Reading Challenge, book 5, a classic: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe
Like nearly all young people, Robinson Crusoe decides to rebel against the wishes of his parents. They want him to settle into a nice, comfortable, middle class position in life and instead, he throws it away for adventures on the high seas. Unluckily for him, he sucks at being a sailor. It turns out that he has some seriously bad juju on ships and every vessel he embarks upon sinks. You would think a sensible person would give up and pack it in once the first boat you ever travelled on sank, but again, like most stubborn youths, Crusoe keeps pushing his luck and ends up stranded on a tropical island. Momma told you! He’s even captured by Pirates after another ship sinks and he is sold into slavery, but manages to escape to a deserted tropical island.
This is where the narrative picks up. It turns out we are reading Crusoe’s diary as he recounts the circumstances that brought him to the island and his struggles to make a life out of almost nothing once he arrives. Other than a few items he manages to plunder from the remnants of his washed up ship, Crusoe must revert back to nature and find new survival tools contrary to his gentrified former lifestyle. As a modern reader, I find it amazing how quickly he adapts. Most likely this is because I operate in a world where I can YouTube how to do literally anything (so why learn?) and I am so dependent upon technology that I wouldn’t have a clue how to do anything necessary to survive on a desolated island. If anything, this was my biggest takeaway from the novel–the more far removed humanity becomes as we increase our technology, and how scary that really is.
Poor Crusoe is stranded for 28 years on this uninhabited island, but somehow he manages to remain curiously upbeat and committed to what he would call his civilized Christian morality and behavior. Despite the opportunity to feel forsaken by his God for the situation in which he finds himself, Crusoe instead thanks God for the small things–giving him a warm climate which is easier to survive in, several items from his ship that make eking out his existence slightly less toilsome, etc. He continues to read his Bible and attempts to keep the Sabbath holy (with some mixed success). This is the part where modern readers balk as he so casually dabbles in slavery and subjugation of native peoples, yet he portrays himself as a highly moral individual. It seems hard to reconcile this unless you read the text through the lens of its historical framework, in which case you can concede that Crusoe’s actions would be justified by the social mores of his time (but still, it rubs us as modern readers, particularly the hypocrisy of it).
If you’ve ever seen the movie Castaway, this is a lot like that, except he talks WAY more about way less interesting topics. I would definitely recommend this as a must read since it is so influential on literature and film, but it was definitely not the most interesting or favorite of reads.