C. Robinson Crusoe: Some General Observations
If we look at Robinson Crusoe in this so far rather general light, we can begin to shape an interpretation. I’m going to return to some of these points in more detail later, but let me just sketch out the shape of how one might interpret this book.
Up to his arrival on the island, Robinson Crusoe is a fairly typical adventurous young lad, who has not much time for the sober advice of his father that he should enter the middle class and settle down to the safe and secure calling of making money. He runs off to sea and has a few adventures and gets shipwrecked. Nothing in his life up to this point suggests that he is in any way extraordinary, physically, intellectually, socially, or in any other way. That, of course, is an important difference between this narrative and the ones we have read so far, in which the hero is, from the start a superior and mature person (a moral and social aristocrat). Robinson Crusoe is, in a very real sense, an everyman, a typical middle-class representative of European society, rather than a singularly gifted individual, a social and mental aristocrat. In fact, one of the most important aspects of this book is that it is celebrating a new hero—the middle class worker.
He arrives on an island that is uninhabited (that is another major difference between his story and the others I have mentioned, and it’s very significant, as I shall mention later). It is not a particularly cruel wilderness; he does not have to fight to survive. In fact, in many ways the place seems something of a paradise, in which Robinson Crusoe is more or less free to do whatever he wants without interruption from a very hostile climate or any other people. The island, indeed, offers him a great deal of immediate help (goats, fish, raisins, convenient shelter, and so on).