Daniel Defoe was born in London in 1660. He was educated at a school of Dissenters, puritans. Around 1700 he turned to journalism and became interested in politics, writing pamphlets and essays. He founded his own journal, “the review”. In 1719 he turned to prose and published the novel which made him famous: “Robinson Crusoe”.
This novel is the first modern novel in which Defoe tried to make the story realistic with details, settings and characters. In this novel he tells the story of a man’s shipwreck on a desert island and his adventures.
Plot: Robinson is a young man living in England who had always the dream to go to sea. Instead his father didn’t want it, he sails away. He landed in Brazil, where he became rich with a plantation, so he began a business in the slave trade. During his travel to Africa, he shipwrecked and reached an island where he lived for 28 years. In the second part of the novel it is described his life alone on the island, in form of a journal, and then his life after he met the native Friday. In the last part Robinson and Friday are taken to England and there Robinson saw that his plantation have done well, so he became richer. He married, but after many years he decided to go back to sea.
Main theme: the main theme of this novel are the self-made man and the middle class.
Character: Robinson is seen as a legendary figure because when he finds himself alone on an island, he didn’t lose heart and tried to organize his daily life with hard work and determination. He battled to survive and won.
He is a flat character, which remains static during the course of the narration.
Narrator: The narrator is a first person narrator (who tells the story is someone who takes part of it)
Colonization: Robinson behaves as a colonist even with the native Friday. He imposes his own language and religion not considering the diversity between his and the native culture.
Middle class: In this novel, Defoe expresses the economic and political aspiration of the middle class, who were active and industrious, with the figure of Robinson. Even if he had a safe and secure life in England, he decided to leave, in order to improve his financial situation. On the island, he manages to recreate a social structure similar to the left one and the island became a property to which Friday took part.
Success of the novel: This novel had a great success because it is an adventure story, which satisfied the tastes of the middle class. It was simple, clear and easy to read, also because it was written in form of a diary, in a chronological order, and because Robinson was a character, the reader could identify themselves with.