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Chapter 17

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 17 of Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe.

Robinson Crusoe | Chapter 17 | Summary

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Summary

Robinson Crusoe talks to the Spaniard about his ideas for escaping. Once he decides the Spaniard is trustworthy, the two make plans to bring the other Spaniards who are living with Friday's tribe to the island. On the mainland, the Spaniards are not getting enough to eat and have little hope of escape. Once the Spaniards reach the island, Crusoe and the Spaniard think they can build a large enough boat to escape the island and reach a European haven.

The men begin preparations to set this plan in motion. Crusoe sends the Spaniard and Friday's father back to the mainland to retrieve the other Spaniards. Eight days after they depart, however, an English ship appears near the island. Crusoe is more cautious than happy about this development. A landing party comes on shore with three prisoners. The English sailors strike one prisoner with a cutlass, which confirms Crusoe's suspicions about them. He feels sympathy for the captives, who remain on shore while the others explore the island.

Crusoe prepares for battle in case he and Friday are discovered. Then he goes to the shore to talk to the captives. One of the captives is the ship's captain, now the victim of a mutiny. Crusoe agrees to help subdue the mutiny as long as the English captain recognizes him as the authority on the island and agrees to take them to England if they retake the ship. Crusoe, Friday, the captain, his mate, and a passenger on the ship kill the leaders of the mutinous landing party, and the others surrender to save themselves. While Friday staves the landing boat so that it cannot be turned to use by the mutineers, Crusoe shows the captain his settlement. Crusoe has little hope they can retake the ship but thinks the longboat, once repaired, might get them to the Leeward Islands.

Analysis

Even though collaborating with the Spaniard and the other seamen on the mainland is the best chance Robinson Crusoe has at this point of escaping from the island, he hesitates to get involved with them. The men on the mainland are short of supplies and Crusoe has saved the Spaniard's life, so their gratitude and loyalty would be a reasonable expectation. Crusoe observes, however, that gratitude is not in human nature. Given the devotion and gratitude Friday showed for his rescue, it is reasonable to conclude that Crusoe is speaking of himself when he makes this comment. It took many lessons to teach Crusoe to be grateful for his blessings, and Crusoe does not have the luxury of making allowances for this learning curve in the Spaniards. In fact, the experience with Friday has likely conditioned Crusoe to expect unflinching and absolute devotion as his due as self-proclaimed king of this island.

As if to confirm his worst beliefs about human ingratitude, when the English ship arrives, it is crewed by men engaged in mutiny against their captain. While one might argue the novel's portrayal and Crusoe's perception of the natives around him is biased and dismissive of their culture, the English sailors fare no better in terms of presenting a positive image of civilized society. The description of their arrival on the island's shore even mirrors the arrival of the cannibals. They come in a boat with three prisoners. While the sailors don't cook or eat anyone, their violence is not a product of agreed-upon rules of war, as is the case with the cannibals. These sailors are arguably less civilized than the cannibals because they are attacking and betraying the ship's captain to whom they swore an oath of loyalty.

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