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Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe
Title page from the first edition
Author Daniel Defoe
Illustrator Single engraving by John Clark and John Pine after design by unknown artist[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Historical fiction
Publisher W. Taylor
Publication date
25 April 1719  (1719-04-25)
Followed by The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published on 25 April 1719. This first edition credited the work's fictional protagonist Robinson Crusoe as its author, leading many readers to believe he was a real person and the book a travelogue of true incidents.[2] It was published under the considerably longer original 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. Epistolary, confessional, and didactic in form, the book is a fictional autobiography of the title character (whose birth name is Robinson Kreutznaer)—a castaway who spends years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and mutineers before being rescued.

The story is widely perceived to have been influenced by the life of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish castaway who lived for four years on the Pacific island called "Más a Tierra", now considered part of Chile, which was renamed to Robinson Crusoe Island in 1966. Other possible sources for the primary narrative have also been suggested. For example, Defoe might have been inspired by the Latin or English translations of Ibn Tufail's Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, an earlier novel also set on a desert island.[3][4][5][6] Another source for Defoe's novel could have been the Robert Knox account of his abduction by the King of Ceylon in 1659 in "An Historical Account of the Island Ceylon".[7][8] In his 2003 book In Search of Robinson Crusoe, Tim Severin contends that the account of Henry Pitman in a short book chronicling his escape from a Caribbean penal colony and subsequent shipwrecking and desert island misadventures, is the inspiration for the story. Arthur Wellesley Secord in his Studies in the narrative method of Defoe (1963: 21–111) painstakingly analyses the composition of Robinson Crusoe and gives a list of possible sources of the story, rejecting the common theory that the story of Selkirk is Defoe's only source.

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.


  • Plot summary 1
  • Reception and sequels 2
  • Real-life castaways 3
  • Interpretations 4
  • Legacy 5
  • Editions 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Plot summary

Pictorial map of Crusoe's island, aka "Island of Despair," showing incidents from the book

Crusoe (the family name corrupted from the German name "Kreutznaer") sets sail from the Queen's Dock in Hull on a sea voyage in August 1651, against the wishes of his parents, who want him to pursue a career, possibly in law. After a tumultuous journey where his ship is wrecked in a storm, his lust for the sea remains so strong that he sets out to sea again. This journey, too, ends in disaster as the ship is taken over by Salé pirates (the Salé Rovers) and Crusoe is enslaved by a Moor. Two years later, he escapes in a boat with a boy named Xury; a Captain of a Portuguese ship off the west coast of Africa rescues him. The ship is en route to Brazil. Crusoe sells Xury to the captain. With the captain's help, Crusoe procures a plantation.

Years later, Crusoe joins an expedition to bring slaves from Africa but he is shipwrecked in a storm about forty miles out to sea on an island (which he calls the Island of Despair) near the mouth of the Orinoco river on 30 September 1659. (The date was left blank in the first edition. The years added up after 1651, or, his total of years reckoned backwards from 1686 yield 1658 so the 1659 is an error. The story claims that he swam ashore on his 26th birthday.) The details of Crusoe's island were probably based on the Caribbean island of Tobago, since that island lies a short distance north of the Venezuelan coast near the mouth of the Orinoco river, in sight of Trinidad.[9] He observes the latitude as 9 degrees and 22 minutes north. He sees penguins and seals on his island. (However, there are no seals and penguins living together in the Northern Hemisphere, only around the Galapagos Islands.) As for his arrival there, only he and three animals, the captain's dog and two cats, survive the shipwreck. Overcoming his despair, he fetches arms, tools, and other supplies from the ship before it breaks apart and sinks. He builds a fenced-in habitat near a cave which he excavates. By making marks in a wooden cross, he creates a calendar. By using tools salvaged from the ship, and some he makes himself from "ironwood", he hunts, grows barley and rice, dries grapes to make raisins, learns to make pottery, and raises goats. He also adopts a small parrot. He reads the Bible and becomes religious, thanking God for his fate in which nothing is missing but human society.

More years pass and Crusoe discovers native cannibals, who occasionally visit the island to kill and eat prisoners. At first he plans to kill them for committing an abomination but later realizes he has no right to do so, as the cannibals do not knowingly commit a crime. He dreams of obtaining one or two servants by freeing some prisoners; when a prisoner escapes, Crusoe helps him, naming his new companion "Friday" after the day of the week he appeared. Crusoe then teaches him English and converts him to Christianity. After more natives arrive to partake in a cannibal feast, Crusoe and Friday kill most of the natives and save two prisoners. One is Friday's father and the other is a Spaniard, who informs Crusoe about other Spaniards shipwrecked on the mainland. A plan is devised wherein the Spaniard would return to the mainland with Friday's father and bring back the others, build a ship, and sail to a Spanish port.

Before the Spaniards return, an English ship appears; mutineers have commandeered the vessel and intend to maroon their captain on the island. Crusoe and the ship's captain strike a deal in which Crusoe helps the captain and the loyal sailors retake the ship and leave the worst mutineers on the island. Before embarking for England, Crusoe shows the mutineers how he survived on the island and states that there will be more men coming. Crusoe leaves the island 19 December 1686 and arrives in England on 11 June 1687. He learns that his family believed him dead; as a result, he was left nothing in his father's will. Crusoe departs for Lisbon to reclaim the profits of his estate in Brazil, which has granted him much wealth. In conclusion, he transports his wealth overland to England to avoid travelling by sea. Friday accompanies him and, en route, they endure one last adventure together as they fight off famished wolves while crossing the Pyrenees.

Reception and sequels

Plaque in Queen's Gardens, Hull—the former Queen's Dock from which Crusoe sailed—showing him on his island

The book was published on 25 April 1719. Before the end of the year, this first volume had run through four editions.

By the end of the 19th century, no book in the history of Western literature had more editions, spin-offs and translations (even into languages such as Inuktitut, Coptic and Maltese) than Robinson Crusoe, with more than 700 such alternative versions, including children's versions with mainly pictures and no text.[10]

The term "Robinsonade" was coined to describe the genre of stories similar to Robinson Crusoe.

Defoe went on to write a lesser-known sequel,

  • Robinson Crusoe at Project Gutenberg
  • (London: W. Taylor, 1719).Robinson Crusoe, commented text of the first edition, free at Editions Marteau.
  • by Daniel DefoeRobinson Crusoe - text and audio at Ciff Ciaff
  • Robinson CrusoeFree eBook of with illustrations by N. C. Wyeth
  • Robinson CrusoeFree audiobook of from Librivox
  • Robinson CrusoeFree ebook of for Android Phones
  • Robinson Crusoe, told in words of one syllable, by Lucy Aikin (aka "Mary Godolphin") (1723–1764).
  • [2], in-depth comparison between Defoe's novel and the account of the adventures of Henry Pitman.
  • Chasing Crusoe, multimedia documentary explores the novel and real life history of Selkirk.
  • Robinson Crusoe on Literapedia
  • "Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe & the Robinsonades Digital Collection" with over 200 versions of Robinson Crusoe openly and freely online with full text and zoomable page images from the Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature
  • M.A. Wetherell's Robinson Crusoe silent film, openly and freely available in three parts on Part 1; Part 2; Part 3
  • The BBC TV series from 1965 with music, info, videos and pictures.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's critical article
  • [3], a discussion of a possible connection between Crusoe's island and Cocos Island of Costa Rica
  • Naso people#History regarding the Térraba or Naso people
  • Defoe, Daniel. The wonderful life and surprising adventures of that renowned hero, Robinson Crusoe: who lived twenty-eight years on an uninhabited island, which he afterwards colonised. London: Printed for the inhabitants of his island, and sold by T. Carnan, in St. Paul's Church Yard, [ca. 1783]. 160 p. Accessed 4 January 2014, in PDF format.
  • Identification sites of Robinson Crusoe books

External links

  • Findlater, Richard (1955). Grimaldi King of Clowns. London: Magibbon & Kee.  
  • McConnell Stott, Andrew (2009). The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi. Edinburgh: Cannongate Books Ltd.  
  • Ross, Angus, ed. (1965) Robinson Crusoe. Penguin.
  • Secord, Arthur Wellesley (1963). Studies in the narrative method of Defoe. New York: Russell & Russell. (First published in 1924.)
  • Shinagel, Michael, ed. (1994). Robinson Crusoe. Norton Critical Edition. ISBN 0-393-96452-3. Includes textual annotations, contemporary and modern criticisms, bibliography.


  1. ^ "The Primitive Crusoe, 1719–1780.". Picturing the First Castaway: the Illustrations of Robinson Crusoe - Paul Wilson and Michael Eck. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Fiction as Authentic as Fact
  3. ^ Nawal Muhammad Hassan (1980), Hayy bin Yaqzan and Robinson Crusoe: A study of an early Arabic impact on English literature, Al-Rashid House for Publication.
  4. ^ Cyril Glasse (2001), New Encyclopedia of Islam, p. 202, Rowman Altamira, ISBN 0-7591-0190-6.
  5. ^ Amber Haque (2004), "Psychology from Islamic Perspective: Contributions of Early Muslim Scholars and Challenges to Contemporary Muslim Psychologists", Journal of Religion and Health 43 (4): 357–377 [369].
  6. ^ Martin Wainwright, Desert island scripts, The Guardian, 22 March 2003.
  7. ^ Knox, Robert (1911). "An Historical Account of the Island Ceylon". Based on the 1659 original text. Glasgow: James MacLehose and Sons (Publishers to the University), 1911.
  8. ^ see Alan Filreis
  9. ^ Robinson Crusoe, Chapter 23.
  10. ^ Ian Watt. "Robinson Crusoe as a Myth", from Essays in Criticism (April 1951). Reprinted in the Norton Critical Edition (second edition, 1994) of Robinson Crusoe.
  11. ^ Severin, Tim - In search of Robinson Crusoe - New York, Basic Books, 2002 - ISBN 0-465-07698-X
  12. ^ William Dampier, A New Voyage round the World, 1697 [1].
  13. ^ James Joyce, "Daniel Defoe," translated from Italian manuscript and edited by Joseph Prescott, Buffalo Studies 1 (1964): 24–25
  14. ^ Hunter, J. Paul (1966) The Reluctant Pilgrim. As found in Norton Critical Edition (see References).
  15. ^ Varian, Hal R. (1990). Intermediate microeconomics: a modern approach. New York: W.W. Norton.  
  16. ^ Engelking, Barbara; Libionka, Dariusz (2009). Żydzi w Powstańczej Warszawie. Warsaw: Stowarzyszenie Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów. pp. 260–293. ISBN .
  17. ^ Kathleen Buss, Lee Karnowski (2000). Reading and Writing Literary Genres. International Reading Association. p. 7. 
  18. ^ Jones, William B. (15 August 2011). Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History (2 ed.).  
  19. ^ Findlater, pp. 60 and 76; Grimaldi (Box edition), pp. 184–185 and 193; and McConnell Stott, p. 101
  20. ^ "Robinson Sucroë" (in French). Krinein, le magazine critique de la pop culture. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  21. ^ weirdkorn (4 January 2006). "Robinson Sucroë – T'es en sucre ?". Krinein, le magazine critique de la pop culture. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 


See also

  • Robinson Crusoe, Oneworld Classics 2008. ISBN 978-1-84749-012-4
  • Robinson Crusoe, Penguin Classics 2003. ISBN 978-0-14-143982-2
  • Robinson Crusoe, Oxford World's Classics 2007. ISBN 978-0-19-283342-6
  • Robinson Crusoe, Bantam Classics


In 2008, a television series titled Crusoe aired for 12 episodes. It was based loosely on the novel and was not renewed for a second season.

In the mid-1990s there was a humorous French cartoon called Robinson Sucroe. In the cartoon, Robinson was a failed journalist for the New York Herald. Seeking a life of adventure, he desired to settle on an island and wished to write his weekly journal. After getting an okay from his boss, he sets sail and he is left on an uninhabited island (or so he thought). Robinson discovers that the island is inhabited by French and British pirates as well as the survivor of a shipwreck, who called themselves "Touléjours" (the Everydays). Robinson befriend a fellow named Mercredi (Wednesday). Robinson tries to write a colourful journal but he is incapable of doing so, instead Mercredi writes fictitious stories for him. These stories achieve much success and few suspect their authenticity.[20][21]

In 1964 a French film production crew made a 13-part serial of The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. It starred Robert Hoffman. The black and white series was dubbed into English and German. In the UK, the BBC broadcast it on numerous occasions between 1965 and 1977. In 1981 Czechoslovakian director and animator Stanislav Látal made a version of the story under the name Dobrodružství Robinsona Crusoe, námořníka z Yorku (The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, a sailor from York) combining traditional and stop-motion animation. The movie was coproduced by regional West Germany broadcaster Sudwestfunk Baden-Baden.

There is a 1927 silent film titled Robinson Crusoe. The Soviet 3D film Robinzon Kruzo was produced in 1946. Luis Buñuel directed Adventures of Robinson Crusoe starring Dan O'Herlihy, released in 1954. Walt Disney later modernized the novel with Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N., featuring Dick Van Dyke. Peter O'Toole and Richard Roundtree co-starred in a 1975 film Man Friday which satirically portrayed Crusoe as incapable of seeing his dark-skinned companion as anything but an inferior creature, while Friday is more enlightened and empathetic. In 1988, Aidan Quinn portrayed Robinson Crusoe in the film Crusoe. A 1997 movie entitled Robinson Crusoe starred Pierce Brosnan and received limited commercial success. Variations on the theme include the 1954 Miss Robin Crusoe, with a female castaway, played by Amanda Blake, and a female Friday, and the 1964 film Robinson Crusoe on Mars, starring Paul Mantee, with an alien Friday portrayed by Victor Lundin. The 2000 film Cast Away, with Tom Hanks as a FedEx employee stranded on an Island for many years, also borrows much from the Robinson Crusoe story.

Jacques Offenbach wrote an opéra comique called Robinson Crusoé which was first performed at the Opéra-Comique, in Paris on 23 November 1867. This was based on the British pantomime version rather than the novel itself. The libretto was by Eugène Cormon and Hector-Jonathan Crémieux.

A pantomime version of Robinson Crusoe was staged at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1796, with Joseph Grimaldi as Pierrot in the harlequinade. The piece was produced again in 1798, this time starring Grimaldi as Clown. In 1815, Grimaldi played Friday in another version of Robinson Crusoe.[19]

The story was also illustrated and published in comic book form by Classics Illustrated in 1943 and 1957. The much improved 1957 version was inked/penciled by Sam Citron, who is most well known for his contributions to the earlier issues of Superman.[18]

Classics Illustrated #10, Robinson Crusoe (c. 1957)

American novelist Thomas Berger created a modern version of the story in his 1994 novel Robert Crews, in which the protagonist is a middle-aged alcoholic who survives a plane crash at a rural lake, and eventually encounters his "Friday," a young woman fleeing an abusive marriage. In the fantasy novel World War Z, author Max Brooks refers to survivalists who remain after the zombie plague in zombie-infested cities as "Robinson Crusoes."

J. M. Coetzee's 1986 novel Foe recounts the tale of Robinson Crusoe from the aspect of Susan Barton, who went on to star in another of DeFoe's novels.

"Crusoe in England", a 183-line poem by Elizabeth Bishop, imagines Crusoe near the end of his life, recalling his time of exile with a mixture of bemusement and regret.

French novelist Michel Tournier published Friday (French Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique) in 1967. His novel explores themes including civilization versus nature, the psychology of solitude, as well as death and sexuality in a retelling of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe story. Tournier's Robinson chooses to remain on the island, rejecting civilization when offered the chance to escape 28 years after being shipwrecked. Likewise, in 1963, J. M. G. Le Clézio, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in literature, published the novel Le Proces-Verbal. The book's epigraph is a quote from Robinson Crusoe, and like Crusoe, Adam Pollo suffers long periods of loneliness.

In The Tale of Little Pig Robinson, Beatrix Potter directs the reader to Robinson Crusoe for a detailed description of the island (the land of the Bong tree) to which her eponymous hero moves. In Wilkie Collins' most popular novel, The Moonstone, one of the chief characters and narrators, Gabriel Betteredge, has faith in all that Robinson Crusoe says and uses the book for a sort of divination. He considers The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe the finest book ever written and considers a man but poorly read if he had happened not to read the book.

Robinson Crusoe Bookstore on İstiklal Avenue, Istanbul.

In Jean-Jacques Rousseau's treatise on education, Emile: Or, On Education, the one book the protagonist is allowed to read before the age of twelve is Robinson Crusoe. Rousseau wants Emile to identify himself as Crusoe so he can rely upon himself for all of his needs. In Rousseau's view, Emile needs to imitate Crusoe's experience, allowing necessity to determine what is to be learned and accomplished. This is one of the main themes of Rousseau's educational model.

Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, published seven years after Robinson Crusoe, may be read as a systematic rebuttal of Defoe's optimistic account of human capability. In The Unthinkable Swift: The Spontaneous Philosophy of a Church of England Man, Warren Montag argues that Swift was concerned about refuting the notion that the individual precedes society, as Defoe's novel seems to suggest. In Treasure Island, author Robert Louis Stevenson parodies Crusoe with the character of Ben Gunn, a friendly castaway who was marooned for many years, has a wild appearance, dresses entirely in goat skin and constantly talks about providence.

Robinson Crusoe marked the beginning of realistic fiction as a literary genre.[17] Its success led to many imitators, and castaway novels became quite popular in Europe in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Most of these have fallen into obscurity, but some became established, including The Swiss Family Robinson.

The book proved so popular that the names of the two main protagonists have entered the language. During World War II, people who decided to stay and hide in the ruins of the German-occupied city of Warsaw for a period of three winter months, from October to January 1945, when they were rescued by the Red Army, were later called Robinson Crusoes of Warsaw.[16] Robinson Crusoe usually referred to his servant as "my man Friday", from which the term "Man Friday" (or "Girl Friday") originated.


In classical, neoclassical and Austrian economics, Crusoe is regularly used to illustrate the theory of production and choice in the absence of trade, money and prices.[15] Crusoe must allocate effort between production and leisure and must choose between alternative production possibilities to meet his needs. The arrival of Friday is then used to illustrate the possibility of and gains from trade.

When confronted with the cannibals, Crusoe wrestles with the problem of cultural relativism. Despite his disgust, he feels unjustified in holding the natives morally responsible for a practice so deeply ingrained in their culture. Nevertheless he retains his belief in an absolute standard of morality; he regards cannibalism as a 'national crime' and forbids Friday from practising it.

Robinson Crusoe is filled with religious aspects. Defoe was a Puritan moralist and normally worked in the guide tradition, writing books on how to be a good Puritan Christian, such as The New Family Instructor (1727) and Religious Courtship (1722). While Robinson Crusoe is far more than a guide, it shares many of the themes and theological and moral points of view. "Crusoe" may have been taken from Timothy Cruso, a classmate of Defoe's who had written guide books, including God the Guide of Youth (1695), before dying at an early age – just eight years before Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe. Cruso would have been remembered by contemporaries and the association with guide books is clear. It has even been speculated that God the Guide of Youth inspired Robinson Crusoe because of a number of passages in that work that are closely tied to the novel.[14] A leitmotif of the novel is the Christian notion of Providence, penitence and redemption. Crusoe comes to repent of the follies of his youth. Defoe also foregrounds this theme by arranging highly significant events in the novel to occur on Crusoe's birthday. The denouement culminates not only in Crusoe's deliverance from the island, but his spiritual deliverance, his acceptance of Christian doctrine, and in his intuition of his own salvation.

According to J.P. Hunter, Robinson is not a hero but an everyman. He begins as a wanderer, aimless on a sea he does not understand and ends as a pilgrim, crossing a final mountain to enter the promised land. The book tells the story of how Robinson becomes closer to God, not through listening to sermons in a church but through spending time alone amongst nature with only a Bible to read.

Novelist James Joyce noted that the true symbol of the British conquest is Robinson Crusoe: "He is the true prototype of the British colonist. ... The whole Anglo-Saxon spirit is in Crusoe: the manly independence, the unconscious cruelty, the persistence, the slow yet efficient intelligence, the sexual apathy, the calculating taciturnity."[13] In a sense Crusoe attempts to replicate his society on the island. This is achieved through the use of European technology, agriculture and even a rudimentary political hierarchy. Several times in the novel Crusoe refers to himself as the 'king' of the island, whilst the captain describes him as the 'governor' to the mutineers. At the very end of the novel the island is explicitly referred to as a 'colony'. The idealised master-servant relationship Defoe depicts between Crusoe and Friday can also be seen in terms of cultural imperialism. Crusoe represents the 'enlightened' European whilst Friday is the 'savage' who can only be redeemed from his barbarous way of life through assimilation into Crusoe's culture. Nonetheless Defoe also takes the opportunity to criticise the historic Spanish conquest of South America.

Crusoe standing over Friday after he frees him from the cannibals.


Severin also discusses another publicised case of a marooned man named only as Will, of the Miskito people of Central America, who may have led to the depiction of Man Friday.[12]

Tim Severin's book Seeking Robinson Crusoe (2002) unravels a much wider and more plausible range of potential sources of inspiration, and concludes by identifying castaway surgeon Henry Pitman as the most likely. An employee of the Duke of Monmouth, Pitman played a part in the Monmouth Rebellion. His short book about his desperate escape from a Caribbean penal colony, followed by his shipwrecking and subsequent desert island misadventures, was published by J. Taylor of Paternoster Row, London, whose son William Taylor later published Defoe's novel. Severin argues that since Pitman appears to have lived in the lodgings above the father's publishing house and that Defoe himself was a mercer in the area at the time, Defoe may have met Pitman in person and learned of his experiences first-hand, or possibly through submission of a draft.[11]

There were many stories of real-life castaways in Defoe's time. Defoe's immediate inspiration for Crusoe is usually thought to be a Scottish sailor named Alexander Selkirk, who was rescued in 1709 by Woodes Rogers' expedition after four years on the uninhabited island of Más a Tierra in the Juan Fernández Islands off the Chilean coast. Rogers' "Cruising Voyage" was published in 1712, with an account of Alexander Selkirk's ordeal. However, Robinson Crusoe is far from a copy of Woodes Rogers' account: Selkirk was marooned at his own request, while Crusoe was shipwrecked; the islands are different; Selkirk lived alone for the whole time, while Crusoe found companions; while Selkirk stayed on his island for four years, not twenty-eight. Furthermore, much of the appeal of Defoe's novel is the detailed and captivating account of Crusoe's thoughts, occupations and activities which goes far beyond that of Rogers' basic descriptions of Selkirk, which account for only a few pages. However, one must not forget that Defoe considered himself as the editor of the story. He was adamant to maintain his claim that the real author Robinson Crusoe had been a person still alive in 1719–20.

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