Aggiornato il: 29 mar 2019
Daniel Defoe relates the tale of an English sailor shipwrecked on a desert island for nearly three decades.
An ordinary man struggling to survive in extraordinary circumstances, the hero, protagonist, wrestles with fate and Nature. The novel is a fictional autobiography of a young man named Robinson Crusoe, who dreams about sailing at sea.
Defying his father’s will, Crusoe sets out on a series of misadventures which are about to change his life. During his journey his ship is attacked by Turkish pirates, who make him a slave. After two years, he eventually escapes and comes ashore on a desert island after a shipwreck.
The rest of the book tells us how Crusoe survives there for 27 seven years. One day he finds human footprints on the shore belonging to native cannibals of the neighbouring isles. He even witnesses human sacrifices, and, one day, he sees a native going to be killed by a group of cannibals. Robinson rescues him and names him ‘Friday’, reminding him of the debt of his life.
Friday learns to speak English and becomes Robinson’s best friend. In the end the protagonist finds a way to escape when a mutinied ship arrives on the island. He helps the captain and the prisoners to retrieve the ship and eventually sets off back to London.
The novel is set in the mid 17th century. Besides colonialism, which is the dominant theme of the book, clear references to Christian religion are present, too, like when Robinson, stranded on the island, desperate, cries out: “Lord, be my help, for I’m in great distress”. Other themes are the conflict between good and evil, the slave trade, the condition of the middle class.
The novel is mainly written in a diary-like form by a first person narrator. Defoe’s storytelling capability is truly outstanding, with an attentive eye even on the minute details of the story. Readers feel excited at experiencing the hero’s emotions.
Robinson Crusoe is an adventure novel, enormously popular particularly among young readers.
The parts of the story dealing with ship wreckage, mutiny, pirates and cannibals fascinate the young as well as the old. The major part of the book shows us how Robinson copes with hardships and overcomes his shortcomings learning to appreciate his new life. The book is a little difficult to read with its weird sentence structure.
What we sometimes call "classics" are nothing more than irrelevant museum pieces. Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" is such a novel. It gives us a very literate, often compelling glimpse into another time and places. Defoe's novel is a nice little journal.
It raises questions about Friday's origins (his family) the meaning of a friendship. Two men from totally different worlds manage to communicate with each other, until they become real friends, thus reaching a high degree of civilization.
By Micaela De Matthaeis, Valentina Villani, Ferdirnando Prencipe, Lorenzo Di Gianfilippo