Robinson Crusoe

by: Daniel Defoe

Important Quotations Explained

I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen who settled first at Hull. He got a good estate by merchandise and, leaving off his trade, lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my mother whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual corruption of words in England we are called, nay, we call ourselves, and write our name “Crusoe,” and so my companions always called me.

Crusoe’s opening words in Chapter I show us the fact-oriented, practical, and unsentimental mind that will carry him through his ordeal. Crusoe introduces his parents objectively through their nationalities, professions, and places of origin and residence. There is no hint of emotional attachment either here or later, when Crusoe leaves his parents forever. In fact, there is no expression of affection whatsoever. The passage also shows that leaving home may be a habit that runs in the family: Crusoe’s father was an emigrant, just as Crusoe later becomes when he succumbs to his “rambling” thoughts and leaves England. Crusoe’s originally foreign name is an interesting symbol of his emigrant status, especially since it had to be changed to adapt to English understanding. We see that Crusoe has long grasped the notion of adapting to one’s environment, and that identities—or at least names—may change when people change places. This name change foreshadows the theme of Crusoe’s changing identity on his island, when he teaches Friday that his name is Master.