Robinson Crusoe Summary and Analysis
by Daniel Defoe
Part 3 Summary:
After having been there about 12 days, Robinson decides to keep a calendar by marking a large wooden post. He is very happy to have some pen and paper, three Bibles, two cats and a dog, all from the ship. The work upon his home is tedious without proper tools, but he improvises. After all, he has nothing else to occupy his time. To comfort himself the narrator makes a list of pros and cons about his shipwreck. Ultimately he decides to be joyous because God has delivered and provided for him. He is raising a wall around his home. After about a year and a half, he has rafters and a thatched roof. Robinson realizes there is nothing he wants that he can't make: thus he creates entrance and exit to his home, table and chairs that he might truly enjoy writing and reading. The narrator begins a journal, in which he documents his initial misery, and all of his tasks and duties that he performs in acclimating to the island. A scheduled routine forms for his hunting and building. Every animal he kills, he keeps the skins and hangs them as ornaments. Robinson goes about the business of making chests to store his provisions, as well as tools such as a wheelbarrow. The cave/cellar appears to be finished when a quantity of earth falls from the ceiling; Crusoe repairs this. He builds storage shelves to create "order within doors." A more solid fence begins to form around his dwelling. The narrator takes frequent walks and discovers pigeons, a very good meat. The darkness is his greatest annoyance; he decides to make candles from the tallow of slaughtered goats. While emptying sacks from the ship, Robinson shakes out come pieces of corn. After the rains, husks of barley appear. The narrator is astounded and thanks God. He manages to plant some rice as well.
Robinson builds a ladder to the entrance of his home. While in his cave/cellar, an earthquake occurs and much of the walls crumble. He is frightened and prays profusely. It rains violently. He resolves to move his tent a bit to prevent untimely death from other earthquakes. Pieces of the shipwreck wash up on shore. Robinson gathers them to use on his new home. He finds a large tortoise that provides a good meal. Soon he falls ill and has chills for many days. The narrator sleeps restlessly and has nightmares about dark men coming to kill him. He reflects once more on how good God has been to him, and assumes that this sickness is a punishment for not realizing this goodness sooner. He regrets not listening to his father. Robinson prays what he refers to as his "first prayer." He makes a homemade remedy in the form of rum, tobacco and water. When his sickness grows worse he wonders what he has done to deserve this. His conscience answers that he has led a "dreadful misspent life." Robinson takes up reading the Bible. He becomes better.
Part 3 Analysis:
One of the most prominent features in this part is the contradictory sense of Robinson's behavior--civilization meets the wild. Essentially he oscillates between the roles of civilized, middle-class businessman and primitive nature lover. This brings up the theme of isolation: good or bad? Earlier enslavement experiences have not taught Crusoe, so now he is to be enslaved in another way. Defoe means for us to view the island as a completely distinct world, of which Crusoe is the colonizer. In many ways he is stunned initially, having been suddenly thrust into a very unfamiliar situation. Still, he is level-headed and calculating enough to realize that he must ransack the wrecked ship for provisions. This demonstrates his ingenuity. Although he has not seen other signs of life, he immediately sets out to hide himself and all his possessions from plain view. Crusoe has his wits about him and intends to recreate the European world on this island. But he can only do so by embracing the surrounding materials offered by nature: the grass turns into a thatched roof, the mud is sculpted into a cellar, the tree doubles as a house. This mock European world is literally hewn out of the land with bare hands. The civilized and the primitive thus merge symbolically. We have arrived at a new level of detail in the novel, a deeper type of realism. The account of working is an innovation for the time, and the journal is an extension of the realism.
The fact that creating a calendar and keeping a journal are some of the narrator's most notable first tasks demonstrates his desire to replicate the sense of time present in his former world. The idea is somewhat ridiculous when we first examine it. After all, keeping track of time is only necessary when in a world that imposes expectations based on time. Robinson's choice, however, is a choice to stay as close to the civilized world as he possibly can; to remain sane. Defoe plays with the tracking of time. He inserts statements such as "in one and a half years I had a thatched roof." Then he proceeds to "retell" a story that was never exactly told by recounting the details of that time period. This manner of story-telling is useful because it allows the author to be extremely detail-oriented, which maintains a feeling of veracity, while cramming a long period of time into a few pages. It also provides a stream of consciousness tone. With the exception of a loose timeline, there is not much of an order to Robinson's tale. It is interesting to note that there is not much of a difference between the diction of the "journal" section of this part and the rest of the text. If anything, the journal is less reflective than the regular text. We might see the whole novel as a journal, but this is only possible because of the tone.
Crusoe's spoken reason for the calendar is to keep a Sabbath day. We observe here the beginning of Crusoe's struggle to come to terms with his fate. It is a battle that will continue until the end. The list of pros and cons that he draws up indicate his desperate need to believe that Providence has designed his shipwreck for the best. He cannot afford to believe in a concept of bad luck or poor planning on his part. As long as the narrator can place trust implicitly in something more powerful than himself, he will remain optimistic and unafraid. Religion becomes a psychological crutch for him. Therefore he thanks God profusely for his deliverance. When he reads the Bible, he becomes less sick. Christianity is a metaphorical healer of body and spirit. To begin his evolution towards fulfillment, he must begin ill. He seems to identify with his father at these moments.
Part 4 Summary:
It takes some weeks for Robinson to recover his full strength. He marvels at this deliverance from sickness. More serious reading of the Bible commences. The narrator now looks at his past life with complete horror. His thoughts are directed to a "higher nature." The rainy season is dangerous to his health, so he spends little time walking about. Crusoe's habitation is set; he feels that he wants to explore the rest of the island. When the weather improves, he goes about and sees many meadows. He also finds some tobacco growing. In the woods there is fruit growing in great abundance, and a spring of fresh water. Robinson tries to being fruit back, but he is gone so long it spoils. He resolves to try again. Returning to his home, Crusoe finds that some of his grapes have been trod upon. There must be wild creatures thereabouts. He hangs the remaining grapes to dry them into raisins. Robinson loves the wilder part of the island so dearly that he resumes his thoughts of a new habitation, and decides to simply build another one and have two homes: a "sea coast house" and a "country house." He finishes in time for the next rainy season. His cats are breeding with wild cats on the island, so he is forced to kill some of them, that his food supply is not entirely diminished. The year anniversary of his arrival is unhappy. He prays again to God.
He has learned the rainy season from the dry season, and decides to plant crops of rice and corn. The first crop is a good one, so Robinson extends the arable land. He busies himself with the farming and with making finer household items, like baskets. He moves frequently between his two homes. His greatest desire at the moment is for a pipe. On an exceptionally clear day, he spies a line of land, but he cannot be sure where it is. He is sure, however, that the inhabitants are cannibalistic savages. He discovers more animals on his rambles around the island. Many times the narrator sleeps outdoors, in trees to protect himself. When he comes home, however, he is always very happy. He has tamed a parrot and a young goat, who follow him endlessly. The two year anniversary arrives, and it is still solemn, but with much more joy in Robinson's heart. His desires in life are completely altered. He decides he can be more happy in this existence than in his previous one. Scripture reading is done daily and methodically. The narrator finds that his crops are being eaten by birds. He shoots one and uses it successfully as a scarecrow. The next goal is to try and make bread. His parrot Poll now talks.
Robinson makes some very good pots and jars. He then forms a stone mortar to beat the corn into meal, and a sieve to dress it. Over hot embers he bakes the batter and gets corn bread. This new technique leads to an enlargement of the barns, to hold more corn.
Part 4 Analysis:
The isle is a place of reflections, and justification of fate continues. The reader repeatedly observes the narrator marveling at the course of events and attributing all of the goodness to Providence and God. Strangely enough, he fails to notice that much of the wonderment comes about because of his own hard work--figuring out how to make the corn bread is actually a large accomplishment, and a credit to Crusoe's diligence and intelligence. However, this self-deceit acts as another psychological trick. In essence it steers Robinson's perspective from the negative towards the positive. If he can look upon the corn bread as a gift rather than a product of hard labor, he can be more grateful for its existence. Every little amenity that Crusoe finds is treated in this manner. The grapes are "fine," the raisins "rich." They make Robinson feel blessed, and are emblems of a charmed life. We can extend this idea to the narrator's general outlook on his solitary life. Robinson examines his past life and is "absolutely horrified" with himself. The diction is a bit extreme, but illustrates the mindset of our main character. If he can convince himself that he is living a more wholesome life on this island, he can be happier now than he was in his life in his former world. The island is paradoxical, because it simultaneously becomes a haven and a threat. It will overwhelm and conquer Crusoe if he does not make it his paradise. The psychological tricks are survival tactics. We can see that gradually, he is becoming more callused. He kills the cats when they are too numerous, and he no longer give his food a second thought--he eats goats and turtles with relish.
Yet as Robinson speaks of how distinct this new life is from the indulgent one he has left behind, he seems to work awfully hard to recreate the indulgences. The fact that he has two residences is highly comical. Even more so is his manner of classifying them: "country house" and "sea-coast house." Apparently in his mind, the narrator is still the wealthy businessman from Brazil. Whether he lives in a house of cement or mud, he maintains the familiar standard of material excellence. Robinson clearly wants to see himself in the role of master-ruler. He keeps pets to have beings subservient to him. The hard work he puts into raising crops and figuring out weather patterns are a means of creating a more leisurely life down the road. A large portion of his time is spent in exploration of the island. Indeed this is the substitute for the extensive traveling Crusoe would have done on the sea. His excessive ramblings, however, reveal that his wandering spirit has not changed. Crusoe is deeply fascinated with what is wild and untamed. His only real fear is of savages who may or may not be on the island. In spite of that, he seems to enjoy taking risks, sleeping outside in unknown places. Whether this is intelligent or not is really not a matter of concern--the narrator is a living example of the clichÈ "you can't teach an old dog new tricks."
Robinson Crusoe Essays and Related Content
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- Daniel Defoe: Biography
- Robinson Crusoe Summary
- About Robinson Crusoe
- Character List
- Summary and Analysis of Parts 1-2
- Summary and Analysis of Parts 3-4
- Summary and Analysis of Parts 5-6
- Summary and Analysis of Parts 7-8
- Summary and Analysis of Part 9
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources