Robinson Crusoe


Chapters XIII–XVII

Summary Chapters XIII–XVII

Crusoe’s sad lack of human contact in an otherwise satisfied life is first noted toward the beginning of Chapter XVII, when he remarks that “I thought I lived very happily in all things, except that of society.” We can feel how much he misses social relations when he takes the trouble to teach his parrot to talk, though Defoe allows us to imagine how boring their conversations must be, since the parrot can only say Robinson’s name and ask where he has come from. Nevertheless, Crusoe calls the bird his “sociable creature,” and we are made aware of how starved for company our hero actually is. The same desire for affectionate relations explains his fondness for his new pet goat in Chapter XIV, though we wonder how devoted to it Crusoe can be when he forgets about it for a week and nearly starves it to death. Crusoe’s idea of a social gathering presupposes himself at center stage and with the most power, as we see when he describes the dinners he has with his parrot, dog, and cats, where he presides over them all “like a king.” Crusoe’s eagerness to display superior power in social relations foreshadows his later relationship with his servant Friday.

With the passage of many years on the island by the end of these chapters, Crusoe is beginning to accept his island existence as his life. Accordingly, he is beginning to show a desire to integrate past and present into one totality. Thus, for the first time on the island, Crusoe refers to childhood memories in Chapter XIII, when the subject of basket making leads him to recall the basket weavers in his father’s town. He says, “when I was a boy, I used to take great delight in standing at a basket maker’s, in the town where my father lived, to see them make their wickerware.” The young Crusoe used to lend his hand, so that when as a grown man he again makes baskets, his childhood and adulthood fuse for an instant. The same union of past and present is notable in Crusoe’s new interest in his life’s calendar repetitions. When he fixates on the fact that he left his father’s house the same day he entered slavery, or arrived on the island the same day he was born, he shows a desire to integrate earlier and later parts of his life. No longer just missing the past or living in the present moment, he is trying to bring the two together and see his life as a whole.