Robinson Crusoe Summary and Analysis
by Daniel Defoe
Part 5 Summary:
Robinson is growing curious about the land on the other side of the island. He believes from there he might spot a mainland and obtain escape. Yet he does not think about falling into the hands of savages. The narrator wishes for Xury and the boat they sailed. He resolves to try and repair the wrecked ship's boat, but it sinks repeatedly. He then decides to build his own boat. Crusoe is unsure as to how he will get the boat off land, but decides to worry about this later. In retrospect this is referred to as "preposterous method" of work. The boat is well-made, but Robinson is unable to get it to the water due to its weight. The only way is to build a canal to the ocean, which will take a long while. The fourth anniversary comes, and Crusoe observes it with respect, marveling that there is no wickedness here. Ironically, all the money he has is worthless--he longs for a tobacco pipe or a handmill. He reflects upon the goodness of Providence, and spends much time remembering important dates in his life.
Robinson's clothes have begun to wither. He manages to use the skins of creatures he has killed to make a "sorry shift." The skins keep him very dry in the rain, so he decides to make an umbrella. He also makes another boat, small enough that he can get it to the water. In the sixth year of his "reign or captivity," he sets out on a voyage around the island. The current is strong and sweeps him away from the island. Crusoe begins to fear that he will not be able to return. Gradually the wind changes, and the narrator immediately goes back to shore, drops to his knees, and thanks God. He is able to reach his country house by nightfall. He is terribly frightened to hear a voice calling his name, asking where he is, until he sees it is the parrot Poll. For the next year Robinson lives a quiet, sedate life. He perfects his carpentry skills and is able to make a wheel tool to aid in his building. His powder supply is decreasing, so he begins to set traps to catch the goats and have his own flock. Eleven years have past. The goats provide him with milk, from which the narrator is able to make butter and cheese. He now dines like a "king among his subjects." Still the narrator longs to sail around the island, but he is afraid of being swept away. Thus he decides to have a boat on either side of the island. One day going to visit his boat, he spies a man's footprint near it. Robinson is thunderstruck with fear: it must be a savage from nearby lands. He wonders if there are on the island, if it is the mark of the devil. His religious hope is abating. But the narrator resolves to let God decide--if he is not to be delivered from the evil, so be it.
Part 5 Analysis:
One step up and two steps back. We see immediately that Robinson has come to appreciate the truly simple things in life when he directly states that money is of no use to him; that he would rather have a pipe. He is conservative with his gun powder, so he takes to building up a flock of goats. Crusoe is now a farmer in all respects. He is no longer daunted by a lack of goods. What he does not have, he can make. Certainly his attitude is admirable. This might appear to be a complete renunciation of worldliness, but it is not so. The narrator always views himself in a worldly manner. After he has inhabited the island for a number of years, he begins to talk about his "reign," "sovereignty over the isle." The diction indicates a type of delusional regression--Robinson is not trying to recreate his former world, but a world that never existed, in which he is no longer middle-class but a powerful ruler. It is important to note that Defoe uses governing words that connote unrestrained rule, as opposed to words cooperative rule. The narrator basically claims to have bent the primitive surroundings to his will, which is why he deserves the mastery over them. When he eats amongst his many pets, he sees himself as "a king dining amongst subjects." While this is somewhat comical, we realize that this is another psychological survival tactic. It helps Robinson to not feel so alone, and that his existence has at least the purpose of maintaining the animals around him.
These sentiments of confidence, however, are shaken by the voyage mishap around the island. Finally we see the beginnings of fear in Robinson. He persists in trying to make a sea voyage. As his other encounters with the sea demonstrate, this is not a good idea. The sea essentially represents all of the misfortune that is waiting to befall Crusoe. This time, he seems to heed the warning when he draws the boat ashore without having completed a lap of the island. He "thanks God" for another deliverance. The island has truly become his home, and he is very afraid of leaving it and never seeing it again. It is important to consider that the idea of escape is mentioned very briefly here, and without too much enthusiasm. The minute the idea crosses his mind, misfortune almost befalls him. Thus Robinson's devotion to Providence becomes even more strict, and thoughts of escape are firmly banished for the time being. The anniversary of his shipwreck becomes a sort of solemn holiday to honor Providence. Crusoe is learning to accept life as it comes, without trying to interfere and take too much control over his fate. The discovery of a footprint is the strongest test of his fortitude. The simplicity of the language in light of the startling discovery is disconcerting. As soon as there is the possibility of other humans, there is a loss of peace with nature, a loss of faith. This place is no different from the real world that he from which he has enjoyed an escape. The narrator suspiciously watches every step he takes, and runs without reason. His homes are called "castles," sturdy places of protection. We might see this as a subtle comment on the theme of colonization, that humans ruin the natural serenity of uninhabited places. Religiously, Crusoe believes he might be facing the Devil. His unbreakable strength is evident as he says that he will leave the Devil to Providence.
Part 6 Summary:
Robinson begins to think that he might have made the footprint himself; this makes him bolder and he goes out again to milk his goats. But he walks with incredible fear, always looking behind him. He concludes that since he has not seen anyone in fifteen years, the people must come from abroad in boats. He wants to hide himself even more, so he reinforces his walls and plants groves of trees that develop into a forest in six years time. He moves his goats to a more remote location and divides them into two groups. Crusoe makes his way to the shore opposite to the one on which he landed, and finds it littered with human bones. His fear of cannibalistic savages is confirmed. He thanks God that he was not eaten and that he is distinguished from these people whom he sees as abhorrent. Gradually the narrator becomes comfortable again, but he is cautious about firing his gun, and prefers to tend his livestock, so he does not have to hunt. Aside from this, he sets his mind to other tasks, such as learning to make beer.
Crusoe is not fearful but vengeful. He longs for the chance to hurt these savages and save the victims. Several times he imagines the proper mode of ambush and attack. He picks the exact sniper spots. A daily tour commences to look out for approaching ships. He then steps back, however, and wonders if it is his place to engage in violence with people who have not done him any personal harm, and who are most likely killing prisoners of war. Robinson debates with himself and concludes that he should leave them to the justice of God. He continues his secluded life and is once more thankful for his deliverance. Occasionally he is frightened by strange sounds, and he is still cautious. But the narrator tells himself that if he is not fit to face the devil, he could not have lived twenty years alone on the island. Time continues passing. Robinson spends time with his parrot and his various animals. One day, he is stunned to see a fire on his side of the island--the savages are back. He sees they have two canoes from a lookout point, but he does not dare approach them. When the tide returns they leave. Crusoe is horrified at the human remains on the shore. Once again he wants to destroy the savages when they return. When the twenty-fourth anniversary passes, Robinson spies the wreck of a Spanish ship drifting towards the island. His heart is lightened by the thought that there might be a survivor. He hastens to his boat, gathers provisions, and rows out to the wreck. Aside from a yelping dog, he finds no one living. Crusoe takes the dog, along with some liquor, clothing and money, back to the island with him.
Part 6 Analysis:
Crusoe's imagination continues to be overactive. Clearly his faith in Providence only goes so far, because he is not content to merely sit by and let himself be discovered by other humans. The frenzied manner in which he tries to hide himself is somewhat alarming. The reader wonders whether or not our main character is about to lose his mind. However, he proves that he is more or less stable when he continues going about his daily movements on the island, even though he moves very cautiously at all times. When he suspects the presence of others on the island, the narrator speaks of being haunted by an "evil conscience." While Defoe never elaborates on this statement, we can speculate that its meaning is rooted in the fact that if other people are around, Robinson can no longer be entirely self-contained. His actions, behavior, etc. are subject to scrutiny and judgment. This is the most significant way in which his island paradise can be ruined by the presence of other people. The appearance of that footprint is the rock that shatters Crusoe's window of sovereignty. Initially he tries to convince himself that the print belongs to him, but he is forced to admit that his foot does not fit.
The eventual arrival of the "savages," as Crusoe calls them, introduces a savagery into Robinson's own heart, causing a slight break down in his system of religious beliefs. He refers to these people as "wretches" whom he "abhors," and thanks God profusely that he has the fortune to be more educated than these terrible people. Metaphorically the savages are as much a threat to the narrator's spirit as they are to his body. To him they are the Devil incarnate. However, Crusoe starts to become obsessed with wreaking havoc on these people, his own Crusades. They have done him no personal harm, but he wants to make it a personal mission to exterminate them. Again this is part and parcel of creating a world that never existed--Robinson pictures himself as the gallant hero who sweeps in grandly to save the prisoners. He seeks glory for himself, not for God. Although he has mostly convinced himself that he lives a superior life, there is a quiet desperation for human companionship. That is the only explanation for why Crusoe risks himself to go out to the wrecked Spanish ship to look for survivors. Saving prisoners from cannibals would have the same end effect. He is very lonely--Defoe rarely uses quotation marks, but he does around the phrase "Had there been but one!" This is Robinson's refrain when he sees there are no survivors, and we are meant to notice it.
The manner in which he patrols the island and plots ambushes is reminiscent of a wartime general. Clearly there is inner violence that is struggling to come out. The narrator wrestles with his inclinations, trying to tell himself that the savages are best left in God's hands, that he should decide their proper punishment. Yet the moment he sees human remains on the shore, he is so incensed that he vows to wage war upon them. It seems God is no longer capable of handling them. This vow can be analyzed in two directions: as an example of Robinson's terrific devotion to the Christian religion, or as an indication of his extreme pride in himself and his beliefs. Defoe probably intends Robinson's behavior to illustrate both of these. It is evident that the belief in Providence cannot be a passive one. Robinson must be active, at all times.
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- 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
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- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
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