Having defeated the mutineers, Crusoe decides that it is time to seize the ship, and he tells the captain of his plans. The captain agrees. Crusoe and the captain intimidate the captive mutineers with a fictitious report that the island’s governor intends to execute them all but would pardon most of them if they help seize the ship. To guarantee the men’s promises, Crusoe keeps five hostages. The plan works: the rebel captain on the ship is killed, and the ship is reclaimed. When Crusoe glimpses the ship, he nearly faints from shock. In gratitude, the captain presents Crusoe with gifts of wine, food, and clothing. The mutineers are offered the chance to remain on the island in order to avoid certain execution for mutiny in England. Gratefully, they accept. On December 19, 1686, Crusoe boards the ship with his money and a few possessions and sets sail for England after twenty-eight years on the island. Back in England, Crusoe discovers that the widow who has been guarding his money is alive but not prosperous. Crusoe’s family is dead, except for two sisters and the children of a brother. Crusoe decides to go to Lisbon to seek information about his plantations in Brazil.
It is impossible to express here the flutterings of my very heart . . . when I found all my wealth about me.
Arriving in Lisbon, Crusoe looks up his old friend and benefactor, the Portuguese captain who first took him to Brazil. The Portuguese captain tells Crusoe that his Brazilian lands have been placed in trust and have been very profitable. The captain is indebted to Crusoe for a large sum that he partially repays on the spot. Crusoe, moved by the captain’s honesty, returns a portion of the money. Obtaining a notarized letter, Crusoe is able to transfer his Brazilian investments back into his own name. He finds himself in possession of a large fortune. Crusoe sends gifts of money to his widow friend and to his two sisters. Tempted to move to Brazil, Crusoe decides against the idea because he is reluctant to become Catholic. He resolves to return to England, but he is averse to traveling by sea, removing his baggage from three different ships at the last moment. He later learns that two of those ships are either taken by pirates or foundered. Crusoe decides to proceed on land, assembling a traveling group of Europeans and their servants.
Crusoe and his group set out from Lisbon and reach the Spanish town of Pampeluna (Pamplona) in late autumn, and Crusoe finds the cold almost unbearable. The snow is excessive, forcing the group to stay several weeks in Pamplona. On November 15 they finally set out toward France, despite inclement weather. They encounter three wolves and a bear in the woods. Friday kills a wolf and drives away the others. Friday also amuses the group by teasing the bear before killing it. Proceeding onward, the group encounters a frightened horse without a rider, and then finds the remains of two men who have been devoured by wolves. Three hundred wolves soon surround Crusoe’s group. The group shoots the wolves and frightens them with an explosion of gunpowder, finally driving them away. Arriving at last in Toulouse, France, Crusoe learns that his group’s escape from the wolves was virtually miraculous.
Crusoe lands safely at Dover, England, on January 14. He deposits his personal effects with his widow friend, who cares for him well. Crusoe contemplates returning to Lisbon and going from there to Brazil, but he is once again dissuaded by religious concerns. He decides to stay in England, giving orders to sell his investments in Brazil. This sale earns Crusoe the large fortune of 33,000 pieces of eight. Since Crusoe is unattached to any family members and is used to a wandering life, he again thinks about leaving England, though the widow does all she can to dissuade him. Crusoe marries, but after the death of his wife he decides to head for the East Indies as a private trader in 1694. On this voyage he revisits his island. Crusoe finds that the Spaniards who have remained there have subjugated the mutineers, treating them kindly. Crusoe provides them with gifts of cattle, supplies, and even women. The colony has survived a cannibal invasion and is now prospering.
The last chapters force us to reevaluate the escape from the island of which Crusoe has spent decades dreaming. It is ironic that he has yearned, plotted, and labored to get off the island, but when he finally does, the return home seems curiously unsatisfying. We might imagine that Europe feels safe and comfortable to him after his ordeal, but the opposite is true: in Spain, Crusoe faces inclement weather, a bear, and 300 ravenous wolves. His island with its bower seems positively luxurious by comparison. Nor does Europe offer Crusoe the human society he has craved as a castaway. The widow and the Portuguese captain are kind, but we feel they do not offer him the love and intense affection Friday shows him. When Crusoe gets married in England, he seems indifferent to his wife, whose name he does not even bother to tell us. In short, with “no family” and “not many relations,” and with little interest in forging new relationships, Crusoe appears almost as isolated in England as he does on his island. Defoe thus invites us to wonder whether Crusoe would have been happier if he had remained in his little kingdom forever and makes us question the value of the return to civilization that Crusoe thinks he desires.
The religious dimension of Crusoe’s ordeal reaches its climax in his final salvation and reward. Crusoe so easily reclaims his earlier fortune—and, indeed, finds it so immensely multiplied—that the restoration of his possessions seems more like a miraculous windfall—manna from heaven—than mere good luck. We sense that Crusoe imagines God to be rewarding him for his devout patience, especially when he explicitly compares himself to Job: “I might well say now, indeed, that the latter end of Job was better than the beginning.” For Crusoe, the shipwreck, the decades of isolation, and the final rescue have not been merely events in a long adventure story, as children read it today, but elements in a religious or moral tale of instruction. Specifically, it is a Protestant tale, with its emphasis on the virtues of independence, self-examination, and hard work. Crusoe underscores this Protestant aspect by mentioning twice that he does not go to Brazil because he would have to convert and live as a Catholic there. Implicitly, Crusoe makes his survival into proof of God’s approval of his particular faith.
Crusoe’s story is often read in modern times as an allegory of colonialism, and there is much in the last chapters to defend this view. Friday’s subjugation to Crusoe reflects colonial race relations, especially in Crusoe’s unquestioning belief that he is helping Friday by making him a servant. Moreover, colonial terminology appears. When dealing with the hostile mutineers, Crusoe and the captain intimidate them by referring to a fictional “governor” of the island who will punish them severely. This fiction of a governor foreshadows the very real governor who will no doubt be installed on the island eventually, since Crusoe has apparently claimed the territory for England. The prosperity of the island after Crusoe leaves it is emphasized in the last chapter: it is no longer a wasteland, as when he first arrives, but a thriving community with women and children. This notion of triumphantly bringing the blessings of civilization to a desolate and undeveloped locale was a common theme of European colonial thought. Indeed, Crusoe explicitly refers to this community as “my new colony in the island,” which makes us wonder whether he really considers it his own, and whether it is officially a colony or merely figuratively so. In any case, Crusoe has turned his story of one man’s survival into a political tale replete with its own ideas about imperialism.