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Robinson Crusoe | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


In Chapter 14 of Robinson Crusoe, why does Friday give Crusoe such unflinching devotion?

While it is easy for a modern reader to criticize the unequal power dynamic between Robinson Crusoe and Friday, Friday still has reason to be grateful to Crusoe and to follow him. Friday was facing certain death at the hands of cannibals who had captured him and who would then eat him. While Friday escapes from his captors on his own, Crusoe steps in to kill the pursuers, thereby saving Friday's life. Crusoe then gives Friday food, clothing, and shelter in a place where he has no friends or family. Despite Crusoe's insistence on giving him a name of Crusoe's choosing and insisting on being called "Master," Crusoe treats Friday with respect and care while they are together. However, Crusoe expects this behavior because of his understanding of the power balance between them. Crusoe also saves the life of the English captain but does not expect him to live as his servant for the rest of his life.

How does Crusoe's reflection on Friday's religion in Chapter 15 of Robinson Crusoe reveal his own beliefs as a Protestant Christian?

Friday explains that in his religion, they have clergy, called Oowokakee, who pray to their god, Benamuckee, on behalf of the rest of the tribe. The Oowokakee then return to the tribe and relay the god's words to the people. Crusoe's comments on this practice express frustration with "priestcraft" in this religion, but, as he is a Protestant, he is also criticizing the Catholic practice of having priests as intercessors between God and the people. He describes this practice as "making a secret of religion, in order to preserve the veneration of the people to the clergy," which implies the system is set up specifically to preserve clerical power, which was one of the primary complaints that sparked the Protestant Reformation.

Why is Crusoe jealous when Friday expresses a desire in Chapter 15 of Robinson Crusoe to return to his tribe?

When Friday expresses a vague desire to return and see his family and tribe, Robinson Crusoe is angry with Friday for days. He claims this irritation is driven by his concern for Friday, that Friday might lose all that he has learned with Crusoe, forget his new religion, and revert to cannibalism. Crusoe further fears Friday might bring the rest of his tribe to the island to capture and kill him. He speaks of Friday's obligation to him, but this does not just mean the obligation to keep his countrymen from killing Crusoe. For 25 years, Crusoe has lived without company, and it stands to reason that he is not eager to give up that company so quickly. He takes Friday's desire to return home as a kind of personal rejection.

What evidence shows that Friday has become civilized, according to Crusoe's standards, at the end of Chapter 15 of Robinson Crusoe?

Robinson Crusoe was published during the height of the colonial period, a time when the prevailing belief was that the colonization of other lands and the spreading of a nation's own culture and beliefs was the apex of progress for a civilization. Having learned English and put on clothes, Friday reveals he wants to go back to his people and teach them about Christianity and eating goats and cornbread instead of people. He is ready to spread the behaviors he has learned that have been presented to him as civilized to others. All this means that he has reached a high level of what Crusoe would consider civilized behavior.

What new significance do guns have in Chapter 16 of Robinson Crusoe?

Guns have always been a source of power for Robinson Crusoe, from the first time the reader sees him fire one to kill a lion in Africa in Chapter 2 to his use of guns to obtain food and subdue the animal population during his many years on the island. When Crusoe and Friday finally confront the natives in Chapter 16, though, the guns take on a new level of power and significance. They are not just instruments of defense or tools for hunting, they exert a new kind of power over these natives who do not understand what guns are. After the last cannibals have fled, Friday's father, who is rescued in the raid, tells Crusoe that he heard the fleeing natives say Crusoe and Friday must be vengeful spirits and the natives are unlikely to return to the island. The gun here becomes more than just a normal expression of power; it is now an expression of supernatural power—to the natives, anyway. The guns give Robinson and Friday god-like status in this battle.

What contrasting picture of the natives does Defoe paint in Chapter 16 of Robinson Crusoe?

The dominant picture Defoe paints of the natives is the same as it has been: that the natives are cruel cannibals. This appears to be the standard European view of native peoples: they are uncivilized, ruthless natives, and are not to be trusted. But in this chapter, readers learn that they can also show kindness to outsiders. The shipwrecked Spanish and Portuguese sailors who sought shelter on the mainland expected to be killed and eaten by the natives. Instead, they were taken in and provided with food. Friday also explains that they do not practice cannibalism as a matter of course; it is a war ritual. Later, readers learn that the food was not entirely adequate to their needs but it did sustain them when they might otherwise have starved. The natives are also shown to be easily frightened by the mysterious weapons used by the beings on the island. According to Friday's father, "It was impossible for them to conceive that a man could dart fire, and speak thunder, and kill at a distance." Not having seen or heard of such things before, they believed those who wielded them must be gods, a belief that kept them from returning to the island.

How does Crusoe's belief about his status on the island change in Chapter 16 of Robinson Crusoe once he has other humans living there with him?

Now that he has human "subjects" and not just animals, Robinson Crusoe's references to himself as a king have lost any humor in their tone. He considers this island his own, and it is a justifiable belief because he has lived there for almost three decades and has single-handedly shaped the environment to suit his needs. He notes that the men on the island now represent three different religions, "pagan, Protestant, and Papist," meaning he and Friday are Protestants, Friday's father is still a pagan, and the Spaniard is Catholic. He mentions this because these differences have caused much bloodshed over the years and around the world, so he wants to illustrate how his rule has brought representatives from these three groups together peacefully. Crusoe takes full credit for this peace, too, saying these men are "perfectly subjected" to him because each one owes him his life. Crusoe's actions are basically benevolent, but descriptions such as these indicate how much he enjoys the power he now has on his island.

Why does Crusoe hesitate to collaborate with the Spaniard on an escape plan in Chapter 17 of Robinson Crusoe?

Robinson Crusoe's distrust and bias against the Spaniards is well documented in his hesitation to enter their territory and his rabid criticism of the Spaniards' violent actions against native groups. This distrust is also likely rooted in the conflicts between England and Spain that form the recent history of Crusoe's home nation. His inaction against the cannibals also shows that he fears being outnumbered, as this compromises the power he has grown accustomed to during 28 years as absolute master of his own domain. His concerns that the Spanish sailors could turn against him once they reach Spanish territory are not unrealistic, as they come from enemy countries and practice religions that have long been in conflict with one another.

Why does Crusoe greet the arrival of the English ship with suspicion in Chapter 17 of Robinson Crusoe?

Robinson Crusoe hesitates to trust the Spaniard's offer of assistance in an escape plan, but he is equally suspicious of his own countrymen. Crusoe's years of isolation on the island have made him lonely and desperate for human company, but his years of fear and stress about the cannibals have also eroded his sense of confidence and trust in his fellow man. In addition, he has spent many of his years on the island dwelling on his own sins and wickedness and berating himself for betraying his family. These reflections have left him with a low opinion of human nature. Crusoe is ultimately less guilty of a cultural bias than a deep distrust of everyone. Crusoe's isolation might also be compared to that of a prisoner in solitary confinement. No doubt, the long years of solitude have had deep psychological impacts that he does not fully understand as yet.

What does Crusoe's offer to help the English captain in Chapter 17 of Robinson Crusoe show about Crusoe's estimation of his own power?

When Robinson Crusoe steps in to assist the English captain in overthrowing the mutiny and getting his ship back, he presents himself in somewhat humble terms compared with the captain's assessment of him. The captain declares Crusoe an angel, to which Crusoe replies if he were an angel, he'd be better dressed and better armed. These comments contrast with Crusoe's characterization of himself as the king of the island. Even though Crusoe demands that the captain recognize his absolute sovereignty on the island because he considers the island his property that he has earned through his own labors, he has not allowed this status to inflate his ego too much.

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