Literature Week 17 Robinson Crusoe Part Two

Prompt: Why did he take the coins off the ship?


Robinson Crusoe is more than a tale of survival, though that is its main hook. It’s a tale of rebellion, karma, and attempted redemption. Crusoe gets shipwrecked on a deserted island, the crew of the ship assumedly drowns, and Crusoe is left alone to figure out his survival method as well as his true character. Most people know the gist of this story, as Hollywood has milked this formula dry. But only by reading the book can you realize the true philosophy: the irony of man, the void caused by insurgency, and the cycle of never-ending pillage created by sin. These and many more hard to swallow lessons lay between the lines of this novel, and this is the reason it has stood the test of time.

Though I have written about Crusoe’s journey prior to this, i’ll assume you to be a fresh pair of eyes and start at the beginning. Crusoe seemed to have knack for disobeying those important to him. It started when he ignored his fathers advice to stay on land and instead set sail. That evening his ship was ravaged by storm, and he made an oath to God that he would return straight home if he survived ’til morning. He indeed survived, but without a universal knife to his throat he forgot the importance of his earlier oath. He continued on sailing, and that night an even darker storm reared its head. This is an example of ironic punishment, a theme that runs rampant through this novel.

Skipping ahead slightly Crusoe is captured and made into a slave. He gains the trust of his master, and at his first opportunity he steals a ship and escapes. Seeming to learn nothing from his previous enslavement he also kidnaps a young cabin boy. They sail to Africa, kill a lion and a tiger, and take their skins. They soon meet a captain of a large ship who buys their vessel and feline skins, and generously offers them a free ride. With this money Crusoe buys a plantation, and soon becomes wealthy. But he forgets (or more likely ignores) the dehumanization and grief caused by being forced into slavery, and he decides he wants to start buying slaves himself. He sails towards Africa hoping to steal a few folks, and this is when his ship is wrecked and he is marooned on uninhabited land.

Luckily for Crusoe his ship isn’t completely destroyed yet, and he’s able to climb aboard and take various supplies. He takes tools and clothing, food preserves and building equipment. But theres one thing Crusoe takes that has a much less practical purpose in his current environment: coins. Crusoe briefly questions himself about this choice, but takes the coins anyway. This is showing Crusoe’s illogical humanity. He’s in denial about being trapped there indefinitely, and maintains some sense of hope that he’ll be rescued. This is certainly a good way to keep yourself sane in this scenario, but Crusoe should be fueled by the idea of freedom instead of wealth. The fact that he takes up valuable space with something as useless as coins shows that he appreciates money just as much as survival. He’s lost his animalistic instincts for the comfort and economy that human society creates, and in a survival situation he’s wasted time and energy for nothing.

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