Robinson Crusoe and Defoe’s Views on the Contemporary Society

Robinson Crusoe by Danielle Defoe is an adventure book with elements of anti-utopia. In his book Defoe very vividly illustrates how the protagonist reproduces the model of society he rebels against, as soon as he gets unlimited power.

This book challenges social, political an economic norms of the contemporary society. In the beginning of the book we can see how Defoe depicts his contemporary society. He criticizes England’s society, its social and political structure. Robinson Crusoe is in conflict with his family because he did not meet their high expectations and did not get high social standing. As he states himself about his relationship with his parents, “my father”¦ gave me serious and excellent counsel against what he foresaw was my design” (Defoe 8). The novel has an autobiographical background. The protagonist of the novel possesses many features common with the author. Same like Crusoe, Defoe rebelled against his family. In reality this rebellion has deeper meaning than usual family quarrels.  In this novel parents become incarnation of the entire social and political system, which irritated Defoe so much. This way the tale about the shipwreck of one ordinary man become a perfect mean to criticize British society. Despite the novel is based on a true story, which happened to a Scottish sailor named Alexander Selkirk, Defoe uses this story only as a mean to pass his thoughts to the readers. The story is full of irony and it uncovers social vices in easy and simple manner, which makes the book appealing for different sorts of readers. The book is an utopia. The protagonist of the novel, who finds himself along on the desert island after the shipwreck, creates an utopian society. The question about an ideal society was very popular during the time when the novel was written. Prominent political and social figures and people of art tried to figure out a model of an ideal society.  Many people were prosecuted for their views and political likings. Defoe had his own idea about an ideal society. He believed that there was a way to create and ideal society but there was one condition ”“ this society should be without men. On the example of his protagonist, Defoe shows how this ideal society will look like and how it will function. Defoe shows what it is like to live in the ideal world, when man lives alone and far away from society. In this new type of society man finally became absolutely free. Except of physical isolation from other people, the protagonist can experience any kind of freedom, including political, social and religions freedom. The protagonist of the novel is happy living alone in his ideal society. “It was now that I began sensibly to feel how much more happy this life I now led was than the wicked, cursed, abominable life I led all the past part of my days”(Defoe 113). Shipwreck, which seemed to Robinson Crusoe God’s punishment for his sins turned to be a way for him to discover his inner potential and to discover perfect social order. As Robinson himself states about his life on the island,” “I cared not if I was never to remove from the place where I lived. I lived there”¦ perfectly and completely happy, if any such thing as complete happiness can be formed in a sublunary state” (Defoe 217). Being along on the desert island brought Robinson new understanding of himself and other people. Living there he stops efforts to run away from his problems and starts saying the truth about himself, society and other people. He discovers a rare ability to make useful everything, which surrounds him. On the example of Robinson Crusoe Defoe shows that living in peace and harmony with nature is possible and even natural for human beings in contrast to contemporary life, when men spend their lives fighting nature and brining damage to the environment. After some time spent on the island Crusoe makes his living safe and comfortable and now he turns his attention to unlimited power he possesses on his island. As Crusoe himself explains his position: “I was a Kind and Lord of all this country indefeasibly” (Defoe, 114). Very soon the protagonist, who rebelled against any kind of pressure, turns to tyrant himself. Despite he could command only animals, he expresses his attitude very clearly: “I had the lives of all my Subjects at my absolute Command. I could hang, draw, give Liberty, and take it away, and no Rebels among all my Subjects” (Defoe, 171). We can see how ideal world and ideal society, described by the author turn to even worse tyranny the protagonist himself left before his travel. Defoe does this with purpose because the question of liberty and democracy was a burning issue during that time. The ideas of democratic government as a necessary attribute of civilized society gained popularity during that time in Europe and Defoe actively popularized them. He defended “Revolutionary principles” and the right of people to change their rulers if they turn to tyranny.

In his novel Defoe very vividly illustrates that even the best and most conscious ruler can simply become a tyrant if his power is not limited by law or any other kind of power.

By the end of the novel we see that ideal of living in complete isolation becomes not that perfect for the protagonist.

Robinson starts missing other people. It is necessary to remember that people are social creatures and they can discover themselves only through the communication with other people. Personality is developed through our lives and can be influenced and changed by the surrounding. The development of the personalities of the children is greatly influenced by the parents and school and good conditions can create a very good opportunity for the successful future life of the child.  The level of the personality development is seen through the marks of others in addition to our own self-perception and self-esteem. The abilities to interact with other people and to correspond the needs of the society define the characteristics of well-socialized personality. We can easily see it on the example of Robinson Crusoe.  He can not leave outside the society an even creates a simple model of this society on his deserted island.

Robinson Crusoe by Danielle Defoe has several levels of meaning. From the one side it is a story of a person, who survived in very difficult life conditions and used them as a chance for growth and development. Being on the desert island, Robinson finds inner strength to overcome fear and pessimistic attitude, he got from the upbringing and society. From the other side the book can be treated as skillful critics of the Defoe’s contemporary society and describing and an ideal one, created by Robinson on his island.

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