The main character of this novel is Robinson Kreutznaer, anglicised Crusoe, born in York from a German father and an English mother. At the age of 19 he decides to travel around the world and make fortune, he goes to Guinea and goes back to England, after that he goes to Brazil, where he becomes the owner of a plantation and needing more labour, sets out to go to Africa to get more slaves, but during this journey he is shipwrecked on an island where he will remain for 28 years. There he writes a diary where he records all of his experiences and debates contemporary ideas addressing himself, God and the reader. One day he saves a man from cannibals, and he will
become his slave. The novel ends with Robinson's return to England and discovery that his plantation in Brazil has prospered and made him rich.
The setting of most of the story is the island, which is the ideal place for Robinson to prove his qualities, to demonstrate that he is worthy to be saved by God. Robinson organises a primitive empire there, becoming the prototype of the coloniser, indeed his stay on the island is not seen as a return to nature, but as a chance to exploit and dominate it.
The society he creates on the island is an exaltation of the England of those times, with the middle class's values: mobility, material productiveness and individualism. God was the prime cause, but individuals shape their destiny through their actions.
Robison belongs to the trading middle class, he is restless and wants to find his own identity as an alternative to the model provided by his father. The story begins with an act of transgression which places the character in a situation of isolation on the island, which develops the issue of the relationship between the individual and society.
Robinson has a pragmatic and individualistic outlook, his objective and rational approach to reality is shown through his journal-keeping. He knows he can rely only on himself, he's very self-reliant. Friday is the first native character to be portrayed in the English novel, he is attractive and lively. He's not gloomy or worried about being enslaved. When Robinson rescues him he teaches him the words Master, yes and no, western culture and to read the Bible, so Friday becomes the symbol of the colonised.
The Bible is rescued in the shipwreck, indeed there are always religious references, the hero always reads the Bible to find comfort, but his approach is self interested and utilitaristic. The novel shows an objective approach through clear and precise details, every object is described concentrating on their solidity, extension and number rather than their colour or texture. The language is simple. Matter of fact and concrete, in order to reinforce the impression of reality conveyed by the first person narration.
The characterisation is very low, the characters are flat, indeed Robinson never gave up, he always worked without complaining or crying for what has happened to him, he never mourns his dead friends and this is not credible at all. At the same way Friday is very happy to be enslaved, he's like a pet to Robinson and he's happy to be.