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Chapter 20

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 20 of Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe.

Robinson Crusoe | Chapter 20 | Summary

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Summary

The traveling party continues over land and encounters a bear in the mountains, which Friday is eager to attack and kill. He has killed bears back in his homeland. The group also fights off another pack of wolves, this one more challenging than the first. The guide is wounded, so the party hires a new one, and Robinson Crusoe and Friday return to England without further incident.

After he returns to London, Crusoe considers moving back to his plantation in Brazil, but his religious differences with the Catholic population there put him off this course. He decides to sell the plantation, which provides him with great wealth.

Still, Crusoe's wanderlust persists. He thinks of returning to visit his island, but the widow dissuades him. He takes custody of his two nephews, one of whom he sets up with a ship of his own. Crusoe marries and has three children of his own. After his wife dies, though, he elects to join his nephew on a trip to the East Indies. He brings supplies to his island and finds the Spaniards did make it to the island and, alongside the English sailors and some of the natives, the colony has grown and now includes women and children. Crusoe proceeds to Brazil and sends more supplies and animals to the island, as well as more wives for the men there. However, he saves the details of these new adventures for a later story.

Analysis

Robinson Crusoe reveals something about his priorities in life when he spends pages describing Friday's fight with a wild bear and the traveling party's encounter with a second pack of wolves, then he devotes more pages to detailing the outcome of his fortunes in Brazil; yet, his marriage and family are discussed, start to finish, in one short paragraph. He provides no information about his wife or children except to say they exist and then to mention that his wife died. Although Crusoe has developed a stronger sense of responsibility after his return from the island, the contrast in words spent on his adventures and words spent on domestic life confirm that settled, domestic pursuits hold little interest for him. So it is no surprise that Crusoe wants to return to the Indies after his wife dies but does not make clear what happens to their three children. According to his timeline, he returns to England in 1687 and leaves again in 1694, so the children can't be very old. Yet is unclear whether he leaves them behind—which may be worse than his original sin of disobeying his parents—or brings them along on the voyage. It is also possible this discrepancy is a narrative error of some kind.

The growth of the colony on the island delights Crusoe, and it is clear this is the legacy that makes him proudest. He never provides the names of his children, but he describes the growth of the colony in some detail and seems especially happy that the Spaniards have joined the colony and some of them have wives and children. He still regards the island as his own property, in line with the colonial attitude that Europeans can own land in the New World in absentia, but he also feels an obligation to take care of his island and its inhabitants, sending them provisions as necessary.

Friday's fate is a mystery. He is last seen in the second encounter with the wolves in France, but then Crusoe never mentions him again. There is no indication in the narrative that he has died, nor is there any indication that he has remained with Crusoe. This lack of information may indicate Crusoe's disregard for Friday as an equal, or it may indicate he takes Friday's presence and devotion so much for granted, even now, that he neglects to mention it. The looseness and unfinished feeling of the novel's ending may also be attributed to the genre at this stage in its development. Defoe may be unsure how to end his story. Whereas to modern readers it seems clear that the novel should end with Crusoe's triumphant return to England, Defoe seems to feel he needs one more rousing adventure for Crusoe and Friday before readers are satisfied. Similarly, modern readers expect to have all loose plot ends tidily worked into the conclusion of the narrative, whereas that would not have been likely to trouble Defoe's original readers.

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