Artboard Created with Sketch. Close Search Dialog
! Error Created with Sketch.

Robinson Crusoe

Summary

Chapters XXIV–XXVII

Summary Chapters XXIV–XXVII

As the bond between Crusoe and Friday becomes stronger, the similarities between the two men’s cultures gain more importance than their differences. Crusoe is struck by the ease with which Friday learns about the Christian God, finding a close resemblance with the native’s own deity Benamuckee. Friday is less able to understand the devil, but it is soon revealed that Crusoe does not understand him perfectly either, when Crusoe admits that he has more “sincerity than knowledge” in the subject of religious instruction. Crusoe first believes the savages to be wicked, but we soon learn that the cannibals have shown an almost Christian charity in saving seventeen European men from the shipwreck. Moreover, Chapter XXVII, with its mutiny and scheduled execution, reminds us that Europeans kill their own kind too, just like Friday’s people. The coincidental numerical equivalence between the eleven savages arriving in Crusoe’s dream in Chapter XXII and the eleven Europeans now arriving after the mutiny is Defoe’s method of emphasizing the similarities between natives and Europeans. Both groups can be violent and murderous, yet both groups can also produce individuals—like Crusoe and Friday—who are kind and good. Generalizing them into the good and the bad, or the civilized and the wild, proves impossible.

Crusoe’s story, which has until now been mainly about his own individual survival, takes on a strong political and national dimension when Crusoe wonders whether he can trust the other sixteen Spaniards—who are, historically, often enemies of the British—as his comrades-in-arms against the cannibals. Ironically, it turns out that he can trust these foreigners much more than he can his own countrymen, the eight English mutineers he encounters later. Furthermore, the two non-European cannibal “nations,” as Friday terms them, enlarge this national dimension. Friday explains that the cannibals do not eat each other randomly, but that each nation eats only its enemy. Therefore, those cannibalistic actions that seem steeped in savagery are in fact governed by political motives. In Chapter XXV, Crusoe is reluctant to kill the cannibals until he reasons that Friday is in a state of war, thus making murder permissible. This nationalist thinking permeates Crusoe’s language too. As usual, our hero’s vocabulary reveals much about how he imagines his role on the island, and he starts to describe himself as “generalissimo” of an “army,” with Friday as his “lieutenant-general.” No longer a mere castaway, Crusoe now openly refers to himself as a national leader of military forces. When he refers to his two new guests on the island as his “subjects,” we sense how deeply ingrained his imagined national role as king of the island has become.