Robinson Crusoe, an immortal novel written by Daniel Defoe, was first published in 1719. The story is mainly about a courageous, diligent, indefatigable and wise person, a hero who fights against nature. It is an epistolary novel, while it is also didactic and confessional.
The author, Daniel Defoe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, and pamphleteer, who gained enduring fame for this novel. His last name was Foe at the beginning, but later he added the aristocratic-sounding “De” to his name. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularize the form in Britain. Some people regard him as one of the founders of the English novel. He was also a pioneer of economic journalism. As a prolific and versatile writer, he wrote more than five hundred books, pamphlets, and journals on various topics.
Generally speaking, Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe tells of a man’s shipwreck on a deserted island and his adventures. It is a fictional autobiography of the protagonist, Robinson Crusoe, who spends 28 years on a tropical island, encountering mutineers, cannibals, and captives before being rescued. It is said that Defoe might be inspired by an earlier novel which was also set on a desert island. But it is more likely that the author was deeply influenced by a real incident. In 1704, Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor, was thrown onto a desolate island by the mutinous crew of his ship. He lived there alone for 5 years. Defoe read about his adventures in a newspaper and went to interview him to get first-hand information. He then embellished the sailor’s tale with many incidents out of his own imagination (Luo, 2005, p.240).
Although influenced by a real life event, the novel keeps a distance from history, mythology, legends, and previous literature. It is a completely independent piece of work of literature. Robinson, the dramatis personae, meets a frightful storm while sailing on the sea. He is the only survival, and he drifts to an uninhabited island. Having overcome his despair, Robinson lives alone on the island for 28 years with many difficulties. He fetches arms, tools, and other supplies from the ship; he builds a habitation near a cave; he keeps a calendar, grows corn and rice, learns to make pottery, and does everyday things like ordinary people; he reads the Bible and suddenly becomes religious, thanking God for his fate in which nothing is missing but society.
One day he discovers native cannibals who visit the island to kill and eat prisoners, and helps a prisoner escape. He names his new companion “Friday”. They stay together, and manage to kill most of the natives. Then an English ship, which is under control of mutineers, appears. Robinson helps the captain retake the ship from the mutineers. In the end, he takes his wealth to England and never travels at sea.
For most readers, the story is very interesting, but the spirit of Robinson is more impressive. He is the sober industrious man, brave in adventure and good at labor, hardened by difficulties but not overwhelmed by them, making his mistakes and then trying again. He uses his head and hands to struggle all the time. Robinson is a great miracle; he achieves numerous “impossible things”. However, he is modest: he always insists that he had done little, and that anybody in his circumstance would have acted in much the same way. His marvelous character is really admirable.
Besides the plot, a sentence of the novel leaves me a deep impression: “One day, about noon, going towards my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man's naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen on the sand.” It easily catches my attention. Though the life on the island is amazing and quite different from that of ours, it is still tedious sometimes because our protagonist’s activities are almost the same in many days. However, this sentence is a turning point, which makes me…