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MonkeyNotes-Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
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Chapter 17: The Print of A Man's Naked Foot

Crusoe is awakened one day from his peaceful existence. As he is going towards his boat, he sees a man's foot print. He is terrified and flees to his fortress. For three days and nights he does not step out of his cave. It is only when his provisions start to run out that he emerges. He goes toward the shore to take a closer look at the footprint. This time he sees that it is bigger than his own, and he is even more frightened and confused.

Crusoe decides to strengthen his defenses and makes the double row of trees he had planted twelve years earlier into a wall by driving a solid row of stakes between each two trees. His outer wall has seven holes gun holes in it. Crusoe then plants fast- growing trees near the wall. At the end of five years, he has a thick grove in front of his dwelling. He also makes enclosures for the goats and keeps them in different groups, so that in the case of a disaster, he will not lose all of them at once.


Notes

Defoe changes the whole tempo of the story in one masterstroke when Crusoe sees a human footprint. Curiously, it is a single footprint, left by a large man. The sight of it strikes terror in Crusoe's heart. It is also paradoxical that after craving human company for all these years, the first emotion he feels at the thought of another human is fear. Sadly, Crusoe allows his fear over the footprint to banish his peaceful existence and all his religious hope. He spends the next years fortifying his cave, building a double wall around it. He also builds a second enclosure for the goats so that he cannot lose all of them at once.

It seems that Providence is again testing Crusoe's faith and preparing him for his next stage of life on the island. The terror that he experiences over one footprint creates a mood of expectation and suspense. In the end, however, it is his religious faith which gives him the strength to continue. Ironically, for more than two years, he never sees another footprint.

Defoe's treatment of time is not as one would expect, but it is consistent within the whole narrative. Some chapters span three years or more; others tell of one small incident. Some chapters tell of the present; some chapters are largely flashback. In this chapter, the reader is given flashbacks about Crusoe's past life as he reflects on his predicament.

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