Robinson Crusoe

Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an uninhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates

author  Daniel Defoe

type of work  Novel

genre  Adventure story; novel of isolation

language  English

time and place written  1719; London, England

date of first publication  1719

publisher  William Taylor

narrator  Robinson Crusoe is both the narrator and main character of the tale.

point of view  Crusoe narrates in both the first and third person, presenting what he observes. Crusoe occasionally describes his feelings, but only when they are overwhelming. Usually he favors a more factual narrative style focused on actions and events.

tone  Crusoe’s tone is mostly detached, meticulous, and objective. He displays little rhetorical grandeur and few poetic or colorful turns of phrase. He generally avoids dramatic storytelling, preferring an inventorylike approach to the facts as they unfold. He very rarely registers his own feelings, or those of other characters, and only does so when those feelings affect a situation directly, such as when he describes the mutineers as tired and confused, indicating that their fatigue allows them to be defeated.

tense  Past

setting (time)  From 1659 to 1694

setting (place)  York, England; then London; then Sallee, North Africa; then Brazil; then a deserted island off Trinidad; then England; then Lisbon; then overland from Spain toward England; then England; and finally the island again

protagonist  Robinson Crusoe

major conflict  Shipwrecked alone, Crusoe struggles against hardship, privation, loneliness, and cannibals in his attempt to survive on a deserted island.

rising action  Crusoe disobeys his father and goes out to sea. Crusoe has a profitable first merchant voyage, has fantasies of success in Brazil, and prepares for a slave-gathering expedition.

climax  Crusoe becomes shipwrecked on an island near Trinidad, forcing him to fend for himself and his basic needs.

falling action  Crusoe constructs a shelter, secures a food supply, and accepts his stay on the island as the work of Providence.

themes  The ambivalence of mastery; the necessity of repentance; the importance of self-awareness

motifs  Counting and measuring; eating; ordeals at sea

symbols  The footprint; the cross; Crusoe’s bower

foreshadowing  Crusoe suffers a storm at sea near Yarmouth, foreshadowing his shipwreck years later. Crusoe dreams of cannibals arriving, and later they come to kill Friday. Crusoe invents the idea of a governor of the island to intimidate the mutineers, foreshadowing the actual governor’s later arrival.