The style

         The story is realistic. It is an inventory - partly represented as a personal diary - of the events and thoughts, moods and moral reflections experienced by Crusoe. In literary history, the book is regarded not only as a classic travel and adventure story, but also as the prototype of the novel, the literary genre that focuses on the daily, external and internal activities of ordinary people.

The genre

        Robinson Crusoe is created out of a synthesis of two existing traditions: the picaresque (autobiographical) novel, and the tradition of the personal journal representing mental states and evolutions. Thus, the plot action is throughout interpreted and commented on by the narrating I-figure. As such, the novel is also an internal journey, a creation of an identity, a 'composition of the self'.

         Sociologically, the birth of the individualistic novel is embedded in the rise of the modern capitalist society. According to the philosopher Ton Lemaire, Robinson Crusoe and the 'robinsonade' are "the literary imagination of what I call the original myth of bourgeois society". The novel can be read as an ode to the Western (rational, utilitarian, colonizing) spirit, that is capable of dominating natural wilderness and primitive cultures.
        At the same time, Robinson's travels represent the internal journey of a Protestant individual - historically, this religion is seen as strongly interrelated with the rise of capitalism.. So both Defoe's enterpreneurial spirit as his religious conviction are in Robinson Crusoe.

         Besides these rather abstract interpretations, however, the novel is especially well-known as an exciting travel and adventure story. Since 1719, Robinson Crusoe adaptors have rendered the story popular in various media and for various ages, by cutting largely on the novel's reflective passages, which are often found to be long-winded and moralising, and focusing on the adventurous action and the visual imagery.P Therefore, Robinson Crusoe is known to many (from childhood on) as a collection of images related through a simple narrative: a shipwreck, a desert island, a footprint in the sand, cannibals by the fire etc.


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© a.r.e.a./Dr.Vicente Forés López
Universitat de València Press
Creada: 22/02/2000 Última Actualización: 27/03/2000