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Chapter 16

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 16 of Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe.

Robinson Crusoe | Chapter 16 | Summary



Robinson Crusoe and Friday build a new boat to take them to the mainland. The boat is fitted with a sail and rudder, so Crusoe teaches Friday about sailing and navigation.

The two continue farming and gathering food in preparation for their voyage, but the preparations are interrupted when 6 canoes with 21 natives arrive on the island with 3 captives. Friday and Crusoe arm themselves and prepare to meet the natives this time, and Crusoe feels confident their firepower can overcome the natives' greater numbers. Still, Crusoe has second thoughts about attacking these natives, as they have done him no harm. These second thoughts end when he sees one of the captives is a white man. Crusoe and Friday attack and kill 17 of the natives and rescue the man, who turns out to be a Spanish survivor of a shipwreck.

They find a second man, a native, tied up in a canoe after the surviving natives flee the island, and Friday greets him warmly because it turns out this man is his father. The new arrivals are brought to the castle, fed, and their injuries tended. The next day, Friday's father speculates that the natives who escaped probably died in a storm that struck the night they fled. Even if they survived the storm, he heard them cry out during their retreat that Crusoe and Friday, with their guns, must be vengeful spirits or gods. Crusoe will discover later that the natives will avoid the island for this reason, but in the short term he continues to be vigilant about security.


Friday does not want to return to the mainland and his tribe without taking Robinson Crusoe with him. He becomes tearful when Crusoe suggests that Friday return without him and says he would rather that Crusoe kill him than send him away. His devotion to Crusoe is total. When the two of them prepare to face the natives in battle, Friday tells Crusoe he will die when his master bids him to die. Crusoe takes this devotion as a justification to keep Friday as a slave.

When the natives arrive on the island with a new set of captives, Friday is terrified because he believes they have come for him. Crusoe sticks to his old strategy of watching and waiting in caution, believing it is less dangerous if they are not discovered at all. He also continues to have qualms about killing people who are not directly attacking him. He changes his mind about this strategy when he notices one of the captives is a European, which reveals something about how Crusoe's cultural bias has been a stronger guiding factor in his strategy than perhaps even he realized. He has been content to sit by and let the natives attack, kill, and eat one another. He did not even directly intervene to free Friday, only stepping into the fray to defend him after he had escaped his captors. However, now he sees a fellow European in danger and takes an active role in his rescue, breaking into the party to save this unknown white man. This increase in the population of the island enhances Crusoe's feeling of dominion. Because all three of his "subjects" owe him their lives, he considers himself justified in being "lord and lawgiver."

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