Monday, September 5, 2011

Robinson Crusoe Blog Post by Hannah Keller

Returning to the theme of religion in Robinson Crusoe, we see a great deal of disparity in this middle portion of the novel; that is, Crusoe's mention of religion is sporadic.

On one hand, Crusoe dedicates time (and Defoe dedicates pages) to observance of the Sabbath, mention of Providence, education of Friday, etc. On the other hand, Crusoe credits much of his fortune and ability to master his surroundings to his own intellect or craftiness.

What do you think about this? Is his reverence of God circumstantial or does this merely reflect the nature of man (or on a narrower scope, the nature of Crusoe) to bolster his own pride or self-worth?

Continuing on the subject of the nature of man, and on a mildly unrelated note (so in my mind, a response to this post does not need to address both sets of questions, unless you can!), I found one particular passage very thought provoking. On page 102, we see Crusoe state that he was "removed from all the wickedness of the world here". Essentially, he believes himself better, purer, etc. To what extent is this true? Can being deserted on an island really "cure" an impious soul, and is Robinson Crusoe even any less "wicked" than before?


  1. I don't think Crusoe can be judged as any more or less faithful to God than any other human being based on his struggle to believe in miracles or grand acts of God after the fact. While it's true that he seems to only rely fully on God when he has no other hope, and that he is quick to take the credit for the seemingly unexplainable as soon as an explanation allows him to overlook God, I don't think that means his faith is *only* circumstantial or based on some sort of psychological need.
    One of the passages we discussed in class, about corn growing on the island, is a key example of Crusoe's struggle to rely entirely on God; he says that the appearance of corn "began to affect me with seriousness, as long as I thought it had something miraculous in it," but as soon as he found a reason for its growth, "all the impression which was raised from it were off also" (82 - my pages may be different because I have a different book). However condemning this kind of behavior or thought process may seem, the struggle over who should get the credit, God or man, has been going on forever. Faith is not something that comes natural to humans, and believing that God provides is much more difficult than believing seeds were scattered the wind and just happened to get what they needed to grow.
    The Old Testament, which Defoe presumably would have been familiar with, focuses on the infidelity of Israel, who, time and time again, despite obvious acts of God, continued to turn away, worship idols, and take the credit for themselves. In my opinion, Crusoe exemplifies this ubiquitous pitfall of mankind: pride. Now, I don't mean to excuse this behavior, because the bible also makes it clear - it's sinful - but it's nothing new and it certainly is not, in and of itself, evidence of a disingenuous faith. Rather, the behavior of the Israelites, which, like the behavior of Crusoe, is easy to judge now as ridiculous, wishy-washy, and hypocritical, is proof of why humans are in need of the grace provided in Christ. Crusoe's behavior, and the fact that it's so obviously out of line with the belief system he professes even to those who may not be as familiar with Christianity, speaks to the universal nature of the struggle between faith and knowledge.
    I also think that when considering Crusoe and/or Defoe, it is important to keep the wide acceptance of Christianity in mind, which is why I brought up the ancient Israelites. When considered from a Christian perspective, I believe Crusoe's story moves from one of condemnation and hypocrisy to one that testifies to the difficulty of believing even when it's easier not to, and the equally difficult call to give God, rather than yourself, the credit and the glory.

  2. I think that Crusoe's religion does appear to be circumstantial, however, we must remember that, as far as we know, he wasn't a devoted Christian before his isolation on the island. For many people, religion does not become a priority until they have overcome or experienced something traumatic ( a death in the family, depression, etc.). That being said, he cannot just wake up one day and decide that he is a devoted follower of Christianity. I think what we see is the process of Crusoe become a Christian; it includes much ambiguity and undecidedness. With each event, Crusoe is realizing God's role in his life. "Nature of Man" can mean many things, as well. In nature, all people are considered sinful but the nature of man does not mean that Crusoe's beliefs are entirely self-serving. In the passage on page 102 that you referenced, I do think that Crusoe being "removed from all wickedness" is related to and paralleled with his newfound beliefs. I think that he is referring to his new beliefs; beliefs that he was not able to acknowledge or obtain in normal society.

  3. Although I feel Robinson is not as devoted to his religion as his parents, he still is religious being. If a miracle were to happen and the individual did not attribute that of being God's working, then that person would be qualified as "not religious". Oppositely, Robinson DID attribute to the appearance of goats, one of the most crucial miracles to the Lord. I feel he struggles with a complete view of acceptance towards God and religion, but he is trying. By thanking God for things that have saved him is one example. The other example of Robinson trying to become more faithful to his religion is his interaction with Friday. He teaches his new "slave/friend" that cannibalism is not the right answer and wants to make him into a civil human being. His first step was trying to teach Friday about God. Robinson's reference of God is circumstantial, however I feel that as the novel progresses Robinson is gradually trying to become more religious and profound. His lack of knowledge when it comes to religion could be a reason for his somewhat doubting view. When teaching Friday about religion and he asks about the devil, Robinson is dumbfounded. "I was strangely surpris'd at his question, and after all, tho' I was now an old man, yet I was but a young doctor, and ill enough qualify'd for a casuist, or a solver of difficulties: And at first I could not tell what to say, so I pretended not to hear him, and as'd what he said?"(172). Perhaps, Robinson's lack of knowledge is what is keeping his view of God circumstantial.

  4. I agree with Dayna in that it seems that his religion is circumstantial, but we have to note that he was not a devout Christian before coming to the island. I think from the trials and tribulations that he experienced both getting to the island and on the island, that he found a relationship with God. Most of the things that happened to him I don't think could be attributed to luck, and Crusoe knew that. His faithfulness that he had and grew into on the island, I believe helped him continue the way he was living and end in his final leaving.

    In the end of the book, we saw that after Crusoe leaves the island, the Spaniards and other individuals still there experienced much worse events in only a few years than Crusoe did in his entire stay. Granted a lot of the struggles were between people on the island, but they experienced problems nonetheless with crops and such.

    I think where his devotion to God becomes fishy is near the end of the book after leaving the island. He goes from a devout Christian, at least in his writings, to what seems, almost back to his old self, which brings us back to the whole "I'll never do it again" mentality.

    In response to the quote, I think his removal from wickedness has something to do with his being alone on the island. No longer does he have anything to tempt him or have him lust over. He has nothing but the things he saved from the ship, a dog and some goats. I think it was more the temptations were removed moreso than a deserted island curing his wickedness.

  5. I feel like his relationship with God is circumstantial but not totally ungenuine. I also think it is human nature to like the gifts more than the giver. So after he receives something, he is on to get the next. I like to believe that Crusoe's faith in God is genuine and not just a mere crutch to get him through the years of isolation. And he is usually very penitent over his sins. He doesn't have much "relational" sins at this point. But I guess sin just comes from the heart. And I think who we are when no one is looking is really the true us. And when he's isolated on the island, the only eyes that are on Him, is God's. So for Crusoe to keep acknowledging God's presence shows that he lived his life on the island with some conscience. (Sorry, this is so much rambling... so tired.)