The following is a brief excerpt from Robinson Crusoe:
In the first place, I was removed from all the wickedness of the world here. I had neither the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life. I had nothing to covet, for I had all that I was now capable of enjoying. I was lord of the whole manor; or if I pleased, I might call myself king or emperor over the whole country which I had possession of. There were no rivals: I had no competitor, none to dispute sovereignty or command with me. I might have raised shiploadings of corn, but I had no use of it; so I let as little grow as I thought enough for my occasion. I had tortoise or turtles enough, but now and then one was as much as I could put to any use. I had timber enough to have built a fleet of ships. I had grapes enough to have made wine, or to have cured into raisins, to have loaded that fleet when they had been built.
But all I could make use of was all that was valuable. I had enough to eat and to supply my wants, and what was all the rest to me? If I killed more flesh than I could eat, dog must eat it, or the vermin. If I sowed more corn than I could eat, it must be spoiled. The trees that I cut down were lying to rot on the ground; I could make no more use of them than for fuel, and that I had no occasion for but to dress my food.
In a word, the nature and experience of things dictated to me, upon just reflection, that all the good things of this world are no farther good for us than they are for our use; and that whatever we may heap up indeed to give to others, we enjoy just as much as we can use, and no more. The most covetous, griping miser in the world would have been cured of the vice of covetousness, if he had been in my case; for I possessed infinitely more than I knew what to do with. I had no room for desire, except it was of things that I had not, and they were but trifles, though indeed of great use to me. I had, as hinted before, a parcel of money, as well gold as silver, about thirty-six pounds sterling. Alas! there the nasty sorry useless stuff lay; I had no manner of business for it; and I often thought with myself, that I would have given a handful of it for a gross of tobacco-pipes, or for a hand-mill to grind my corn; nay, I would have given it all for sixpennyworth of turnip and carrot seed out of England, or for a handful of peas and beans, and a bottle of ink. As it was, I had not the least advantage by it, or benefit from it; but there it lay in the drawer, and grew mouldy with the damp of the cave in the wet season; and if I had had the drawer full of diamonds, it had been the same case, and they had been of no manner of value to me because of no use.
I had now brought my state of life to be much easier in itself than it was at first, and much easier to my mind, as well as to my body. I frequently sat down to eat my meat with thankfulness, and admired the hand of God’s providence, which had thus spread my table in the wilderness. I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed, rather than what I wanted; and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts, that I cannot express them; and which I take notice of here, to put those discontented people in mind of it, who cannot enjoy what God has given them, because they see and covet something that He has not given them. All our discontents about what we want, appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.
- How would you describe Defoe’s literary style?
- In what way is this narrative style typical of the Enlightenment?
- How does Robinson try to reconcile himself with the situation?
- In books during the Enlightenment Era there would often be reflections like this on religion, human nature, and society in general. What are Robinson’s reflections on these issues in this excerpt?
- In what way are Robinson’s thoughts of God typical or the religious view of the period in general?
- Why do you think this kind of desert-island stories appealed to so many at the time?
- This kind of setting still seems to be popular material both for film and TV. Can you think of any examples?
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