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Robinson Crusoe | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


Why is Crusoe incorrect when he calls the English captain's description of him as the island's "governor" in Chapter 18 of Robinson Crusoe a pure "fiction"?

Robinson Crusoe has established himself as the authority on the island. When he introduces himself to the English captain and offers to help him in Chapter 17, he makes it clear that the captain should not pretend to have authority here, that this is Crusoe's domain. He also tells the captain and his mate that anyone who lands on this island "shall die or live as they behave to us." Everything Crusoe has told the captain and the other men about his place on the island speaks to his sovereignty, and he repeatedly refers to himself as the island's king, even before he has any human subjects. This reference to the captain's words as "fiction" may be an attempt at modesty on the part of Crusoe the narrator, but his actions and words throughout the rest of the story speak to the truth of the captain's version.

Why do the captured mutineers in Robinson Crusoe, Chapter 18, agree to remain on the island rather than return to England?

Mutiny is a crime punishable by death in England. The men who have been taken prisoner have no way of knowing whether they will be sentenced to hanging when they return, but it is a strong possibility. In contrast, the island is reasonably pleasant thanks to Robinson Crusoe's efforts. Food is plentiful, and there are comfortable dwellings available. The situation may be less than ideal, and the sailors may want for some luxuries, but they also have one another's company. Crusoe has also scared the cannibals away from the island, so that threat has been removed. In every way, their fate on the island will likely be superior to Crusoe's own life there because much of the hard work has been done and they know what they are getting into with the island. Of course, it's not a perfect scenario because these men have to live together. Two of the men in Chapter 19 ultimately decide to leave the island and return on the ship because they have run into conflict with the others and fear they will be murdered if they stay. This news indicates that the men who have elected to stay are dangerous enough that they would likely be judged harshly in the English courts and have a better chance of long-term survival on the island.

Why is Crusoe's comparison of himself to the biblical figure Job an apt comparison in Chapter 19 of Robinson Crusoe?

In the Bible, God tests Job's faith through a string of terrible events and personal tragedies. He loses his fortune, his family, and suffers from ill health, but he maintains his faith that these disasters are God's will. God then rewards his faith by blessing him with greater wealth than he had before, more children, and long life. The parallels to Robinson Crusoe's experience are evident as Crusoe suffers tremendous misfortunes and holds fast and even increases his faith in God. Although it might be argued that Crusoe did not have as much to lose as Job did, both Job and Crusoe receive great rewards once their trials are over. Crusoe returns to England with very little money and few prospects, but he quickly discovers that he still has a claim on his Brazilian plantation and it has rewarded him with a fortune.

How do Crusoe's dealings with the widow and the Portuguese captain in Chapter 19 of Robinson Crusoe reveal Crusoe's values as a businessman?

Both the widow and the Portuguese captain have preserved the bits of Robinson Crusoe's wealth with which they have been entrusted, even though neither is financially secure. They might have easily given up Crusoe for dead, which would have been a reasonable conclusion, and used his funds that were available to them. Neither of them does this, and Crusoe is moved by their honesty and loyalty. Once he comes into his fortune, he rewards each with stipends that will make their lives more comfortable. He values their honesty, and he learned on the island that it is best to share with others when one has more than one can use.

What rewards and disappointments does Crusoe find when he returns to York in Chapter 19 of Robinson Crusoe?

Robinson Crusoe's parents are both dead by the time he returns, so Crusoe will not be able to make peace with his father. He also learns that no provision was made for him in his father's will. According to Crusoe's account, he was omitted from the will because he was presumed dead, not because of lingering ill will. So Crusoe had these disappointments, but he also locates two sisters and discovers he has two nephews, children of one of his brothers, so he does have a family. While he does not report a very close relationship with his sisters, the nephews will become his wards, and one of them will become a ship captain who takes Crusoe on a new adventure.

How does Crusoe's decision to sell his plantation in Chapter 20 of Robinson Crusoe demonstrate his devotion to his religion?

Conflicts between Catholics and Protestants were a defining feature of this period, so Robinson Crusoe has legitimate concerns about relocating to a Catholic country now that he is an actively practicing Protestant. When he lived in Brazil previously, he had no scruples about declaring himself a Catholic, the religion of that colony. But he had spent much time thinking about his beliefs and growing in his faith while on the island. He is now more committed to Protestantism and believes that Catholicism "might not be the best religion to die with." His focus on this difference shows that his faith is not an ephemeral belief that he adopted when his life was difficult, but a genuine change in his beliefs and character.

What evidence appears in Robinson Crusoe, Chapter 20, to indicate the years have changed Crusoe on a deep level?

After he sells his property in Brazil, Robinson Crusoe still wants to return to his island and see how it has changed. Unlike his actions in his early years, though, he heeds the advice of the widow who convinces him to stay put and settle down. So he does settle down. He gets married and has three children, and takes custody of his nephews, helping with their education and setting the elder up as a gentleman with an estate and helping the other become the captain of his own ship. These events are discussed in very little detail, though, which suggests Crusoe's life was quiet during these years and without adventure.

What evidence appears in Robinson Crusoe, Chapter 20, that shows that Crusoe has not really changed at all?

Robinson Crusoe's period of living a settled life only lasts for seven years. He returns to England in 1687, and in 1694 he departs England again on his nephew's ship. It might be possible to speculate that he has encouraged his nephew toward sailing precisely so he might be able to live out new adventures. When he visits his island, he still considers the property his, even to the point that he feels compelled to provide for the people who now live there, which includes the English sailors, the Spanish sailors from the mainland, and some of the natives who became their wives. Crusoe ends his account somewhat abruptly, implying that there are more stories and adventures for him to tell about at a later date, which, of course, implies that he has continued to seek out and enjoy a life of adventure.

Why is Crusoe frustrated in Chapter 10 of Robinson Crusoe by his failed journey in the canoe?

After his failure to launch the first canoe he builds and the effort he wastes building it, Robinson Crusoe is excited to successfully build a canoe that he can use. This canoe is too small for him to travel far in, but it does give him easier access to various places on the island, so he is excited to indulge his interest in exploration, even in this small way. Instead, he finds himself on the brink of being swept out to sea. While this experience renews his gratitude for the safe haven the island provides, it also emphasizes his confinement there and renders the labor spent on building this second canoe useless, at least in the short term.

Why is Crusoe fearful after he finds the footprint in the sand in Chapter 11 of Robinson Crusoe?

Robinson Crusoe's theories about the source of the footprint ricochet from the devil to himself to one of the African natives. His uncertainty about the footprint's origin is also one source of his fear. He can't know for sure where the footprint came from, when it was made, or what else the person who made it might have discovered on the island. As he tumbles from one theory and plan to the next, the uncertainty is the only constant, and uncertainty is a universal source of fear. Because Crusoe knows nothing for certain except that there is a footprint on his island that is not his own, he has no way of knowing the most efficient way to react to this problem. He can't plan for whatever will happen with any certainty; he can only guess that his best course of action is to keep himself hidden and hope that is the right decision. This uncertainty creates stress that plagues him for the next eight years.

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