I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull. He got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived afterwards at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but, by the usual corruption of words in England, we are now called – nay we call ourselves and write our name – Crusoe; and so my companions always called me. – p 1
It’s hard to believe I haven’t read this before, especially during my brief stint of “Classics only” reading during high school. However, I was a Robinson Crusoe virgin, it’s true. I went into this novel expecting something along the lines of a Robert Louis Stevenson novel and unfortunately, that is not what this was like at all. Granted, it was written 100 years earlier than “Treasure Island.”
This novel follows Robinson Crusoe as he runs from home and looks for a life on the sea. His father predicts that Robinson will amount to nothing, and indeed, based on his first few trips out to sea – it looks like the main character should stay as far away from the seafaring life as he possibly can. He is shipwrecked, captured as a slave, nearly drowned, and left to die – all before his main adventure of shipwreck!
When finally he finds himself alone on a tropical island, Robinson’s life moves quickly along the pages of the book. Written in older English style (this is sometimes referred to as the first novel written and published in English), the plot moves so fast that four years can be passed over in a single paragraph. The narrator bounces around a bit, explaining how long it took him to do this thing or that and then possibly going into some detail concerning his motivations and outcome of expirements. I think this book would have been a lot better if more detail had gone into…or at least different details. Instead of “it took me two years to build this wall of trees and this is why”, it’d be interesting to know how he managed to come up with the idea and bring it to pass without any of his modern tools.
Not to say things don’t get more exciting when Robinson finds out his island is a celebration ground for cannibals, or that pirates often dock there and fight amongst themselves. Will Robinson ever get the chance to leave his solitary paradise? And if the opportunity comes, will he take it?
Robinson Crusoe was published by Daniel Defoe in 1719.