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Chapter 15

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 15 of Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe.

Robinson Crusoe | Chapter 15 | Summary

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Summary

Robinson Crusoe teaches Friday passable English and instructs him in all the trades he has learned on the island so that Friday can assist him with the chores. This is important because Crusoe now has to produce food for two people instead of just one. He quells Friday's lingering desires for cannibalism by introducing him to goat meat, and Friday swears never to eat human flesh again. Crusoe doesn't give Friday a gun but does supply him with a knife and hatchet for work and defense. He shows Friday how the gun works, because Friday doesn't understand what it is and attempts to worship it.

Crusoe also introduces Friday to Christianity, which Friday accepts readily. They engage in conversations about God and the devil, which causes Crusoe some difficulty because Friday asks difficult questions, including why the all-powerful God doesn't just kill the devil. Crusoe is stumped for a while and finally explains that killing the devil isn't part of God's plan, which is beyond what humans can know.

Crusoe and Friday also share their past histories. Crusoe tells the story of how he ended up on the island and Friday explains how he was captured by a rival tribe and brought here to be killed. Friday says his tribe is very strong and lives on the mainland. He also reveals he has seen a ship like the ones Crusoe describes and says one arrived in his country with 17 white men who were allowed to settle alongside the tribe. When Friday expresses a desire to visit his homeland again, Crusoe is angry, thinking Friday will revert to a wild state. Friday eventually explains that he would teach his tribe about Christianity and to eat cattle instead of people, which makes Crusoe happy. They begin planning how to get to the mainland.

Analysis

While Robinson Crusoe always speaks of Friday's accomplishments with a tone of amazement, Friday's questions and comments reveal clear intelligence beyond Crusoe's estimation. Friday comes from a civilization that has different values from those of the Europeans, but that civilization has rules and order of its own. Friday's nation comes into conflict with other tribes and they practice cannibalism, but they do this in a ceremonial way, hence the visits to this island. He explains his nation's religious beliefs, which include a concept of an afterlife and the presence of a priesthood. Despite his outward subservience to Crusoe, Friday also reveals the depth and freedom of his thought process when he asks Crusoe why God does not kill the devil. Even Crusoe is stumped by this inquiry, and he discovers he is learning more about his own faith by teaching Friday. Crusoe reveals his own biases in the anti-Catholic aside about priests. Crusoe's solitude on the island and the twists of fate that brought him there have led him to think deeply about his own faith and to accept the role of Providence and God more fully than he has before. However, he has not examined the assumptions that have been transmitted to him alongside his faith.

Friday reveals more about the nature of his own civilization when he tells Crusoe about the Spanish sailors. This revelation is also the first hint that some of the crew survived the shipwreck off the island's shores and made it to the mainland. While Crusoe might have expected Friday's tribe to simply kill and eat these survivors, instead the tribe takes in the Spaniards and helps them settle alongside their own nation. Friday explains here that the tribe's cannibalism is not indiscriminate; the tribes only eat men who are captured in battle. There are rules governing who is and is not fair game to eat, which adds an element of order, if not true civilization, to their cannibalism and battle practices. It is clear that the tribe feels no need to victimize the haggard survivors of a shipwreck, instead offering what hospitality they can to these men in need.

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