‘In all the time of my solitary life, I never felt so earnest, so strong a desire after the society of my fellow-creatures, or so deep a regret at the want of it.’ – (Robinson Crusoe).
In Robinson Crusoe we can see Daniel Defoe wrestling with one of the framing questions of our course: how does one know? Within the novel we see the character Crusoe wrestling with matters of knowledge and truth. There is a continued emphasis on not only knowledge and truth gained through observation—such as learning navigation from a captain or deducing the seasons of the island by recording the wet and dry periods—but also that obtained from the divine: he “gained a different Knowledge” from “a constant Study and serious Application of the Word of God, and by the Assistance of his Grace” (154-155).
Robinson Crusoe written by Daniel Defoe was published in the eighteenth-century, the so called age of Enlightenment. The Enlightenment thinkers turn their back on the traditional authority of the church and focus on the pursuit of human liberation, rights, natural equality and so on. Later with its root in the thoughts of Enlightenment Individualism developed. When it comes to literature, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe creates a new genre of literature: novel. The major difference between novel and previous middle ages’ prose fiction is its realism which focuses on individual and particulars while the earlier fiction is in favor of the universal. Self-realization is an essential aspect in understanding the individual realism in novel, because the novel primarily concentrates on individual and self-realization, which is an individual development from a personal inchoate state of being to a state of maturity. Self-realization are ‘conceptions of selfhood, self-making and self-expression’.
Just about everyone can recite the highlights of Robinson’s adventures: A man is shipwrecked without resources on a desert island, survives for years by his own wits, undergoes immeasurable anguish as a result of his isolation, discovers a footprint in the sand that belongs to Friday, and is finally rescued from his exile. Unfortunately, all of this is wrong. But more significant than any of these details is that our overall perception of Robinson Crusoe is wrong. The single most important fact about this boy’s adventure book is that it is not a boy’s adventure book at all. It is, rather, a grown-up tale of a man’s discovery of himself, civilization, and God.
Robinson Crusoe’s discovery of the work ethic on the small island goes hand in hand with a spiritual awakening. Robinson Crusoe is not a very profound religious thinker, although religion is part of his education and transformation. He claims he reads the Bible, and he is prepared to quote it from time to time. But he doesn’t puzzle over it or even get involved in the narrative or character attractions of the stories. The Bible for him appears to be something like a handbook to keep the work on schedule and to stifle any possible complaints or longings for a different situation.
It is in the latter half of the novel that Crusoe is forced to live his religious philosophy by expanding his Christianity from an individual level to a social one. During this time, his understanding of the proper conduct of a Christian towards other men is deepened, and he learns to act only after receiving spiritual guidance. It would appear that Defoe fully intended to show that Crusoe must learn to use his religious reason for the benefit of others.
That is to say that self-realization is not a simple process through which an individual knows himself. It is just the first step of self-realization. After knowing oneself, making changes and finally expressing oneself based on the new identity are crucial to self-realization.
Defoe uses first-person narrative to reveal Crusoe’s astonishing experience in his entire life. The narrative shortens the distance between the storyteller and the readers. We read the book as if Crusoe himself is telling the story directly to us. The effect of himself telling the story is that it increases the credibility of the story itself and makes the story realistic. And it is crucial to Robinson’s self realization.
Because it is a gradual process happened inside of someone’s mind, and the information obtained directly from Robinson is the most plausible one in order to analyze his realization. The reader must be prepared to confront his contradictions, hypocrisies and inconsistencies as he tries to develop a set of individual values and beliefs.
Crusoe, wander outside the usual boundaries of society, following his ‘fancy’ and seeking ‘novelty’, and the conclusion is that although reason is useful in controlling our passions and helping us to consider the workings of divine providence, it is not in itself enough to secure happiness.
The process of Crusoe’s spiritual awakening, and his growing awareness of the role of Providence in the world and in his own life, is one of the main themes of the novel. His conversion, however, is a slow, meditative process from blindness to God’s love, to a fear and finally to an acceptance of His ways, resulting in a love of God.
Readers are divided between two opinions:Some accept Crusoe’s total religious conversion and say that after his belief in God he was able to find his destiny . Others say that religiosity, for Crusoe, was used as an escape to justify his hypocrisies and actions.
The reader is constantly reminded of the imperfections of man by Crusoe’s lapses into feelings of self-pity, discouragement and dissatisfaction with his station.
As a conclusion, we can say that the reading is very contagious. Clearly, Daniel wanted to show us how we can handle difficult situations even by learning from mistakes. All human beings must know the value of our dignity and own respect. This book is timeless.