Daniel Defoe was born in 1660 in a family of Dissenters and was educated in the Dissenting Academy of Newington Green. He worked as an apprentice and then on his own but met two bankruptcies which he faced not only with legal actions but was by illicit doings. He started his career as a journalist writing for the Whig papers and his greatest achievement was a periodical, “The Review” which was published every two o three days and dealt with religious and political problems as well as economical interests. It also contained a moralistic and humorous section called “Advice from the Scandalous Club”.
When Queen Anne ascended to the throne, she didn’t appreciate Defoe’s critical attitude and had him arrested. In return to his freedom he denied his Whig’s ideas and became a secret agent for the new government. He started to write novels later in life, when he was already sixty, and in 1719 he published his first: “Robinson Crusoe”, the story of a restless man in search of his identity.
Defoe’s novels were fictional autobiographies full of biographical details and memories provided by main character which had the purpose to making the novel sound real. They were also characterized at the beginning by a preface by the author which also aimed to emphasize the realism of the story. His novels were structured as sequences of episodes that were linked together by the one protagonist. In fact, Defoe almost never revised his work, nor planned it, as his aim was that to publish a large amount of work, thing that he did at exceptional speed. Characteristic of Defoe was the use of retrospective first-person narration and the combination of full scenic presentations with passages of little detail summaries. His protagonists were usually isolated characters struggling for survival who were presented to the reader not from the outside, but from the inside by introspection and through their actions.
Thanks to its originality, Defoe’s novel laid the foundations for the development of the realistic novel.