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Chapter 4

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 4 of Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe.

Robinson Crusoe | Chapter 4 | Summary



The morning after the storm, Robinson Crusoe investigates the damage. He can see the wreck of the ship about a mile from the island's shore and realizes the crew might have all survived if they had remained on the ship. At low tide, he is able to swim to the ship and climb aboard on a rope. He finds the ship waterlogged, but most of the provisions are dry, so he contrives a way to move the supplies to the island on a raft that he builds from wood from the ship. He takes food, tools, guns, and ammunition on this first trip.

In his first 13 days on the island, he makes a total of 11 trips back to the ship, salvaging anything he can carry before another storm comes in and washes the wreck away. He takes more tools, nails, clothing, a hatchet, a grindstone, sails and rigging, a hammock, cables, and money (though he declares it useless), among many other items. He also brings ashore a dog and two cats who survived on the wreck.

Crusoe surveys the island and verifies that it is, in fact, an island. It is also uninhabited except for birds. He sees no wild animals in his early explorations but uses the crates from the ship as a barricade at night. Later, he discovers a herd of wild goats, which becomes an important food source. He settles on a permanent dwelling spot by a shallow indentation on a hillside, with a view of the sea in case a ship arrives. He sets up a tent by the hollow in the hill and builds a fence around the perimeter—accessible by ladder, not a door, for security. He carries all his supplies into his settlement and begins digging in the hollow to make a proper cave dwelling. He sets up a post to track the passage of time, starts a journal, and builds a table and chair.


One of the first things Robinson Crusoe notes taking from the ship, aside from food, are guns and ammunition. He feels threatened on the island and wants protection, but the gun also represents his ability to control the environment and assert power. He spends a great deal of time detailing all the items he gets from the ship, and many of these items represent a connection to civilization as he knows it, especially the clothing and the grooming supplies he brings back to the island. These are important for enabling him to maintain a sense of his own identity as a civilized European man, a desire not to be naked and bearded and to maintain some of the standards of living to which he is accustomed. He reads and writes in a journal to maintain a sense of humanity. He also brings money back from the ship, even though he admits it is useless to him now, and even complains about its uselessness. He keeps it because it provides another important connection to his former life and because it represents his hope, however slim, that he might one day have use for it after he is rescued.

In a similar attempt to maintain a connection with civilization, Crusoe does what most "civilized" societies do: he begins building—first, a simple fort out of crates to protect himself from animals and the elements, and then a more fortified construction around a small cave. He begins changing the shape of the land by digging to enlarge the cave. Crusoe takes pleasure in his accomplishments, boasting that "I found at last that I wanted nothing but I could have made it." He also decides to track the days he spends on the island, which speaks to a basic human need to mark the passage of time. In the modern world, research has shown how humans deprived of the ability to track nights and days, even hours and minutes, suffer psychological damage. Crusoe has no way of knowing this, of course, but his desire to make a calendar speaks to a deep human instinct.

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Questions for Chapter 4

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