Robinson Crusoe Setting Essay

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.

The story begins in mid-17th-century York, with a brief account of Robinson Crusoe’s early years. From there it moves to the Moorish port of Sallee, where Crusoe is imprisoned after his capture by pirates, and then to Brazil, where he sets up as a planter after his escape. From his Brazilian plantation, Crusoe sets out on an African voyage that ends in shipwreck; the sole survivor, Crusoe lives his next 28 years on a deserted island.

Situated off the South American coast, Crusoe’s new home is a small hilly island populated only by wild animals and birds. Crusoe is unfamiliar with most of the terrain’s luxuriant vegetation, but he finds sugar cane and tobacco plants, melon and grape vines, and citrus trees. On a journey to the far side of the island, he sees a nearby land mass that he is unable to identify. In stark contrast to the teeming city where Crusoe was born and raised, the island is an unspoiled paradise, an example of untamed nature.

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