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Chapter 3

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 3 of Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe.

Robinson Crusoe | Chapter 3 | Summary



Robinson Crusoe and Xury continue their travels down the African coast, hoping to reach Cape Verde and encounter a European ship. Roughly a month into the journey, they come upon some native Africans who offer to replenish their food and water stores. Crusoe and Xury have nothing with which to repay their kindness, but at that moment two creatures chase one another on to the shore and Crusoe kills one of them, a leopard. The native Africans take the leopard for meat and give Crusoe its skin.

Now equipped with fresh supplies, Crusoe directs the boat toward Cape Verde, wondering whether he should make for the Cape Verde Islands or the mainland. As he ponders the decision, Xury spots a ship, which turns out to be a Portuguese vessel. The captain takes Crusoe and Xury on board and agrees to take them with him to Brazil. Even after they arrive in Brazil, the captain refuses to accept payment for his service, but he does buy Crusoe's longboat, supplies, and animal skins. The captain also asks to buy Xury, which causes Crusoe some distress because the boy has been so loyal. Crusoe finally agrees to the deal once Xury agrees and only after the captain promises to free Xury in 10 years if the boy becomes a Christian.

In Brazil, Crusoe lives with the owner of a sugar plantation and learns the business, so he decides to set up a plantation of his own. With what money he has from the sale of the longboat, supplies, and Xury, he buys as much suitable land as he can for his plantation and sets about building his fortune. It is hard labor and he is mostly on his own; his only society is occasional visits with a neighbor named Wells who is in a similar situation. Crusoe makes arrangements with the Portuguese captain to bring his money from England so he can build up his plantation. After four years on the plantation, he decides to join a voyage to Guinea in order to buy slaves. He puts his affairs in order and sets out. Twelve days into the voyage, the ship runs into a storm and is forced to change course. The ship runs aground in the Caribbean during another storm, and the entire crew is lost. Crusoe alone survives and makes it to a nearby island.


When Robinson Crusoe and Xury encounter the native Africans, both parties share a mutual fear and distrust of the other. This circumstance reflects the feelings that characterized most interactions between European and native groups during the colonization of Africa and the New World. However, while Crusoe is eager to assert his power over animals (as seen in his killing of the leopard in this scene and the lion in the previous chapter), he does not approach the native Africans with the same kind of bravado. Instead, the two parties engage in an uneasy negotiation, even as the natives offer Crusoe and Xury food and water. They understand the basic value of offering hospitality to strangers. Crusoe feels badly that he has nothing to offer in kind, but he accepts their generosity anyway. This desire to engage in fair and equal trade reveals how Crusoe does not feel entitled to the native Africans' gifts, which is a departure from more common historical European attitudes toward native peoples. The tension between the parties does not break until Crusoe shoots the leopard, which allows Crusoe to repay the natives' kindness with some food. At the same time, the shooting demonstrates that he has a power the native Africans do not understand.

Even though the interaction between Crusoe and the native Africans is based on a kind of mutuality, Crusoe's selling of Xury is more troubling. The Portuguese captain is a decent man, as evidenced by his willingness to transport Crusoe and Xury to Brazil free of charge and his concern for Crusoe's fortunes once they arrive. At the same time, he wants to buy Xury from Crusoe. Even though Crusoe and Xury were both slaves, only Crusoe is presumed free once they escape because he is white. Crusoe hesitates to sell Xury, not because he thinks owning another person is wrong but because Xury has been loyal and devoted. While the dynamic between Xury and the European men remains inherently unequal, both men treat him with relative fairness given the societal standards of the time. The Portuguese captain offers to free Xury after 10 years if he converts, and Crusoe does seek the boy's blessing on the exchange. To a modern reader, the forced conversion reads as an imposition of European will on Xury, even at the most personal level of religious belief, but at the time Robinson Crusoe was written and in the minds of Crusoe and the captain, they would have thought they were doing Xury a favor by saving his soul.

More troubling is Crusoe's purchase of an African slave, as well as two indentured servants, to work his plantation, as well as his part in the ill-fated voyage to Africa to obtain slaves. Crusoe is not the originator of the project, but his stories about his experiences in Africa, especially the ease of trading "trifles" for slaves, inspire a group of Brazilian plantation owners to make the journey.

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For the book LIFE OF PI trace three of the following threads through the novel. In a minimum of one paragraph for each explain the various literary effects of each of the threads and how each is relat
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