Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Robinson Crusoe Study Guide." Course Hero. 15 Sep. 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2018. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2016, September 15). Robinson Crusoe Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 20, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)



Course Hero. "Robinson Crusoe Study Guide." September 15, 2016. Accessed November 20, 2018.


Course Hero, "Robinson Crusoe Study Guide," September 15, 2016, accessed November 20, 2018,

Robinson Crusoe | Discussion Questions 1 - 10


What is the "middle state" Mr. Crusoe describes in Chapter 1 of Robinson Crusoe, and why does he recommend it to his son?

The middle state is what might today be called the middle class, and Mr. Crusoe considers it "the best state in the world." According to Mr. Crusoe, most of the evils and worries of life are visited upon people who live at the extremes of class, those who are very rich or very poor. The poor are exposed to "miseries and hardships" of labor and want. The very wealthy are afflicted with "pride, luxury, ambition, and envy" of maintaining a fortune and keeping up appearances. In the middle state, all needs are met without adding the social pressures of wealth, so Mr. Crusoe believes this is the best way to live, even though it lacks the excitement that his son so clearly craves.

What does Robinson Crusoe learn about his brother in Chapter 1, and how is this story meant to dissuade him from traveling?

Mr. Crusoe presents Robinson Crusoe's older brother as a cautionary tale to his youngest son. Crusoe's brother does not heed their father's warnings and admonitions to be content with the comforts of home and joins the army. He is killed in a battle during the Low Country wars. The story is meant to show Crusoe that he might very well die in his pursuit of a life of adventure, but it also reveals how Mr. Crusoe misunderstands his sons. Mr. Crusoe himself emigrated from Germany to England and made his own fortune, so he likely speaks from personal experience as he advises his children about the satisfactions of their middle-class life. At the same time, he seems to have forgotten the urge that likely drove his own youth: the desire people have for striking out on their own, taking risks, and enjoying the excitement of trying new things. The middle station in life is comfortable and predictable, but it lacks the excitement and self-satisfaction of striving for and building a new, independent life.

How does Robinson Crusoe feel about his fate when the pirate takes him as a slave in Chapter 2?

Robinson Crusoe is surprised to find that the pirate treats him reasonably well, as the circumstances of his capture—a pirate raid on his ship—would create the expectation of rough treatment. Indeed, for a slave he is allowed remarkable latitude, generally left unattended in the house while his master is at sea, and left unattended on the ship while his master is in port. Because he is a European in an African country, Crusoe's opportunities to escape from his circumstances are limited, and he has no fellow Europeans with whom to plan an escape. Even though his circumstances are not brutal, Crusoe laments his labor and bondage and says he should have listened to his father. He has ignored his father's advice in pursuit of a life of adventure, and he now finds himself confined to one place, so it seems his disobedience was for naught.

Why does Robinson Crusoe save Xury but throw the other slave overboard when he escapes slavery in Chapter 2?

Early in his captivity, Robinson Crusoe laments that he has no other slaves, specifically of English, Irish, or Scottish descent, to plan an escape with, so he can only dream of escape rather than setting his plans into motion. This thinking indicates that he believes he will need assistance in carrying out an escape plan. When he is given access to the boat with only two slaves to hinder his escape, he chooses to push the Moor overboard and trust Xury. The Moor is also a slave, but he is an adult and of the same ethnicity as the pirate who has enslaved them, so Crusoe may fear that the Moor's loyalties will lie with their master. Crusoe may also fear that the Moor is strong enough to overpower him and so thwart his plans for escape. Xury, on the other hand, is a boy and so represents less of a physical threat to Crusoe. As a boy, Xury is also more malleable in his thinking, so Crusoe can influence him more easily, as evidenced by Xury's declaration of eternal loyalty to Crusoe.

What is the symbolism behind Robinson Crusoe's killing of the lion in Chapter 2?

The incident with the lion represents Robinson Crusoe's use of a gun to subdue a powerful predator. Lions are well known by the nickname "king of beasts," so Crusoe's ability to kill such an animal underscores his own power and might, made possible by the gun. Crusoe uses the weapon to assert dominion over the lands he visits, however briefly. The lion, sleeping on the shore beneath a piece of a small hill when they find him, is not an immediate threat to Crusoe and Xury. Presumably they kill the animal because fear of it prevents them from going on shore for fresh water, but they never actually collect any water in this scene, so the decision to kill the animal, then to keep its paw and skin as a trophy, reads purely as an expression of control over this new environment. Crusoe seems to recognize this to some extent, lamenting that they have wasted their limited powder and shot upon what is a sport killing rather than food or defense.

What language does Robinson Crusoe use to describe the African natives in Chapter 3, and what does it indicate about his impression of them?

Robinson Crusoe first describes the African natives as "quite black and naked," and he concludes the description of their interaction by pointing out that "the women were as naked as the men." It is a comparatively brief anecdote, so framing it with mentions of the tribe's nudity indicates some judgment on Crusoe's part. In the civilizations of the West, people wear clothes. In fact, clothing is possibly the most basic requisite for participation in most societies, and most societies, even outside of Europe, frown on men and women being naked together without other social constructs, such as marriage and privacy, in place. The emphasis on nakedness in Crusoe's description of the tribe underscores how far from civilization they are.

In Chapter 3 of Robinson Crusoe, what situational irony is expressed in Crusoe's ownership of a Brazilian plantation?

Situational irony occurs when a character experiences a discrepancy between what he expects and what actually happens. As Robinson Crusoe builds his plantation and begins to see some profit from his enterprise, he recognizes that this prosperity is bringing him into the "middle station" of life that his father described as most pleasant. Crusoe has left home, incurred his parents' disappointment, and endured serious hardships only to wind up in the position he sought so fervently to avoid. He recognizes this, saying, "I might as well have stayed at home, and never have fatigued myself in the world as I have done." He expresses some regret about ending up in the same position, only thousands of miles away from his friends and family but now among strangers. This reflection indicates that as much as the plantation is prospering, Crusoe is feeling restless, which is likely as much the reason he boards the ship to Africa as his need for labor on the plantation.

What do Crusoe's business transactions in Chapter 3 of Robinson Crusoe reveal about his attitude toward non-Europeans?

Slavery is a central element in Chapter 3, starting with Robinson Crusoe's sale of Xury to the Portuguese captain. Although Crusoe negotiates the best possible terms for Xury—he will be free in 10 years if he converts to Christianity—these terms are still a violation of the boy's basic human rights. Crusoe seems to understand this a little because he feels guilt about parting with Xury, but later on the island when he says he misses the boy, his nostalgia is as much related to the need for more labor as it is to human interest. Crusoe also seems to have no moral qualms about joining a voyage to Africa to buy slaves, even though these slaves will be very much like the African natives who helped him so generously during his own escape from slavery. Although he treats these individuals well, he does not see Xury or the African natives as fully human in the same way he sees himself.

In Chapter 3 of Robinson Crusoe, how does Crusoe first react to his survival and landing on the island?

Once Robinson Crusoe understands what has happened to him—that he is the sole survivor of the shipwreck—he is overwhelmed and unable to fully describe his reactions. He compares himself to a man who is saved from hanging at the last minute and then needs a doctor to tend him. The shock of survival is tremendous and dumbfounding to him, leading him to remark that "sudden joys, like griefs, confound at first." Crusoe's confounding is doubled because he has both the job of living plus the grief over the deaths of the other men and his worries about how to continue to survive in this place.

To what does Crusoe attribute his good fortune in landing on the island in Chapter 4 of Robinson Crusoe?

Robinson Crusoe firmly believes his good fortune of landing on the island is the will of Providence, a view that seems especially true when he considers that he was the only man on the ship who was spared. He weeps for his condition, even as he is happy to have been saved. For Crusoe, all acts of God are either a reward or a punishment, but he has not yet determined whether his condition is a reward or a punishment because he does not yet know if he will be able to survive or if he has been singled out for prolonged suffering before a horrible death.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Robinson Crusoe? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!