“Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe


Wikipedia tells us that this novel was first published in 1719 and that the first edition credited the fictional protagonist as its author, leading many readers to believe that Robinson Crusoe was a real person and the book a travelogue of true incidents. Possibly even harder to believe is the length of the original full title:

The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates.

The book is a fictional autobiography of the title character who for most of the story is a castaway who spends years on a remote tropical island, encountering cannibals, captives, and mutineers before being rescued. Despite its simple narrative style, Robinson Crusoe was well received in the literary world and is often credited as marking the beginning of realistic fiction as a literary genre. Before the end of 1719 the book had already run through four editions, and it has gone on to become one of the most widely published books in history, spawning numerous sequels and adaptations for stage, film, and television.

We read the book in January 2014, and Bill provides this summary of the meeting:

Nine of us managed to struggle ashore at the Queen’s Head and discuss Robinson Crusoe, written by Dan Foe whom, Maddy informed us, added  the De in order to add more gravitas/prestige to his moniker.

Maddy had done some research, so we had a good context for our discussion. However, people liked neither the inherent racism of the book, nor the lack of psychological perspective. Seeing the world via some religious dogma impressed nobody; and we found the ‘philosophical’ passages tedious in the extreme.

On the whole then, the novel drew little amusement, but some respect for it’s longevity.
Sadly this did not add enough regard to average a mark above 4.5.  Its possible that an abridged version of the novel (as given to children) would have earned a higher mark.
Perhaps most of us thought we knew Robinson Crusoe thanks to the many television and film adaptations. So for a bit of light relief, here’s your chance to vote on your favourite …
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1 Comment

  1. michelebbc

     /  January 23, 2014

    For those of you old enough to remember (or to have watched the repeats) here’s the first episode of the series for children with the wonderful music. http://youtu.be/86F51KvbEOs


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