Essay About Robinson Crusoe

Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in the text and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of Robinson Crusoe in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Robinson Crusoe at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Metaphor of Being Shipwrecked

Robinson Crusoe has found himself shipwrecked on an island, a novice sailor who took to the seas in search of adventure. He experiences a complex range of emotions that begin when he lands (a sense of relief), and continue to develop across the course of his colonization of the island that he comes to call his own. Despite the trajectory of emotion that he experiences, Crusoe never matures psychologically. At the end of the novel, he has not exhibited that any greater self-awareness or insight than he had when he started. In this way, Robinson Crusoe is a symbol of the colonizer. Adventuring for his own sense of pleasure and gain, Robinson Crusoe is not interested in using the experience as a means of personal growth.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Journal-Keeping in Robinson Crusoe

The narrator of Defoe’s novel is Robinson Crusoe himself, who introduces his adventures on the island by giving some background information about himself prior to describing the shipwreck. When he has completed this introductory preface, Crusoe presents the reader with his journal, the entries of which constitute the novel’s content. Although, or perhaps because, Crusoe is so alone, he imbues his journal with deep meaning and significance. Robinson Crusoe is painfully self-aware of his journal, which he uses as a listener because he is so desperately in want of companionship.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Robinson Crusoe as an Unlikeable Character

Robinson Crusoe is the narrator of the tale of his own life, but the credibility that may be gained from this position is mitigated by the fact that he is, quite simply, an unlikeable character. Despite the fact that the reader may pity Crusoe and his circumstances, he is so self-involved yet so unaware of himself that it is difficult for the contemporary reader to feel empathy for him. Crusoe is the typical colonizer, exploiting what benefits him and dismissing what does not. An examination of the entire novel reveals very few characteristics that can redeem Crusoe’s character.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: My Man Friday

Robinson Crusoe refers to Friday as “my man," and has a relationship with the African that is quite complicated. The use of the possessive and intimate “my" is problematic, objectifying Friday and making him “the Other." Although Robinson Crusoe believes that he is supporting Friday and helping him become a better man, he is actually just as oppressive as any other colonizer. Friday is not enriched by the “friendship" with Crusoe. IN fact, he is irrevocably damaged by it.

Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: The Adventure Tale

Robinson Crusoe is, above all, an adventure tale. The frame narrative that Robinson Crusoe establishes before he presents his diary sets up the adventure and explains why Crusoe felt compelled to make a life on the high seas, where he had no experience. After Crusoe is finally rescued, he sets off on another adventure, heading to Brazil, where his behavior remains as problematic as it was on the island. The failure of Robinson Crusoe to develop psychologically and to grow as the result of his experiences substantiates that the adventure novel is simply meant to entertain, not to educate.

This list of important quotations from Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Robinson Crusoe listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text by Daniel Dafoe they are referring to.

[My father] bid me observe it, and I should always find, that the calamities of life were shared among the upper and lower part of mankind; but that the middle station had the fewest disasters, and was not expos’d to so many vicissitudes as the higher or lower part of mankind, nay they were not subjected to so many distempers and uneasinesses either of body or mind, as those were who, by vicious living, luxury, and extravagancies on the one hand, or by hard labour, want of necessaries, and mean of insufficient diet on the other hand, bring distempers upon themselves by the natural consequences of their way of living…." (6)

“All this while the storm encreas’d, and the sea, which I had never been upon before, went very high, tho’ nothing like what I have seen many times since.… I expected every wave would have swallowed us up…and in this agony of mind I made many vows and resolutions…." (9)

“I was now landed, and safe on shore, and began to look up and thank God that my life was sav’d in a case wherein there was some minutes before scarce any room to hope. I believe it is impossible to express to the life what the extasies and transports of the soul are, when it is so sav’d, as I may say, out of the very grave…." (38)

“After I had solac’d my mind with the comfortable part of my condition, I began to look round me to see what kind of place I was in, and what was next to be done, and I soon found my comforts abate…." (39)

“But having gotten over these things….and having settled my household….I began to keep my journal, of which I shall here give you the copy…." (56)

“Even, when I was afterwards, on due consideration, made sensible of my condition, how I was cast on this dreadful place, out of the reach of human kind, out of all hope of relief, or prospect of redemption, as soon as I saw but a prospect of living, and that I should not starve and perish for hunger, all the sense of my affliction wore off, and I begun to be very easy…." (72)

“I cannot explain, by any possible energy of words, what a strange longing or hankering of desires I felt in my sould….O that there had been but one or two; nay, or but one soul sav’d out of this ship, to have escap’d to me, and to have convers’d with! In all the time of my solitary life, I never felt so earnest, so strong a desire after the society of my fellow-creatures, or so deep a regret at the want of it." (148)

“…I understood that my man Friday had formerly been among the savages…." (169)

“All these things, with some very surprising incidents in some new adventures of my own, for ten years more, I may perhaps give a farther account of hereafter." (241)

“As I have troubled you with none of my sea-journals, so I shall trouble you with none of my land journal: But some adventures that happened to us in this tedious and difficult journey, I must not omit." (227)

Reference: Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. New York: Penguin, 2001.


Type of Work:
Adventure novelSetting
England, various ships at sea, and a small island near Trinidad; seventeenth century

Principal Characters
Robinson Crusoe, an Englishman
Friday, his island companion

Story Overveiw
Young Robinson Crusoe told his parents that he wished more than anything else to go to sea. His father bitterly opposed the idea, and warned his son that “if I did take this foolish step, God would not bless me – and I would have leisure hereafter to reflect upon having neglected his counsel, when there might be none to assist in my recovery.” These words proved prophetic.

The youthful Crusoe set out on his first voyage, with little knowledge about the perils of a sailor’s life. In telling later about the tremendous storm in which his ship was caught, he remarked, “It was my advantage, in one respect, that I did not know what they meant by ‘founder,’ till I inquired.” So ill and afraid was he during this first harrowing crisis, that he vowed never again to leave solid ground if he was blessed enough to escape drowning. But once safe on shore he found his old longing resurfacing, and Robinson took sail aboard another ship Alas, the ill-fated vessel was captured by Turkish pirates. Crusoe managed to avoid capture and made off in a small craft. Together, he and a young companion navigated along the coast of Africa, where they were pursued by both wild beasts and natives. A Portuguese ship finally rescued them and they sailed for Brazil.

In the new land Crusoe established a prosperous sugar plantation. But again a feeling of lonely dissatisfaction overcame him: “I lived just like a man cast away upon some desolate island, that had nobody there but himself.”

Then came an offer from some planters for Crusoe to act as a trader on a slave ship bound for Africa. But this voyage also met disaster: fierce hurricanes wrecked the ship, drowning everyone aboard except Robinson, who was finally tossed up on a desolate beach.A subsequent storm washed the ship’s wreckage close to shore and Crusoe constructed a raft to haul most of its supplies to land, where he stored them in a makeshift tent. After a few days, he climbed a hill and discovered that he was on what he assumed to be an uninhabited island. On his thirteenth day there, still another storm pushed the ship wreck back out to sea, where it sank, leaving him with no reminder of civilization.

Crusoe soon discovered that goats inhabited the island, and began domesticating some of them to provide himself with meat, milk, butter and cheese. Near the entrance of the cave where he stored his provisions taken from the ship, he painstakingly built a well-fortified home. After crafting a table, a chair and some shelves, Crusoe also began keeping a calendar and a journal.

Over the next few months, an earthquake and a hurricane damaged his supply cave, and though he still spent most of his time at his coastal home, in case a ship should happen by, he decided to erect an additional inland shelter.

Later, during a brief but raging fever, the adventurer was confronted by a terrifying apparition, who announced, “Seeing all these things have not brought thee to repentance, now thou shalt die!” Remembering the advice of his father, Crusoe commenced to pray and to read from the Bible. In a strangely inverted search, he began to seek deliverance from his sins rather than from his adverse situation.

In a small valley on the island, Crusoe found an abundance of wild grapes, lemons, limes and other fruits and vegetables. From the grapes he made raisins, which became a favorite staple food. In his wanderings he also caught a parrot, whom he taught to speak. With a few grains of rice and barley from the bottom of one of the ship’s sacks, the sailor planted what would become large fields of grain. For several years he experimented with making bread and weaving baskets.

One of Crusoe’s biggest frustrations was the lack of bottles or jars in which to cook or store food. Over time, he succeeded in making clay containers and even fired some pots that were solid enough to hold liquids. After four years on the island, he was a changed man: “I looked now upon the [civilized] world as a thing remote, which I had nothing to do with, no expectation from, and indeed no desires about.. .”

Crusoe dedicated his entire fifth year as a castaway to building and inventing. He constructed a “summer home” on the far side of the island; he fabricated for himself a suit made from , skins, as well as an umbrella; he fashioned a small canoe in which he traveled around the island. And so the years passed in solitude.

One day, in his fifteenth year on the island, Crusoe spied a human footprint in the sand. When he finally summoned the courage to measure it against his own foot he found the strangeprint to be much larger…… Fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself,” he declared. Still, for safety, he built a second wall around his home and fit it with six muskets.

Once, while exploring, Crusoe came upon a beach spread with human bones. He quickly abandoned the area, and for the next two years lie stayed close to home, never fired a gun, and avoided making fires.

Twenty-four years had passed when one night Crusoc heard gun fire. And in the morning he spied a ship’s hull impaled on the rocks. Then he saw something that sent shivers down his spine – about 30 cannibals on the beach, enjoying a gruesome feast. Robinson shot at them, killing some and driving the others away. He rescued one of their native prisoners and named his new companion Friday, for the day upon which he was delivered. Friday proved to be strong, loyal and intelligent, though Crusoe still had cause to worry – Friday was also a bit cannibalistic. Crusoe began introducing Friday to his mode of living, especially hoping to turn him to Christianity. Friday managed to learn English quite well,

and was pleased to answer his benefactor’s questions concerning the surrounding islands and their inhabitants. Crusoe discovered that his island must be near Trinidad.

One day in the course of their conversation, Friday told Robinson about seventeen white men who were held prisoner on his home island, survivors of a shipwreck. If Crusoe rescued them, they i-night be the key to his return to the civilized world. But before the two men could finish constructing a canoe to reach the captives, another group of cannibals arrived. This time Crusoe and Friday were able to save two of their prisoners from the cooking pot; a Spaniard, and another islander – who turned out to be Friday’s fa ther.

After assuring Crusoe that the other Spanish and Portuguese prisoners would willingly follow the English castaway in an escape attempt, the Spaniard returned to the island with Friday’s father to explain the plan and have the men sign an oath of allegiance.

While they were gone, an English ship anchored near the island and eleven men came ashore, three of them – the ship’s captain, his mate, and a passenger – as prisoners of mutineers. Crusoe and Friday killed the most belligerent of them, and the others turned themselves over to Crusoe, swearing loyalty. With control of the ship, Crusoe prepared to return to England. Some of the mutineers, however, chose to remain on the island rather than return to England and hang.

Though Crusoc hated to leave the island before the return of the Spaniard and Friday’s father, he sailed with the ship and arrived in England on June 11, 1687, thirty-five years after his earlier visit. Finding two sisters and two children of a brother still living, he decided to sail on to Lisbon to learn what had become of his Brazilian plantation. Friday, “in all these ramblings [proved] a most faithful servant oil all occasions.”

Surprisingly, Crusoe’s holdings had been well-managed by his friends – in fact, they had earned him a small fortune. He generously gave portions of his profit to charity as well as to his family and others.

In Lisbon, Crusoe, apprehensive about traveling back to England by sea, organized a party of men to travel overland as far as tile Channel. After many difficult adventures in the Pyrenees, and, as usual, with a great deal of luck, the company reached England.

Finally home, the wanderer married and had two sons and a daughter. But alas, Crusoc’s wife died and he was compelled to join one of his nephews on a voyage to the East Indies. Miraculously, this ship sailed safely. Crusoe revisited his island, where he found that tile Spaniards and the English mutineers had taken native wives. After hearing a full account of what had happened since his departure, he left supplies, furnished the islanders with a carpenter and a smith, and divided the island among them.

The ship then sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and on to China. On an overland trip through Siberia and on back to England, Crusoe had many more encounters. Ultimately, Robinson Crusoe, after a total of 54 years abroad, returned home, an old, weathered man, and lived out his remaining days in peace, never to take to the sea again.

An adventurous tale, The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, as Defoe titled his novel, is especially loved by children, although there is certainly enough to keep an adult entertained as well. Since the story is told in the first person, it is easy to confuse the author with the character of Crusoe, and in fact the novel is based on the real-life adventures of a man named Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor who was marooned for a little over four years on an island called Juan Fernandez. Defoe obviously added a great deal of imagination, adventure and romance to his tale. He also incorporates into his novel many of his own beliefs in divine providence and the importance of faith.

It is evidence of Defoe’s talent and spirit that this book is still, after more than 250 years, popular reading.

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