understands the danger his actions, he cannot resist the appeal of adventure.