Numerous sources have been proposed for Robinson
Crusoe; the most compelling arguments have been made for the
adventure story, travel literature, conduct or guide literature, and
spiritual biography and allegory as models for Defoe's fiction and
The adventure story.
The purpose and the nature of
adventure stories are obvious, to tell of risky enterprises and daring
feats. Readers who see Robinson Crusoe as an adventure story
generally find Crusoe's moralizing, religious conversion and consequent
religious commentary as superficial filler or as digressions.
Travel literature describes
unfamiliar lands, peoples, geography, animals, plants precisely and
objectively, for their own sake. Chronology is a useful organizing
device and usually has no other use, like achieving dramatic effects.
Even extraordinary events like the rescue of Alexander
Selkirk, who is traditionally regarded as the model for Robinson
Crusoe, are narrated without emotion or emphasis.
From 1704-1709, Alexander
Selkirk (1676-1721) lived alone on the Juan Fernandez Island. He
demanded to be left there after a quarrel with Captain Thomas Stradling
about the safety of the ship. His rescue by Captain Woodes Rogers and his return to
England made him famous for a time; even Richard
Steele wrote an essay about him. Defoe's habit of writing about or
in response to current events is one reason for connecting Selkirk and
Conduct or guide literature.
Popular from the seventeenth
century on, guide literature pointed out how readers should live to
achieve salvation. It warned about the dangers Christians faced from
their own depraved natures and from living in a fallen world (a
reference to the fall from the Garden of Eden and the loss of
innocence). J. Paul Hunter identifies the common roadblocks along the
path to salvation which were described by the guides: neglecting the
ordinary duties of one's station or place, discouragement because of
failure or afflictions, uncertainty because of conflicting advice, and
the bad advice of companions. All wrong choices were perceived as an
implicit rebellion against God's will, for they constituted a failure
to follow God's providential rule over the world. For this reason, the
guides stressed the need for proper guidance of the young. Defoe was
certainly familiar with this genre. His work The Family Instructor
(1715) can be seen as a guide book; it followed the spiritual history
of a family, ending with the damnation or conversion/salvation of all
Spiritual biography and spiritual
The principles discussed by
the guide books were given concrete form in spiritual biography and
allegory. They narrated the Christian's journey or pilgrimage through
the wilderness of a fallen world, where they were torn by the conflict
between good and evil. The goal was, of course, salvation.
The spiritual biography
focused on real persons–a saint, a martyr, a particularly pious
individual, or a notorious sinner who converted; even in the fictional Robinson
Crusoe, Defoe insisted on the reality of Crusoe and his experience.
The spiritual biography was shaped by the pattern of denying God,
repenting/converting, and being delivered from sin by God's grace. John
Bunyan (1628-88) wrote a spiritual autobiography during his twelve-year
imprisonment for preaching without a license. Grace Abounding
(1661) traced his journey from his birth into poverty through a sinful
childhood and adolescence to repentance and conversion.
In the spiritual allegory,
the protagonist was representative of humanity in general, and
his experiences typified the pattern of the soul's struggle toward
salvation, not a particular individual's. Often the spiritual allegory
was presented as the author's dream or vision. In part I of Bunyan ‘s
spiritual allegory, Pilgrim's Progress (1678), Christian fled
the City of Destruction and passed through the Slough of Despond, the
Valley of Humiliation, Vanity Fair, Doubting Castle, and the Delectable
Mountains to arrive at, finally, the Celestial City. In Part II, his
wife, Christiana, accompanied by her children and her neighbor Mercy,
also journeyed to the Celestial City.
| Day 1 (W, Sept. 4)
|Day 2 (M, Sept. 9)
||Defoe, Robinson Crusoe,
“Preface” - "I Build My Fortress"
Overview of Daniel Defoe
Overview of Robinson Crusoe
The Sources of Robinson Crusoe
|Day 3 (W, Sept. 11)
|| Defoe, Robinson Crusoe ,"The
Journal" - "I Am Very Seldom Idle"
Increase Mather, Remarkable
|Day 4 (T, Sept. 17)
Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, "I Make Myself a
Canoe" - "I See the Wreck..."
|Day 5 (W, Sept. 18)
Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, "I Hear the First
Sound..." - "We Quell..."
Religion in Robinson
Web paper due
|Day 6 (M, Sept. 23)
Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, "We Seize the
Ship" - "I Revisit My Island"
Robinson Crusoe as Economic