Allison's Book Bag

The Impact of Robinson Crusoe

Posted on: December 23, 2011

This week, I’m reviewing a classic novel. Because the author will be well-known, let me challenge you for a change with some trivia. I’ll get the fun started with a question about the identity of this week’s featured author.

Monday’s Question: Who is considered the founder of English journalism?

Daniel-Defoe

Image via Wikipedia

Monday’s Answer: Among other accomplishments, Daniel Defoe is known as the founder of journalism. Along with writing over 560 books and pamphlets, this classic author is considered to have written one of the first English novels: Robinson Crusoe. Even if Robinson Crusoe can’t claim the exclusive spot of first, it did mark the beginning of realistic fiction as a literary genre and its success led to many imitators. Indeed, so great was the popularity of Robinson Crusoe that by the end of the nineteenth century, no other book in the history of Western literature had more editions, spin-offs, and translations. This Saturday, I will review Robinson Crusoe.

Tuesday’s Question: Many authors pursue a second career along with writing. What other profession did Defoe hold?

Tuesday’s Answer: Daniel Defoe entered the world of business as a general merchant. For more than a decade,  he traded in a wide range of goods, including stockings, wine, tobacco, and oysters. He also wrote about trade in the form of countless essays and pamphlets on economic theory. Unfortunately, he was rarely out of debt.

Wednesday’s Question: What inspired Defoe to write his classic novel Robinson Crusoe?

Robinson Crusoe

Image via Wikipedia

Wednesday’s Answer: According to Wikipedia, Robinson Crusoe may have been inspired by any of these sources:

  • The story of the Scottish castaway Alexander Selkirk, who spent four years stranded on the island of Juan Fernandez.
  • The English translation of a book by the Andalusian-Arab Muslim polymath Ibn Tufail, who was known as “Abubacer” in Europe. It was an earlier novel that is also set on a deserted island.
  • Henry Pitman’s short book about his escape from a Caribbean penal colony and his subsequent shipwreck and desert island misadventures. His book was published by J. Taylor of London, whose son William Taylor later published Defoe’s novel. Defoe may have met Pitman and learned of his experiences as a castaway. Even if he didn’t meet Pitman, upon submitting a draft of a novel about a castaway to his publisher, Defoe would undoubtedly have learned about Pitman’s book
  • The publicised case of a real-life marooned Miskito Central American man named only as Will may have inspired the depiction of Friday.

It may also have helped that Defoe himself was also traveler, whose voyages included visits to France, Spain, the Low Countries, Italy, and Germany.

Thursday’s Question: How has our culture been impacted by Robinson Crusoe?

Cover of "The Tale of Little Pig Robinson...

Cover via Amazon

Thursday’s Answer: According to WikipediaRobinson Crusoe has been frequently referenced in literature. To note one example from children’s books, Beatrix Potter directs readers to turn to Robinson Crusoe for a description of the island to which her hero moves to in The Tale of Little Pig Robinson. She describes her hero’s island (the land of the Bong tree) as being similar to that of Crusoe’s island–without its drawbacks. Defoe’s novel has also inspired many movies, including one for families by Walt Disney called “Lt. Robin Crusoe” and starring Dick Van Dyke. Last, the book proved so popular that the names of the two main protagonists have entered our English language. Back in its colonial days, the city of Harrisburg, Illinois was  named “Crusoe’s Island” due to its location on a hill surrounded by swamp. As for Robinson Crusoe’s servant, he inspired the term “my man Friday” and “my girl Friday” which remain popular terms in our language today.

Friday’s Question: What is the full title of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe?

Friday’s Answer: The original title of Robinson Crusoe as it appears on the title page of the first edition is The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un‐inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely delivered by Pirates.

4 Responses to "The Impact of Robinson Crusoe"

very nice, Am studying the aspect of multiculturalism in britain literature and I wonder if Robinson Crusoe could help me. thanks

You raise an interesting question, one that I have never considered. In doing a quick search online, however, it seems other people might have the same idea as you:

thanks i will have a look on it.

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2018

I am focusing this year on other commitments. Once a month, I’ll post reviews of Advanced Reader Copies. Titles will include: Freddy Frogcaster and the Flash Flood by Janice Dean, One Two by Igor Eliseev, Incredible Magic of Being by Kathyrn Erskine, Dragon Grammar Book by Diane Robinson, and Wide as the Wind by Edward Stanton.

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