Daniel Defoe and "Robinson Crusoe"

Daniel Defoe, the founder of the early bourgeois realistic novel, was first and foremost a journalist, and in many ways, the father of modern English periodicals. "The Review" which he founded in 1704 and conducted until 1713, is regarded as the first English newspaper. It paved the way for the magazines "The Tatler" and "The Spectator".
Daniel Defoe was born in London in a family of nonconformists (Dissenters) - those who refused to accept of an established national Church, especially those Protestants who dissented from the Church of England. His father, a butcher, was wealthy enough to give his son a good education. Daniel was to become a priest in the Nonconformist Church, but when his training was completed, he decided to engage in business as a hosier. It was his cherished desire to become wealthy, but his wish was never fulfilled. Defoe went bankrupt several times. He was always deep in debt. "Thirty times I was rich and poor", he used to say. The only branch of business in which he proved successful was journalism and literature. When Defoe was twenty-three, he started writing pamphlets on questions of the hour. When the Protestant king, William III, was placed on the throne (1689), Defoe started writing pamphlets praising his policy. Due to the fact that William III was supported by the Whig party, he was continually attacked by the Tories.
During the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714), persecution of the Dissenters began again, as in the reign of James II Defoe wrote a pamphlet in defense of the Dissenters, in which he attacked the Tories and the established Church. The author was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment, and in order to disgrace him, the Tories subjected him to a cruel punishment: he had to stand in pillory in a public square with his hands and head in stocks People gathered round him and cheered him while he stood there, women threw flowers to him, and when the time came for him to be set free, people carried him from the square on their shoulders This was the climax of his political career and the end of it.
Later, he became editor of the magazine which supported his former enemies, the Tories. Defoe, like many other journalists of the day, served the Tories as well as the Whigs. This should not be accepted as a change of principle: though party strife was very bitter, there were no serious contradictions between the two parties at that time. After Queen Anne's death, when the Whigs came to power, Defoe began to serve them again.
In 1719, he tried his hand at another kind of literature - fiction, and wrote the novel which brought him world-wide fame -'The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe". After the book had been published, Defoe became famous and rich and was able to pay his creditors in full. Now he wrote for four public magazines and received a regular sum of money from the government.
Besides "Robinson Crusoe", Daniel Defoe wrote some more novels which were popular during his lifetime, but we do not hear much about them now. They are: "The Life of Captain Singleton" (1720),"The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders" (1721), "The History of Colonel Jack"(1722), "A History of the Lady Roxana" (1724).
In 1729, while at work on a book "The Complete English Gentleman", Defoe fell ill and in two years' time he died.
"Robinson Crusoe"
Books about voyages and new discoveries were extremely popular in the 1st quarter of the 18th century. A true story that was described in one of the magazines attracted Defoe's attention. It was about Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor, who had quarrelled with his captain and was put ashore on a desert island near South America where he lived quite alone for four years and four months. In 1709 he was picked up by a passing vessel. Selkirk's story interested Defoe so much that he decided to use H for a book However, he made his hero, Robinson Crusoe, spend twenty-six years on a desert island.
At the beginning of the story the hero is an inexperienced youth, a rather light-minded boy, who develops into a strong-willed man, able to withstand all the hardships. Being cast ashore on a desert island after the shipwreck, alone and defenseless, Crusoe tried to be reasonable. He knows that he must not give way to self-pity and fear or to lose himself in mourning for his lost companions.
Robinson Crusoe's most characteristic trait is his optimism. His guiding principle in life is “never say die” and "in trouble to be troubled is to have your trouble doubled”. Sometimes of course, especial\y during earthquakes or when he is ill, panic and anxiety overtake him, but never for long. He has confidence in himself and in man, and believes that it is in the power of man to overcome all difficulties and hardships. Another of Crusoe's good qualities which saves him from, despair is hit ability to put his whole heart into everything he does. He is an enthusiastic worker and always hopes for the best.
As soon as he gets a pen and ink he begins to keep a journal. It is also Robinson Crusoe is typically bourgeois. He is very practical. The beauty of the island has no appeal to him. He does not care for scenery. He regards the island as his personal property. He is proud to be master of it, and is pleased at the thought that everything belongs to him.
Negro slavery seems natural to Crusoe. He considers his race to be superior to all other races. As soon as a man appears on the island, Crusoe makes him his slave. "Master" is the first word he teaches Friday to say.
Crusoe is full of religious superstitions. He is terrified at the thought that a terrible dream may come true. He believes in God and in the hand of Providence. In desperate moments he turns to God for help.
The other central character of the book is the man Friday. Defoe makes the reader sympathize with Friday. He is intelligent, brave, generous and skilful. He performs all the tasks well. Crusoe teaches him to speak English and is astonished how quickly the man begins to understand the language. The savage is portrayed as a kind-hearted human being.
The novel "Robinson Crusoe" is a glorification of energy and practicism yet these qualities are exaggerated when concentrated in one man. Individualism is characteristic of Defoe. According to the author, man can live with no other humans, no other hands to help him however, Crusoe succeeds in making things using the tools he has found on the ship, tools made by many other people. Besides, he inherited the experience of many generations who had lived on the earth before him.
The novel stirs the imagination of people of all ages and all times. The task is a glorification of human labour, a triumph of man over nature. It is not only a work of fiction, a book of adventures, biography; it is a study of man in relation to labour, to nature, to private property.
Defoe was a true writer of the Enlightenment. He introduced the common man as the key-character of his novel. Defoe used the manner of speech of the common people to whom he addressed himself.
The story is told in the first person, much attention is paid to concrete details. This produces the
impression that the author himself lived through all the adventure described by him.

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