Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe

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Learn about symbols in Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe with Course Hero's video study guide.

Robinson Crusoe | Symbols


Defoe uses symbols that connect directly to the challenges of building a life in a wild and pristine land. Robinson Crusoe's guns, tools, boats, and calendar are symbols of his efforts to build a home and a civilization where there was nothing before, except wilderness.


A gun represents Crusoe's power over the island and other people. He spends his first night on the island sleeping in a tree for fear of the "ravenous beasts" he supposed might roam the island. Later, after he discovers the footprint in the sand, he begins to live in fear, worrying that the natives will find him. After he learns beyond any doubt that the natives are cannibals, he imagines exacting justice on them by killing them. In each of these circumstances, the gun provides Crusoe with the power to survive and to control his environment. It is no surprise, then, that the gun is among the first items that he rescues from the ship on the day following the shipwreck. In addition, Crusoe enjoys shocking and surprising people who have never before seen a gun with its violence and power.


Tools represent progress and Crusoe's ability to shape his world on the island. After clothing himself after his swim to the wreck, Crusoe's first objective was to find tools to help him survive on the island. He found the carpenter's chest, which was "more valuable than a shipload of gold would have been." Other tools he makes, and they become a badge of his self-sufficiency on the island.


Ships and smaller boats are vehicles for progress to better places and the escape from peril. They also represent freedom for Crusoe—freedom from his family and freedom from his confinement in slavery and on the island.

Calendar Post

Crusoe marks his days on the island on a post he sets up on the beach where he first came ashore. It represents his connection to time and civilization. This is a practice that keeps him sane and grounded as he marks off the days and years he spends on the island.

Questions for Symbols

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