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Robinson Crusoe
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Past Group Reads > Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

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message 1: by Jamie (last edited Oct 16, 2011 07:43AM) (new) - added it

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 701 comments Mod
This is for the discussion of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.

Robinson Crusoe


message 2: by Jamie (new) - added it

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 701 comments Mod
Hey guys! I am not going to have time to read Robinson Crusoe right now because I am going on vacation, finishing up real estate school and working on my website. Sorry I am unable to participate! If anyone wants to take charge of the discussion feel free! If not just start making comments like normal and I am sure it will go great!

Has anyone started yet? What do you think? I hope to read this soon!


Silver | 74 comments I have just started reading the book a couple of days ago. So I have not gotten that far yet, but so far I am quite enjoying it.


Silver | 74 comments I am a something of a fan of adventures at sea stories, so one of the things which I really enjoyed about this book thus far, was the very realistic portrayal it gives of a young man's first voyage at sea.

Instead of his being being all brave or becoming some prodigy of sea, at the very first sign of a storm or large waves he is scared out of his mind. And even swoons at one point. I think this is a much more human portrait than being this heroic, macho, type.

Also I like the honesty of the fact that the story is being told in the first person so he is admitting to the truth of his feelings. The fact that he is willing to share what could be seen as unflattering aspects of himself does help him come off as being a more reliable narrator and makes me more inclined to beleive the account he gives of his adventures and experiences.


message 5: by Jamie (new) - added it

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 701 comments Mod
So how is the reading going? Where are you at in the book?


Catherine  Mustread (Cuiblemorgan) I checked it out of the library yesterday, am hoping to get started reading later today. Borrowed some books about Robinson Crusoe and Defoe also.


Silver | 74 comments So far it is going well, I am still quite enjoying the book. I have just reached the part where he began writing his journal describing his experiences upon the island.

There are a couple which do irk me a bit about Crusoe. There are a couple of points in which it seems as if Crusoe contradicts himself which does than make his believability questionable, becasue it is as if he cannot remember what he himself said previously.

The other thing that is maddening is that, he is stranded upon an island so he is surrounded by the ocean, and he must have some source of fresh water somewhere to survive, and yet it never occurs to him to go fishing? He goes out hunting every day, and he makes one remark about being worried about what to do when he does run out of shot and powder, but it has not yet occurred to him to try and fish for something to eat?

I think even the rankest armature at survival would think, hey, I could probably try getting fish out of this water.


message 8: by Jamie (new) - added it

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 701 comments Mod
Haha! Maybe hunting is a sport he likes so he has yet to think of fishing. Have you seen Cast Away? Somethings in the movie impressed me but other things made me yell at the TV and say why aren't you doing this...!


Silver | 74 comments Jamie wrote: "Haha! Maybe hunting is a sport he likes so he has yet to think of fishing. Have you seen Cast Away? Somethings in the movie impressed me but other things made me yell at the TV and say why aren't y..."

Hehe yeah I saw that movie.

There was one other thing in the book where it was like one the first things thing popped into my head and seemed like a common sense thing to do, and kept like yelling at the book, but than he finally did get around to doing it.

When he was first raiding the ship to find supplies he could use, I kept thinking, you should take the sails, you can use that to make a tent. But that finally ended up being one of the last things he did.


Silver | 74 comments One of the things which I found a bit ironic about this book is the fact that if Crusoe had began speaking to some imaginary friend, named Fred he would be perceived as having begun to go crazy and become delusional with his isolation upon the island. Yet his suddenly fervently turning to God, when before he had not previously been very religious, makes one see him as being pious, wise, and persevering in his hardship.

Through it is becasue of the state of his isolation and his lack of any human society which drives him to God, and ultimately God really does become like his imaginary friend. It is something/one whom he can speak to it with the lack of any other companionship.

Yet becasue it is God whom he is addressing one does not question the mental state of Crusoe.


Catherine  Mustread (Cuiblemorgan) Silver wrote: "One of the things which I found a bit ironic about this book is the fact that if Crusoe had began speaking to some imaginary friend, named Fred he would be perceived as having begun to go crazy and..."
Interesting comment, Silver. I've only read a tiny bit, hoping to get more into it soon -- before the end of the month if I can.


message 12: by Alex (last edited Sep 21, 2011 10:20PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex I read this earlier in the year...I dug it. Especially compared to the (relatively little) other 18th-century lit I've read, Defoe seems to have a handle on how to write a novel. (And he was earlier than guys like Fielding or Sterne; they were just trying to figure out what a novel was at that point.) Defoe isn't great at getting inside his characters' heads - it's a lot of "And then I did this," not so much "Here's what I was thinking" - but not every book has to totally psychoanalyze its characters.

Interesting point about God on the island, Silver...but I gotta say (and I say this as an atheist) I doubt that's what Defoe had in mind. He was a pretty religious dude, and I think he was sincere in imagining that God would be a comfort to a castaway.


Silver | 74 comments Alex wrote: "I read this earlier in the year...I dug it. Especially compared to the (relatively little) other 18th-century lit I've read, Defoe seems to have a handle on how to write a novel. (And he was earlie..."

Interesting point about Dafoe not being very good at getting inside his characters heads, as one of the things which nagged at me in this story is there are various points in which it seems Crusoe contradicts himself and I always wondered if it was meant to be reflective of Crusoe's character, or was more reflective of Dafoe's writing. I did not know if they were intentional contradictions, of Dafoe not being aware of the fact that it did seem contradictory at times.


message 14: by Alex (last edited Sep 21, 2011 11:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex You're one of the mods at Readers Review, right Silver? Nice to see you.

And you bring up a great point, or else I'm possibly corrupting your point: I was fascinated by the idea that Crusoe might be an unreliable narrator. My first impression of the book was: (minor spoilers) (view spoiler)

There are times when Crusoe imagines himself the king of the island, with his subjects a parrot and a goat; it's played for laughs, but I wasn't entirely convinced that he wasn't a nutjob.


Silver | 74 comments Alex wrote: "You're one of the mods at Readers Review, right Silver? Nice to see you.

And you bring up a great point, or else I'm possibly corrupting your point: I was fascinated by the idea that Crusoe might ..."


Yes I am, and I myself am generally always fascinating with the topic of the unreliable narrator when dealing with a first person narration. But it seems when I try to bring it up it is hard to get other people interested in discussing that aspect of the book.

At first I had been inclined towards the believability of Crusoe as a narrator because his honesty in speaking of his own fears when he first began to set sail. He did not try and make himself appear to be something he was not but readily admits that he nearly fainted when he encountered his first storm. This made him seem honest, up front, and not someone concealing anything from the reader.

But once he got to the island, it seemed he did start to develop into more of an unreadable narrator, and of course one does have to take into consideration during this period of his life, what effects such a situation with have on ones mental ability.

Though even prior to the island he did begin to show sings of his unreliability and perhaps some instability, as the example in which he did keep throwing himself back out to sea, even while he keeps lamenting the fact that he feels so compelled to do so. He acknowledges that he should not do it, that he is lucky to survived his last voyage, that he has established himself in a good life, but still he goes anyway. As you made reference in your spoiler it is as if he has a certain self-destructive tendency.


message 16: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Well, hopefully I'll be around next time unreliability comes up. I'll talk about it all day. I want to read it into every first-person book I find.

I might be trying too hard for an interesting reading of the book, I know, but it's fun for me.


Silver | 74 comments I have to say I thought it was pretty messed up of Crusoe not to have the ship which he helped the captain reclaim, swing by the mainland to pick up the Spaniards but instead he leaves their fate in the hands of a group of marooned mutineers, and just leaves a note for them. He does not even mention to the captain of the ship, "hey I know these other guys who have been stranded for a long time, and they are not that far away from here, I actually had a previous engagement with them to try and escape before you arrived"

But no it is just like, "sorry guys but I got a better deal, but hey good luck with these guys that we left behind because we really didn't want to bring them along with us because we couldn't trust them not to kill us."


message 18: by Alex (last edited Sep 27, 2011 11:18AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Agreed! That was one of the things that made me start to wonder whether he was slightly sociopathic or insane or both. Total dick move.


Silver | 74 comments Alex wrote: "Agreed! That was one of the things that made me start to wonder whether he was slightly sociopathic or insane or both. Total dick move."

At first I thought that calling him a sociopath was a bit harsh, but I have to say I am begining to think that there may be something to that.

Particularly in considering the way in which whenever anyone needs his help before he agrees to help them they must first bow down and accept his command in all things.

It may also explain the way in which his mind swings back and forth between contradictory ideas. As when he kept going back and forth with himself in one minute he will have convinced himself that he was not justified to attack the "savages" and comes up with this philosophical reasoning as to why it would be murder for him to do so, but than in the next moment, he is like "kill them all"

While on the one hand I know a lot of the views upon race portrayed within this book is a product of the time period, on the other hand I still found it irksome, when the Spaniard was first taken to the island as prisoner, and at first when they were just eating other natives Crusoe was like, oh well we really don't have the right to intervene in the ways of their life, but than when he realized that one of their victims was a European, it was suddenly like, we have to stop this atrocity from happening.


message 20: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan (RCS9182) | 25 comments Silver wrote: "So far it is going well, I am still quite enjoying the book. I have just reached the part where he began writing his journal describing his experiences upon the island.

There are a couple which..."


I agree with you. I wrote a paper on this novel in grad school with the opening line "Robinson Crusoe is a manipulative despot." I think what's intriguing about this novel is Crusoe writes from a first person narrative and it ends up being a testament to himself, but there are SO many rifts in the narrative!


message 21: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Nice, Ryan! Badass first sentence.

Okay, tell us more about your rifts.


message 22: by Jamie (new) - added it

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 701 comments Mod
Even though I didn't have time to read this I am really enjoying the discussion!

(I will read Crusoe sometime)


message 23: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan (RCS9182) | 25 comments Alex wrote: "Nice, Ryan! Badass first sentence.

Okay, tell us more about your rifts."


I have to amend that; the line was "Robinson Crusoe is a manipulative self-serving despot."

In any case...as far as the rifts are concerned I think a lot of people already, very acutely, have expressed their hesitancy towards Crusoe as a narrator. I think first and foremost, this novel is basically epistolary, so Defoe is forcing us to forfeit some trust since he distances himself from the reader by putting Crusoe right in the middle as narrator.

Also, at one point Crusoe tells us that his journal runs out (pg 123 for anyone using the Modern Library edition). "My Ink, as I observed, had been gone some time, all but a very little, which I eek'd out with Water a little and a little, till it was so pale it scarce left any Appearance of black upon the Paper..."
It has been a few years since I have read this, but are we then lead to believe that the rest of his narrative is left to memory? Yikes! I can't even remember what I ate for dinner last night.

But, the rifts I found to be most interesting were the language/translation gaps between Crusoe and Friday. In a number of cases Friday would make attempts to communicate with Crusoe and Crusoe would "translate". I think Crusoe took some liberties in these translations that def. made me scratch my head thinking "really?" but at the same time really spotlighted vast cultural rifts - after all, upon seeing Friday the first place Crusoe went to was cannibal.


Silver | 74 comments Ryan wrote: "Alex wrote: "Nice, Ryan! Badass first sentence.

Okay, tell us more about your rifts."

I have to amend that; the line was "Robinson Crusoe is a manipulative self-serving despot."

In any case....."


On the question of the journal entries there is one thing I have to remark upon that I found both odd, and a bit irritating because it did not make sense.

In some of his journal entries he would actually make references to things that had not actually happened yet, so even his journal entries are not really genuine but his paraphrasing what they said, because there are things in his journal entries he mentions that during the time in which he was actually writing them, he could not have known about.


message 25: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Ah, those are awesome points. I didn't pick up on them. Thanks, both of you!


Silver | 74 comments While I really enjoyed the book, I had no idea the Crusoe himself would be such an unlikable, (in some ways, as he was rather amusing at times) and unheroic character, as well for all his new found religion he seemed a bit UnChristian.

I thought the ending when he decided to drop in and visit the Spaniards which he had abandoned were doing with the mutineers he left them with was pretty laughable. He just decided that they needed to spend the rest of thier life living on the island as his little colony?

And than he decided to leave behind two of his own men with the Spaniards

I think if I were the Spaniards and I saw him come sailing back along I would take him prisoner and commandeer his ship.


message 27: by Alex (new) - rated it 2 stars

Alex I remember reading this in grad school and not liking Crusoe's treatment of Friday. I guess what disturbed me the most was how he (Crusoe) immediately took this native (Friday) and made him (Friday) his subject/good Friday/ or what have you.

The rhythm of the book and the syntax was a little slow. I felt as if I was slogging through quicksand and getting nowhere. I think the lack of action and the superior attitude of Crusoe drove me away from any serious idea of actually liking the book.

But alas, who am I to argue with great literature.


Sadie | 16 comments If I remember right Defoe took this story from a true news story in his time about a man who was thought to be lost at sea and was found years later..I don't remember much of the details.

I will say that one thing that touched me in the book is his sudden realization that God had been looking out for him. I will keep my comments about Friday until later this month so as not to ruin the story for anyone who hasn't gotten that far yet.


message 29: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex You're right, Sadie. Among other things, Defoe was probably inspired by the story of Alexander Selkirk.


Trisha I have mixed reviews about this book. Some parts I liked for the action/adventure of the storyline, and I did think it was a clever storyline, but then other parts I did not like. I felt like the novel should have ended at a certain point, but instead it just kept going. He also returned to the island a few times, did he not? It seemed like years and years were passing, and should have been around 120 years old if the years were accurate. Like you guys said, the narrator was not very reliable. I don't think we were supposed to "adore" Crusoe. He never really appeared as an alpha-hero. He always seemed like a flawed, and rather human, character.


Silver | 74 comments Trisha wrote: "I have mixed reviews about this book. Some parts I liked for the action/adventure of the storyline, and I did think it was a clever storyline, but then other parts I did not like. I felt like the..."

I think he only acutally returned to the island once. He thought about doing it at one time but was talked out of doing so by the widow I think it was, but than eventually some time later decided that he would return for a visit.


message 32: by Sadie (last edited Oct 08, 2011 06:58PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sadie | 16 comments Trisha wrote: "I have mixed reviews about this book. Some parts I liked for the action/adventure of the storyline, and I did think it was a clever storyline, but then other parts I did not like. I felt like the..."

I agree, I was ready for the story to end long before it did. I was also upset to find that after everything he'd been through and finally being able to settle down in normal life he would go back out and risk it all again.


message 33: by Jamie (new) - added it

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 701 comments Mod
So what star rating did everyone give Robinson Crusoe and why?


Silver | 74 comments I gave it 5 stars becasue though there were aspects of Cruse as a character that I did not like the book itself I thoroughly enjoyed reading, and all in all I found no real fault with Defoe's writing style. The book had kept me engaged from begining to end.


message 35: by Alex (last edited Oct 08, 2011 10:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex I gave it five. I had a hard time with the 18th century; the novel was fledgling then, and most authors didn't know what to do with it. Defoe isn't my favorite author, but he shows up writing modern(ish) novels, out of nowhere.

This is gonna sound like a weird comparison, but I had the same feeling about Austen. She's more sophisticated - she'd better be, she has a century on Defoe - but both of them rocked me because it seemed like they were creating well-crafted, concise novels that their peers hadn't discovered yet.


message 36: by Jamie (new) - added it

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 701 comments Mod
Great to know! I really need to get some time and read this!


message 37: by Dr. (new)

Dr. Carole (gooldradscommercedeskat45) | 2 comments Alex wrote: "I read this earlier in the year...I dug it. Especially compared to the (relatively little) other 18th-century lit I've read, Defoe seems to have a handle on how to write a novel. (And he was earlie..."



Referencing God, Defoe lived in a time when God was paramount in their lives and belief systems.


message 38: by Alex (new) - rated it 2 stars

Alex I thought several parts of the book could have been edited out because they seemed redundant. I understand how disappointing it was to see Crusoe go back out to sea after being rescued and brought home, but I think in his nature Crusoe probably wasn't the type of person who easily settled down to the 18th century idea of a wife and kids and a job. On the other hand he didn't seem to be the typical restless adventurer. I would describe him as an educated fellow who wanted to play at being an adventurer and by chance had the adventure of a lifetime.


Sadie | 16 comments Izzy wrote: "I thought several parts of the book could have been edited out because they seemed redundant. I understand how disappointing it was to see Crusoe go back out to sea after being rescued and brought ..."

My husband tried to explain the same thing to me when I got to the part where he left again and all I could say is "Are you kidding me!?" My husband was of the opinion that Crusoe would never settle down, no matter his obligations to hearth and home.


message 40: by Alex (new) - rated it 2 stars

Alex That's the nice thing about reading a book. We don't all have to agree on the same thing, which is nice.


Catherine  Mustread (Cuiblemorgan) I am trying to finish it up this week. Won't make my final star rating until then. As I struggle through it I'm tempted to give it 2 stars for holding my interest, but will probably end up ranking it 3. I'm tired of forcing myself to read it.


Sadie | 16 comments Ok, I think it may be safe for me to comment on the one of the elements of the book that bothered me. I couldn't believe how Friday dies! He is crucial to Crusoe and helps him in so many ways and I really started to feel for and like Friday and then in one moment he's gone..no long drawn out death scene no major reaction or despondency in Crusoe! I had to reread the passage just to make sure I read it right. I was not happy, and if Friday had to die could there be a little bit more emotion regarding it?! Ok. I'll step off my soap box now! :)


message 43: by Diane (new)

Diane | 96 comments I've been reading it through the website DailyLit, segment by daily segment and am only to the part where he is carving out the cave part of his home.
What I am finding amusing is what a tasty treat he thinks himself. Every segment I've read so far has a reference to his fear of being devoured by wild beasts or savages.
All of your comments have been interesting. He is certainly not a deep thinker and quite self absorbed. His emotions are only as deep as how it will affect himself.


Catherine  Mustread (Cuiblemorgan) Diane wrote: "I've been reading it through the website DailyLit, segment by daily segment and am only to the part where he is carving out the cave part of his home.
What I am finding amusing is what a tasty tre..."


Diane, I'm also a fan of DailyLit and read part of this through them. I like being able to save all the emails until I'm done with the book and then through my email search function I can look for specific parts or characters to refresh my memory. I usually choose the send me the longest segment function (4 at a time) so that there are fewer emails. Here are my final thoughts:

Not my favorite of classics I've read recently, but reading critiques and supporting literature increased my appreciation if not my enjoyment of Defoe and his rather unlikeable character. Interesting that Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719, is considered the beginning of realistic fiction as a literary genre.


message 45: by Alex (last edited Oct 31, 2011 07:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Is it? Well, I guess that does make sense. I mean, not that it actually is realistic, but...it's more realistic than Don Quixote, anyway.

I'm excited to see how y'all feel about Tom Jones. It's just about 30 years after this, and it's really different. I think.


message 46: by Diane (new)

Diane | 96 comments Catherine wrote: "Diane wrote: "I've been reading it through the website DailyLit, segment by daily segment and am only to the part where he is carving out the cave part of his home.
What I am finding amusing is wh..."

This particular book is great for DayLit because it simulates reading his actual journal, day by day.


message 47: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex That DailyLit site is intriguing. Never heard of it, but I checked it out and bookmarked it.


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