When one thinks of the character Robinson Crusoe, stunning images of a deserted island, a free, self-sufficient man, and a shipwreck come to mind. However, to understand who Robinson Crusoe is as a character, one must first understand the society that he was raised in and how that contributes to his actions on the island. In other words, with the constant stress of trying to make something of himself in Seventeenth Century Europe, it seemed the only way out was to get out and start a life of his own. Thus, Robinson’s adventures were born. However, throughout the novel readers are presented with the sense that Robinson only craves to be a free and self-sufficient man on his island, with no societal pressures, laws, or other citizens to govern his life. Though this idea may seem to be the underlying cause of Robinson’s actions on the island, it is made clear by the end of the novel that Crusoe never becomes the self-sufficient and solitary identity he craves, rather he becomes king of the island controlling all aspects of the island, both animate and inanimate as well as the individuals that cross his path. Crusoe’s characterization from a confused young adult to a King marks Robinson Crusoe as being one of the first novels because of the growth and individualism of Crusoe himself.
At the start of the novel, Crusoe is portrayed as a young, naïve, eighteen year old man who is confused about his place in society and what his future holds. He given advice from his father to become a lawyer and an active member of society, however, Robinson is unsure that this is what he wants to do for the rest of his life. However, it is this conflict with his father that infuses the enlightened and superior attitude of Crusoe. In a patriarchal society, Crusoe would have been expected to obey the words of his father; however, his rebellion is a catalyst for ensuing events that occur once he reaches the island. In his article “King Crusoe: Locke’s Political Theory in Robinson Crusoe,” Ian A. Bell states that, “He [Crusoe’s father] makes no attempt to force or coerce Crusoe into obeying him. Rather than emphasizing the duties of children to respect and obey their parents, and the awful consequences of disobedience, this episode seems to show the freedom of subjects to make up their own minds and to make their own mistakes” (Bell, 28). This rebellion in a purely patriarchal society was unheard of in its time, however, it gives readers a glimpse of what Robinson is really like on the inside. He longs to be free, do what he pleases, and live a solitary life in which he only pursues his own self-interest. The problem is that this aspect of Robinson’s identity escalates into a seemingly power-hungry state once he reaches the island and actually begins to pursue that solitary lifestyle. (Bell, 28).
Once Crusoe establishes himself on the island, he becomes consumed by the mindset that everything on the island belongs to him as he is the only inhabitant of the island. He longs for order and a balanced lifestyle and begins to build his shelter which is often referred to as his fortress and the island is his kingdom. Inside this shelter he furnishes himself with many different items that he possessed during his time as a plantation owner and as a member of society in England. However, in order to do so he must create everything himself; from his bed, to his table and chairs, and other possessions he builds himself, everything that he owns, he has created by himself. This give Crusoe the state of mind that he is the ruler of his own kingdom as he has provided for himself. In the midst of creating his own kingdom Crusoe says, “I was Lord of the whole Manor, or if I pleas’d, I might call myself King, or Emperor, over the whole country which I had possession of. There were no rivals, I had no competitor, none to dispute sovereignty or command with me” (Defoe, 89)....
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