'In all the time of my solitary life, I never felt so earnest, so strong a desire after the society of my fellow-creatures, or so deep a regret at the want of it.' (Robinson Crusoe). Use this quotation as a starting point for the exploration of the self in Robinson CrusoeSelf is broadly defined as the essential qualities that make a person distinct from all others. In Defoe's words the word, "governs the whole world; the present Race of Men all come into it. 'tis the foundation of every prospect in life, the beginning and end of our Actions." It is the essence of man.
Crusoe undergoes a journey of self discovery whilst on the island. He learns things about himself that, quite probably, only years of isolation could have brought out in him. Defoe's novel was the first of a long pattern of story writing in which the hero undergoes a massive devlopment and maturation. Preliminary ignorance allows Crusoe to acquire wisdom whereby in Richetti's words, "the self can gradually discover outside itself that which it carries within."Defoe's exploration of the self lies in Crusoe's journey of self-discovery and his accomplishments in isolation vs. the inevitable loneliness that his life of solitude entails. The story explores how an individual can survive without society in the state of nature that the deserted island provides. Crusoe adapts to island life incredibly well, exploiting his limited resources and becoming completely self-reliant. It is a stirring account of the personal growth and devlopment of the self that takes place whilst stranded in solitude. Crusoe withdraws from the external social world and turns inward. In his 'solitary life' Crusoe is in fact able to explore himself and gains a sense of self-awareness by the end of the novel.
We see that self-awareness is incredibly important to Crusoe in his normal day-to-day activities and his keeping of a calendar described as, "a sort of self-conscious or autobiographical calendar with him at its centre." Likewise, Crusoe is obsessive about keeping a journal and accounting for every minute detail that comes to pass on the island. Being self-aware is a coping mechanism for Crusoe exemplified in his teaching his parrot to say, "Poor Robin Crusoe. . . . Where have you been?" Crusoe may not seem a man to express his feelings well, but he voices his inner feelings here through the parrot. The taming of the parrot, wild goats and the land in general, all signify Crusoe's need to feel master of his fate in some way. He needs the sense of control in a life, which he may feel he has had little control of since being exiled on the island. By becoming a master over nature he feels he is more a master of his own fate and self.
Becoming a master of the self is a key aspect of Defoe's ultimate survival. At the start of the novel Crusoe refers to his 'original sin' for disobeying his father and heading off to sea, and frequently blames himself for his destiny as a castaway. By mastering nature on the island he gains a sense of self-determination rather than seeing himself as a passive victim. He finds prosperity despite his difficult fate.
It is only through his hard fate of confinement that Crusoe develops and improves. He learns that by working with his surroundings and making the most of what has been provided for him, he is able to find sufficient to carry out life. Whilst he cannot escape the island he cannot run away from his problems so he must face his fears. By farming, manufacturing and making a home of the island, Crusoe acquires a sense of place that may also help him establish a sense of self.
The removal of all constraints, though not objects, of the civilised world creates a paradox as it is with all notions of civility and society removed that we can actually observe the real self, the real human instinct and behaviour that forms society and civilization.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his book,Émile ou De l'éducation(1762) interprets the island as a vehicle...
Bibliography: rimaryNovak, Maximillian.E. Defoe & the Nature of Man. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.
Richetti, John.J. Defoe 's Narratives: Situations and Structures. Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1975.
Rogers, Pat. Robinson Crusoe. London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1979.
Seidel, Michael. Robinson Crusoe : island myths and the novel. Boston : Twayne, c1991.
Watt, Ian. "Robinson Crusoe as a myth. An Essay in Criticism." 1951SecondaryFlorman, Ben and Henriksen, John. SparkNote on Robinson Crusoe. 30 Nov. 2007 http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/crusoe/
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