Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)
English novelist, pamphleteer and journalist, Daniel Defoe is considered the founder of the English novel. He was born in London in 1660 and he mainly wrote for the middle classes (traders, merchants, artisans). Although his father wanted him to become a minister, Defoe worked in trade: he became a merchant and he travelled around Europe. In the meantime he also became interested in politics. Because of his irony towards Anglicans, Defoe was arrested in 1703, but was released in return for services as a pamphleteer and intelligence agent to the Tory party. His most remarkable achievement in journalism is the periodical The Review, a precursor to the modern newspaper. Defoe didn’t start writing prose fiction until 1719, when he published The life and strange adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner, which was based partly on the memories of voyagers and castaways and which brought him fame. Defoe died in 1731, at the age of 71.
Robinson Crusoe (novel)
Robinson Crusoe is probably the most famous adventure story in English literature. It tells about a plantation owner, who travels from Brazil to Africa with other plantation owners to procure slaves to work for them. On this journey he is shipwrecked off a desert island; he’s the only survivor and remains there until he’s released 28 days later.
Robinson Crusoe is divided in three parts. In the first part we are told something about Crusoe’s life. The second part of the book it’s in the form of a journal in which Crusoe writes about life on the island and how he uses his skills to overcome the difficulties of his situation. In this part of the book Crusoe encounters a savage whom he calls Friday and whom he resolves to convert to Christianity. He teaches him something about language and culture, and how to use a gun to hunt and defend himself from attacks. The final part of the book tells of Crusoe’s rescue. He return to Brazil with Friday and he finds his plantation flourished and made him rich.
Like Defoe’s other novels, Robinson Crusoe is written in the first person, in the form of an autobiography. The style of the narrative is very matter of fact (realistic): Crusoe gives us no access to his thoughts and he mainly talks about his actions. The story is a sort of diary and there’s no real novelistic plot. The book has been interpreted as a religious allegory.