Monday, September 5, 2011

For Credit: The Crusoe Doctrine

As soon as Defoe discovers that other people--cannibals!--have been coming to "his" island, he begins to consider how he ought to deal with them.  He flip-flops on the issue several times.  Identify one of the turns his thinking takes, cite the text in which it appears, and offer some reflections about (a) the reasons for his changing reflections OR (b) how this moment fits into the overall narrative arc or moral import of the novel.

Deadline: Thursday (9/8), start of class.


  1. "When I had consider'd this a little, it follow'd necessarily, that I was certainly in the wrong in it, that these people were not murtherers in the sense that I had before condemned them, in my thoughts; any more than those Christians were murtherers, who often put to death the prisoners taken in battle; or more frequently, upon many occasions, put whole troops of men to the sword, without giving quarter, though they threw down their arms and submitted." (136)

    "... and I gave my most humble thanks on my knees to God, that had thus delivered me from blood-guiltiness; beseeching him to grant me the protection of his Providence, that I might not fall..." (137)

    He hid from the cannibals for two years and as he lives in fear and caution Crusoe later begins to be less terrified of them. He starts to think differently about the cannibals, deeming that their cannibalistic rituals are "national" and that he needs to leave justice up to God. Going back to the Preface of the book, where it says "The story... with a religious application of events to the uses to which wise men... justify and honour the wisdom of Providence in all the variety of our circumstances, let them happen how they will" shows that this incident is one of those circumstances where Crusoe had to think about his moral decisions in relation to God. He has been isolated for so many years and it's easy for him to lose sight of what is "moral" and "immoral" but because he's been carrying on a relationship with God in his solitude, no matter how fickle, it still keeps him thinking about what is right and wrong. He thanks God for sparing him the "blood guilt" and such, and this shows that he tries hard to keep his moral compass in check. Providence seems to draw him back to his senses where he is able to relax a bit and not be in fear.

  2. "but it occurr'd to my thoughts, What call? What occasion? much less, What necessity I was in to go and dip my hands in blood, to attack people, who had neither done, or intended me any wrong? Who, as to me, were innocent, and whose barbarous customs were their own disaster, being in them a token indeed of God's having left them, with the other nations of that part of the world, to such stupidity and to such inhuman courses; but did not call me to take upon me to be a judge of their actions, much less an executioner of his justice; that whenever he thought it fit, he would take the cause into his own hands, and by national vengeance punish them as a people for national crimes; but in the meantime, it was none of my business..." (183)

    At this point, Crusoe has decided to let God direct his actions with the cannibals. I think that this passage is a good example of Crusoe's overall sense of morality. Because he has been able to conceal himself from the cannibals successfully for two years (except when he saved Friday), Crusoe seems to struggle with what actions God wants him to take; does he remain hidden as he has before, or does God want him to attack the 'savages?' I think this is a good example of how Crusoe waits for 'signs' from God to carry out the course of action that he thinks will benefit him the most.

  3. I was going to point out the passage that Krista used from page 183. In my opinion, rather than letting God guide his actions, Crusoe takes judgment into his own hands. I know that he says his intentions are to only place himself near them, but this is a dangerous place to be. One does not search out people in the wild (especially cannibals) to just stay close to them if they can be considered a threat. I believe a quote from the beginning of page 184 shows Crusoe's intentions better than the previous passage:

    "he told me it was not one of their nation; but one of the bearded men, who he had told me of, that came to their country in the boat: I was filled with horror at the very naming the white-bearded man, and going to the tree, I saw plainly, by my glass, a white man who lay upon the beach of the sea, with his hands and his feet ty'd with flags, or things like rushes; and that he was an European, and had clothes on."

    This passage shows me that Crusoe acted out of fear - rather than let God decide what would happen of the cannibals. So, while he tries to hide behind God's will, Crusoe decides that he (as a civilized European) is the higher power who can decide the fate of human beings based on his own knowledge of good and evil.