A Review of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe

By Sylvester Oluoch

The novel is set in England in the 17th century. It is the story of a young man, Robinson Crusoe, who from the time he is a young boy develops a great desire for adventure in the sea. He eventually runs away from home and school and goes to Hull where he gets a place on board a ship. After many days of travelling in the sea, this ship is captured by the Turks and Robinson is held as one of the slaves. He eventually escapes to a vessel that was passing by and is kindly received by its captain who happens to be an English sailor on a voyage of trade.

Twelve days after his escape, they are caught at sea by a high tide. They are shipwrecked and all the crew perishes save for Robinson Crusoe who is cast on a uninhabited island near the Orinoco River, all alone.

The rest is the story of how Robinson survived for 24 years, most of the time alone, on that island; how he began life from apparently nothing, established himself as the “King” of the island and his eventual sailing for England after recapturing a mutinous ship.

A number of qualities in the life of man can be deduced from Daniel Defoe’s work: his survival instinct, his spirit of initiative and his religious sentiments. It can also be argued that, through Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe tries to build up, step by step, a physical and moral replica of the life he had left behind in Hull[1]. Robinson does this by a slow process of self identification and by using whatever materials came to hand. He founded the story on the adventures of Alexander Selkirk. At some other time he also claimed that the story was an allegory of his own life.

Robinson Crusoe is a manual of the qualities that have won the world from barbarism – courage, patience, ingenuity and industry[2]. But this I leave for you to discover on your own.

Sylvester is a 3rd year Bachelor of Quantity Surveying student at the University of Nairobi.

[1] Angus Ross in the Introduction to the 1965 Edition of Robinson Crusoe.

[2] Cf. William Rose Benét, The Reader’s Encyclopedia, 2nd Ed. p.865

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