Keely's Reviews > Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
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Mar 09, 11

bookshelves: adventure, sea-story, reviewed, uk-and-ireland, novel
Read from January 22 to March 08, 2011

This seems to be the quintessential Idiot Ball story, where the only thing working against the protagonist is his own constant short-sightedness, if not head-slapping stupidity. This can be amusing enough, but Defoe constantly ignores promising plot-hooks in order to pursue Crusoe's thick-headedness undisturbed.

You'd think a survival scenario would provide a wealth of hardship, but, despite his constant panics, Crusoe has a rather easy time of it. Even more than this, every other character in the story rushes to Crusoe's aid, chumming up with him without a hint of interpersonal difficulty and remaining always loyal to him.

Then again, the plotting isn't elegant to begin with. We get the same stories and observations over and over, with the narrator telling us how he doesn't need to repeat what he's already told us, only to go on and do precisely that. His 'translations' of Friday's pidgin speech are likewise hilarious, proceeding along these lines:

"Many mans come from big boat", Said Friday, by which he meant that a group of men were disembarking from a ship.

Some have suggested that Crusoe's religious conversion in the book is meant to show the reader the noble truth of belief, but since Crusoe comes to his beliefs out of ignorance and fear, it's hardly a very convincing tract. It reads more like a satire of religion, following a thoughtless, superstitious man who believes chiefly because he is alone and afraid.

There are also a lot of little errors about animal behavior and tribal practices, showing that Defoe was more interested in sensational stories than in research. He even misrepresents animals that live in Europe, like bears, which he depicts as unable to outrun a man. He also portrays Friday as being familiar with bears, despite the fact that the only species of bear that lives in South America, the Spectacled Bear, lives only in the Andes, far away from coastal islands.

The book consistently reads as deliberately silly and overwrought, but good satire is often indistinguishable from poor writing. As far as prototypes for the novel are concerned, I'll take Quixote over Crusoe any day of the week, (and The Satyricon over both).
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Daga I remember reading it as a child at school and it was one of those few books which were readable so in the end I liked it. Obviously I didn't analyse the book in such an accuracy and detail as you've done so it seemed enjoyable. Yet now encourage by your review I might consider rereading it and seeing myself how 'bad writing' it is ;) And maybe eventually I'll have a go at Quixote... shame to admit but I've never read it :o


message 2: by Kyle (new) - added it

Kyle Gabriel Betteredge would be quite cross with you, sir!


Sorry. I just finished The Moonstone, and now I want to read this book. :) Great review!


Keely Heh, I know he would. In fact, it was in part The Moonstone that inspired me to read Crusoe. Of course, I didn't really enjoy it, but I think the silly shallowness and constant moralizing of Crusoe only makes Betteridge's obsession funnier.


message 4: by Kyle (new) - added it

Kyle Keely wrote: "but I think the silly shallowness and constant moralizing of Crusoe only makes Betteridge's obsession funnier. "

Oh! Now I really want to read this! :)


message 5: by Bookworm (new)

Bookworm "There are also a lot of little errors about animal behavior and tribal practices, showing that Defoe was more interested in sensational stories than in research. He even misrepresents animals that live in Europe, like bears, which he depicts as unable to outrun a man. He also portrays Friday as being familiar with bears, despite the fact that the only species of bear that lives in South America, the Spectacled Bear, lives only in the Andes, far away from coastal islands."

Do you generally do research like this before writing book reviews? Or is this something you just happened to, well, notice randomly and included in your review?


Keely It's stuff I knew beforehand, or half-knew. I knew there weren't really bears in a lot of places in the world, but I had to check wikipedia to get the details straight.


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