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Robinson Crusoe: Gaining Success And Prosperity

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A journey in literary criticism may have several connotations. A journey may be a physical one, such a thing happens when Robinson Crusoe, the main protagonist of the novel, leaves his family estate and goes out on a journey that finally brings him to the isolated island off the coast of Venezuela. A journey can be a psychological one like when the literal journey becomes Crusoe’s journey for self-definition. The protagonist develops into a cult hero depicting capitalistic individualism. He can create his own means of sustenance by struggle. A journey can even be a spiritual one and this happens when Crusoe from being a practical, logical person turns into a devout Christian. He even takes up the role of a Preacher, preaching Friday about Protestantism.

In this term paper, I would like to focus on the different journeys that Crusoe embarked upon through the entirety of the novel. Introduction- Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published on 25th April 1719. By adopting the epistolary form of narration, he made the readers believe that the novel is autobiographical in nature and that Robinson Crusoe, the main protagonist of the novel, is in fact a real person. The novel was well received in the literary world and is often credited for marking the beginning of realistic fiction as a literary genre. It is generally seen as a contender for the first English novel. Before the end of 1719, the book had already run through four editions and even claims to be second only to The Bible in its number of translations. Body- Daniel Defoe himself was a man of odd jobs. Defoe was once a soldier, an apprentice of a bookbinder, a book merchant, and even a wholesaler of undergarments. The diversity of his professional life enabled him to traverse through the different strata of society from the grass root to the gentry and observe them from close quarters. Many critics, thus, considers that the journey of Crusoe is very similar to that of the authors.

The preface of the novel has a very moralistic tone. It feels like the novel is written as a cautionary tale describing what may happen if anyone departs from the trodden path. At the same time, the novelist kind of is relieved that Crusoe did not follow the path and thus could embark upon such an adventurous journey. Crusoe deals with this same dilemma throughout the novel when he is unaware of whether he has made a correct or incorrect choice. Crusoe’s character, thus, has the features of modern Existentialism.

The novel starts with Crusoe setting sail from Kingston upon Hill on a sea voyage on August 1651, even though his father had prophesied that he will come across danger at sea. However, 18-year-old Robinson did not believe in prophecies or divine existence. Sadly, he faces a violent storm on his very first sea venture and his ship gets wrecked. His faith in God is restored and he interprets the storm to be a form of God’s punishment for leaving and disappointing his parents. Thus, Crusoe along with his literal journey started undergoing a spiritual journey. This happens on numerous occasions that whenever something goes wrong in his life, he feels the same guilt of following his dreams of being a globetrotter and ends up asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Even though he fails the first time he boards another ship; partly because of his un- quenchable thirst for adventure and partly because he didn’t want to return home after being a failure. He did not have to experience any financial loss or near-death situation in this voyage but instead, it was a financially profitable journey. The theme of Capitalism is slowly entering the novel at this point. The protagonist starts changing from being a Romantic wanderer into a person who has an interest in a vocation that would lead to a sustained life. The novel is thus an evolution story, a kind of a bildungsroman.

On another expedition at sea, he gets captured by Sale pirates, and Crusoe is enslaved by a Moor. After two years, however, he escapes with the help of another slave, Xuri. Now, Robinson undergoes a fear of the unknown while escaping. This is a new character trait observed in Crusoe as one could never imagine Crusoe to be scared of anything after embarking upon so many adventures. He soon reaches the coast of Morocco. A master-servant relationship starts developing between Crusoe and Xuri which brings out the Euro-centric bigotry and casteism developing in his character. Crusoe starts developing traits of a Colonizer when on killing a lion he keeps the lion skin. This reminds us of the African trade of ivory as described by Joseph Conrad in The Heart of Darkness. Crusoe sets up a plantation business and started using Xuri as a farmhand and failed to develop a camaraderie or friendship with him. He now attained solvency and starts leading a middle-class man’s life. He is thus living a life that his parents had always wanted him to live. He started contemplating the futility of his rebellion again social conventions.

On 1st September 1659, he sets sail for Brazil. On 30th September, his ship gets wrecked and he somehow manages to reach a tropical, deserted island on the Venezuelan coast near the mouth of the Orinoco River where he spends 28 years of his life. Time and again his faith in God are restored. He is not angry to have faced a lot of trouble in the form of divine retribution but feels lucky to be alive.

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Crusoe’s journey seems to represent the journey and evolution of the entire human race. On the first night of his arrival at the island, he spends the night in a cave very similar to the primitive humans who were primarily cave- dwellers. Crusoe then started collecting fruits and drying grapes to make raisin which is similar to the natural progression of the human race of becoming hunters and gatherers. Crusoe then started agriculture which is similar to the path humans took to evolve by growing food crops of their own and becoming settlers. Crusoe further started weaving baskets and making pots to store the surplus which is very similar to what our ancestors had done while following the path to civilization. Lastly, he decides to tame goats for sustenance which is very similar to the modern concept of Animal Husbandry.

The Bible started having a great influence on Crusoe’s life. He strongly believed in the phrase of The Bible: - “Call me in the day of trouble and I shall deliver”

He has moral thoughts, but he does not become a Saint. His materialistic concerns do not go away. He finds money in the ship and takes it, thinking that he might need it at some point in life. He starts developing a keen business mind, keeping into account all his losses and gains. He starts living a very methodical life by writing regularly in his journal. He does not feel like an inhabitant of the island anymore but feels a sense of possession towards the island. The rudimentary concept of Capitalism starts developing in his mind. The sense of ownership begins to provide him with a sense of power. He develops a sense of harmony with nature being fully aware of the seasonal cycles and sowing and reaping his crops accordingly.

In the third year, he decides to explore parts of the island that he had never been to. Here, he finds a parrot that he takes back to his part of the island and cages it. Robinson has thus turned into a settler from being a nomad. He spends a lot of his time in moral contemplation. He feels that he should live on this island than with other people. He realizes that being the person that he is, he would feel dissatisfied to live amongst society.

After seven years, Crusoe notices human footprints on the island. If something like this had happened earlier then he would have rejoiced at the hope of finally being saved. Now, when he sees it, he is alarmed. He feels that everything that he has grown and built would be taken away from him.

In the ninth year of his stay at the island, he encounters Cannibals and is disgusted by them. He, however, resorts to a very didactic approach towards their existence proving his maturity. He realizes that if God hasn’t punished them then he is no one to do so. He even reasons saying everyone kills something or the other for food. After the twenty-third year, he started getting nightmares proving that he was highly disturbed and not at peace.

The novel takes a new turn when Crusoe saves a victim from the clutches of the Cannibals and comes in contact with another human being after so long. He refers to him as “his savage” and names him Friday. At this point, he starts imbibing all the characters of a colonizer. He starts imposing the English language and also the Christian religion. He even considers the God that the Cannibals worship to be a form of Satan. Crusoe, thus, started portraying a very Euro-centric concept of religion similar to Milton’s portrayal in Paradise Lost. At the end of the novel, we observe a drastic change in Crusoe when he transports his wealth overland to England from Portugal to avoid traveling by sea. This occurs because he has finally satiated his desire for exploration.


It can thus be concluded that by following one’s dream and taking the plunge can an individual attain success and prosperity just like in the case of Robinson Crusoe. As theorized by existentialist theorists, it is better to take the leap rather than spending life with pent-up anger towards society.

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Robinson Crusoe: Gaining Success And Prosperity. (2022, July 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from
“Robinson Crusoe: Gaining Success And Prosperity.” Edubirdie, 08 Jul. 2022,
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