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MonkeyNotes-Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
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Themes

The predominant theme of Robinson Crusoe is religious. Crusoe is the prodigal son who leaves his father's house and runs into trouble. He is punished by Providence for his rebelliousness and greed and forced to live a solitary confinement on a deserted island, where he can come to terms with his religious faith. At first, Crusoe tries to make it on the island through sheer hard work and ingenuity. He is so self-assured that he feels he needs nothing other than himself. When he falls ill and has no one to turn to, he begs God for help and forgiveness. God hears his pleas and begins to work with Crusoe. As Crusoe begins to feel truly repentant and to regularly spend time reading the Bible and praying, he is richly blessed on the island. He finds plenty to eat and plenty to occupy himself. He is also always grateful to God for his survival and his safety on the island. When he is delivered from the island, he accredits his rescue to Providence, taking no credit for himself. The prodigal son has truly learned his lesson and returns to England a changed and humbled man; God has worked a miracle in the life of Robinson Crusoe.


The minor theme of the novel is the imperialist dream. The novel takes place during the age when new colonies were being established and the explorer was being idealized. It was the dream of many young Englishmen to go overseas to one of the colonies, to grow rich, and to play a role in the spread of the British Empire. Crusoe is tempted by this dream. His forays as an explorer at first bring him some wealth. In Brazil, he grows quite rich, but when cast upon an uninhabited island, Crusoe meets hardship. Nevertheless, in true British imperialist fashion, he begins to "colonize" the island, turning it into a small England. Crusoe becomes the lord of the island and builds himself a "castle" and a "country house." Like a lord, he rules over every form of life on the island. His first subjects are his pets - a parrot, a dog, and two cats. Then he begins to domesticate the goats. Next he saves Friday. Though called a companion, he is really no more than a servant who Crusoe "civilizes" in every way, dressing him in English fashion, giving him a British name, teaching him the English language, and turning him into a Christian. By the end of the novel, Crusoe has truly become a "governor" of the island with power over all those who find themselves stranded there, including the Spaniard, Friday's father, and the shipwrecked captain and his crew. Until the end of the story, when Crusoe revisits the island and behaves like a real governor, who is concerned about the welfare of the people in his colony, this image is maintained. Thus, through the entire novel, the theme of British imperialism continues.

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