Sunday, January 18, 2015

Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe

Title: Robinson Crusoe

Author:  Daniel Defoe
Date Published:  1719
Challenge:  Back to the Classics 2015, classic with a name in the title

Occasionally, the vision of me on a desolate tropical island, with a hammock and Kindle (I don't own a Kindle) that never needs recharging and has access to all the books in the world, comes to mind.  Yeah, that's where I am.  Then reality reminds that I am not there; I am here, and there are four or five people talking at me all at once. Those are my kids.  So when I chose to read Robinson Crusoe, it was personal.  But I did not realize how personal it would get.

In truth, I approached Robinson Crusoe as an outdated classic adventure about a guy who finds himself alone on an island for a few years and lives to tell about it.  I have seen "Cast Away": it was not that eventful.  How interesting can this story be?

Tom Hanks yelling at Wilson, his volleyball companion, in "Cast Away"

The first third of the book was arduous: a "silent life," hunting seals, goats, and turtle eggs for food, making ink, clothing, and clay pots, and cutting down and constructing a small canoe - the latter event taking six pages to describe - to explore the beaches of the island. 

But let me get to the meat of this story because it is what influenced me entirely.  Two major themes of Robinson Crusoe are redemption and deliverance, given the strong emphasis on his spiritual journey.  Crusoe, the character, is the prodigal son who defied his father and went to sea.  He was prideful, rebellious, and disobedient, and for that, Providence set him apart from humanity, to live alone in silence for over twenty years.  

Early on, his sinful heart was convicted, and he repented.  With the help of a Bible that he had salvaged from the wreckage, he grew in spiritual knowledge of his Redeemer. During a time when he looked upon his situation as a prison, he began to read his Bible, and he came across these words,
'I will never, never leave thee, nor forsake thee.'
And he reasoned:
...if God does not forsake me, of what ill consequence can it be, or what matters it, though the world should all forsake me, seeing on the other hand if I had all the world, and should lose the favor and blessing of God, there would be no comparison in the loss?
He was thankful to God for bringing him to this place and "for opening his see the former condition of [his] life, and to mourn for [his] wickedness, and repent."

Then later, he came to a severe understanding that if God wanted him to live the remainder of his life in solitude, it would be God's will because He is Supreme.  
His sovereignty, who, as I was His creature, had an undoubted right, by creation, to govern and dispose of me absolutely as He thought fit, and who, as I was a creature who had offended Him, had likewise a judicial right to condemn me to what punishment He thought fit; and that it was my part to submit to bear His indignation, because I had sinned against Him.
Yikes!  Dispose of me!  That is extremely difficult to admit: God can do whatever He wants with me because He is my Maker.   God had certainly humbled Crusoe.

In the immediate paragraph, Crusoe continued:
I then reflected that God, who was not only righteous, but omnipotent, as He had thought fit thus to punish and afflict me, so He was able to deliver me; that if He did not think fit to do it, 'twas my unquestioned duty to resign myself absolutely and entirely to His will; and, on the other hand, it was my duty also to hope in Him, pray to Him, and quietly to attend the dictates and directions of His daily providence.
To hope in Him.  What mercy!  A righteous, omnipotent Creator, who Crusoe knew could dispose of him as He like, expected him to also HOPE in Him.  

Crusoe pondered these thoughts because he had found a footprint in the sand; he was so paranoid about it (after years of no human contact) that he imagined it could be a flesh-eating "savage" from a nearby island, until he found Scripture that soothed his soul:
'Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver, and thou shalt glorify Me.
'Wait on the Lord, and be of good cheer, and He shall strengthen thy heart, wait, I say, on the Lord.
Crusoe was encouraged by these words that they relieved his heart instantly.  He realized that the footprint he saw in the sand, which burdened and worried him for so long, could have actually been his own.  

If an author can go on for six pages about the cutting down and building of a small canoe, I assure you, the bulk of the story is on Crusoe's spiritual redemption, repentance, and deliverance.  I have only provided two sections.  

It was, I believe, biblically sound, and I soaked it up and studied the text as if it were an assignment.  If this picture is any indication of what the majority of my book looks like, then you know what I mean.  I seriously need to think about a new copy.

Yeah, I do this.


Susanna said...

I love how you were able to extract the true significance out of what to me looks like an intimidating and overly detailed survival story. I've tried to dive into it before, but failed to get very far. This review has encouraged me to try again.

Ruth said...

It was NOT easy, at first. But just push yourself to get to the good stuff, and if you appreciate stories like this one, of redemption and salvation, then it will be worth it.

Lois TinĂºviel said...

I read it years ago but I remember I loved it!

o said...

This is such a great review. I read it years ago and didn't get nearly as much out of it. I'll have to revisit, I've learned a lot from your post :)

Cleo said...

You brought out many of the points that I loved about this book, and that abridged and children's versions often completely leave out. I mean, how can you leave out the complete essence of the story?!

Thanks so much for letting us see your completely marked up book. It makes those of us who do the same thing, feel much better! :-)

Chelle said...

Crusoe is one of those reads that impacted and stays with me. So satisfying to read your 'inspired by Crusoe' post here.

Carol Apple said...

I love a well-written spiritual journey. I have not ventured to read "Robinson Crusoe" in its entirety but over the years I have read so many excerpts and have seen so many references and cartoons about it, I thought I pretty much knew the story. I forget which author is was who found the most fascinating part of the book was where everything he was able to retrieve from the sea was a precious treasure. C.K. Chesterton maybe but I'm not sure. And then there is Gabriel Betteredge's obsession with "Robinson Crusoe" in "The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins, which I have only recently read.

And yet I have never heard a lot about the Christian redemption aspect of the story. Strange how that is. Your review shows me that Crusoe's spiritual growth is the main point of the book. Well here's another one to add to my ever growing "To Read" list!

Carol Apple said...

Oops. I mean G.K. Chesterton. Feel free to correct any typos you seen in my comments.

Ruth said...

Excellent! I am so glad that you did. If I had read this in my youth, I probably would not have appreciated it, at all. : (

Ruth said...

Thanks a lot, o. A few years ago I may have quit reading after the first part of the story. It seemed predictable, but it wasn't. I'm glad I continued on.

Cleo said...

Not to mention, Titty in Swallows and Amazons pretends that she's Robinson Crusoe. It's truly a timeless novel!

Ruth said...

We have one children's version that I never read. Now I am curious what it is like, and I may just get rid of it, if it is really altered. I truly did not even expect this to be a spiritual journey of this magnitude, and I am so glad it turned out as it did; otherwise, I probably would not have like this book at all!

And you're welcome. My books are a mess. It's a shame.

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

I LOVED this book as a kid -- I love stories of deserted islands and survival. (But not Cast Away, oddly enough. Even though I like Tom Hanks, that movie didn't touch me.) I started out with an abridged version of course, but I read the real version twice as a teen. I should definitely revisit it!

Also, loved the shot of your copy! I do that too. Not with every book, or every reading, but some books and some readings require it.

Ruth said...

Hi, Chelle,

Thanks very much!

BTW, I see we use a lot of the same resources for our home education. The Well-Trained Mind has been a major influence in my homeschool decisions. I love it, even if I cannot follow it totally.

Ruth said...

How fun (I think) it would be to find all of the references in our culture/literature/movies that have been inspired by or use the story of Robinson Crusoe. I am sure "Cast Away" was one of the many.

Sadly, I am not surprised the spiritual journey about conviction, repentance, redemption, and deliverance is not at the forefront of the story; I NEVER heard of it either, even in my Christian resources! I felt like it was sort of a Pilgrim's Progress.

Ruth said...

No problem, Carol! I saw Chesterton, and I knew who you were talking about. Believe me - you don't want me correcting typos. I've been correcting my own grammatical errors all morning on this particular review. That's what I get for putting it together at 11 PM.

Ruth said...

I did not like "Cast Away," either. Do you know why? Even though I was hardly a Christian at the time I went to see it, I realized Hanks was missing a relationship with Christ. I hated that he buried the pilot without any reference to God. He just threw him in the ground and said, "That's that." Hanks had nothing to hope or cling to, and it felt totally empty. But that is how it was for him.

Then I read Robinson Crusoe, and I feel like, "This is what "Cast Away" was missing." It was a completely different way to look at solitude and one's salvation.

Arenda said...

I really enjoyed Robinson Crusoe, too, for the same reason you mentioned. There's this amazing line - “As for my solitary life, it was nothing; I did not so much as pray to be deliver’d from it . . . And I add this part here, to hint to whoever shall read it, that whenever they come to a true sense of things, they will find deliverance from sin a much greater blessing than deliverance from affliction.” I found it amazing that RC could spend 20+ years alone and not pray to be delivered - that he understood his relationship w/ God superseded his earthly comfort. Thanks for the review! :)

Fanda Classiclit said...

Just like you, I thought Robinson Crusoe was the original inspiration of Cast Away (I didn't watched it though), how surprised I was when finding that it's about redemption. It took me to reflect human's relationship with God. So deep, but also adventurous.

Did you have difficulties with the writing style? I've been dreading it, so I read the translation instead. But I'd still like to read it in the original version, if it's not too tedious.

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

It's been probably 10 years since I watched Cast Away, and I don't remember why I disliked it. But I seem to recall that yes, it felt rather hollow and meaningless. He went through all of that and came out having learned what? That hugs are good? People are important? It seemed shallow, I think.

Sunny said...

I don't know about anything else, but can you give us some tips on how to effectively mark up a book like you do? Do you have a system where you mark certain elements or themes or is it just random? Would love to see some of the other pages^^

Ruth said...

True. He used the word deliver and deliverance a lot, but it was almost always in reference to his sin.

I learned a lot from RC. Each one of us has our little desolate island that we may want to get off, but maybe we need to look at it as a place where God wants us to be b/c He permits it and it is His will. And while we are maybe being afflicted, we are always able to pray to God and hope in Jesus. He is always with us no matter where we are in our lives.

Ruth said...

That's right! You are challenging yourself to read English language classics. My copy is a Wordsworth Classic, and I found the writing easy to read and comprehend. This copy also included notes on words and phrases that are not commonplace today; so there were times I looked up the referenced areas. Overall, while I could tell it was dated (1700s), I did not feel like it was extremely different.

Ruth said...

Hi, Kim,

Regretfully, I am rather messy and disorganized. However, I will say this: I find that when I read an area that I think may be essential, I underline it and then write a word or phrase on that page to indicate where it is, to find it later.

And when something is really important, I get excited and draw stars. The more stars I draw, the more important it is.

Sometimes I find words that I don't understand, and I will circle them; as with Robinson Crusoe, I circled the word deliver or deliverance b/c he used them so much.

If I do not understand a passage, I will add question marks, or sometimes I will write a question on the page in hopes to answer it later. If I do, I may write the answer on the page.

Overall, I try to paraphrase the chapter or section in a sentence or two at the end, so I am sure I know what is happening in the story.

I hope that helps. Let me know if I was not clear on something or if you have more questions.

Anonymous said...

It's been awhile since I read Robinson Crusoe. I don't remember liking it much. Unfortunately, I read it the year BEFORE I started writing a post for pretty much every book I read so I am struggling to remember my thoughts.

The Christian theme is a good catch. Daniel Defoe's other novel, Moll Flanders, also has an explicit Christian theme, especially centered around repentance.

Ruth said...

Thanks! I did not think I was going to like Robinson Crusoe, but I am glad I gave it a try. I'll keep an eye out for a copy of Moll Flanders, too.

I just found a non-fictional work by Defoe called A Journal of the Plague Year, which sounded really interesting.