Robinson Crusoe Essay

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Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is an exemplary record of the European mindset during the eighteenth century. Not only is this novel important for being the first written in English, but its many themes explore the religious, political, and philosophical ideals of this time period. Through the character of Robinson Crusoe, Defoe exposes the European justifications for colonialism, helping us understand a time that is far removed from our own. Upon a close study of eighteenth century attitudes towards man, country, and God, we find that Robinson Crusoe is significantly influenced by the many schools of thought that were prevalent at the time. Calvinism and Lutheranism, for instance, have a great effect on Crusoe’s religious background, while the philosophies of Locke and Hobbes influence his method of governing. Indeed, even through his treatment of Friday, we may examine European prejudices on race and the right to colonize. For the purpose of this assessment of Defoe’s novel, it is practical to examine each element of European ideology on its own and observe how it is presented in Robinson Crusoe. During the time in which Robinson Crusoe was written, the two dominating religious trends in England were Calvinism and Lutheranism. We find that when Crusoe becomes shipwrecked, he has a religious experience deeply rooted in Calvinist conceptions of predestination and divine providence. In his own words, Crusoe states that “…these reflections made me very sensible of the goodness of Providence to me, and very thankful for my present condition, with all its hardships and misfortunes.” (Defoe 111). Crusoe seems to believe that God has chosen him to be in this particular circumstance, and feels grateful to God for having elected him. In accordance with Calvinist ideals, men do not earn eternity through virtue or good deeds, but rather through God’s “appointment” (Defoe

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