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Visions Of Utopia In Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe

1941 words - 8 pages

Visions of Utopia in Robinson Crusoe   

"Daniel Defoe achieved literary immortality when, in April 1719, he published Robinson Crusoe" (Stockton 2321). It dared to challenge the political, social, and economic status quo of his time. By depicting the utopian environment in which was created in the absence of society, Defoe criticizes the political and economic aspect of England's society, but is also able to show the narrator's relationship with nature in a vivid account of the personal growth and development that took place while stranded in solitude. Crusoe becomes "the universal representative, the person, for whom every reader could substitute himself" (Coleridge 2318). "Thus, ...view middle of the document...

It were these writings that eventually got Defoe charged with libel and imprisoned (DIScovering Authors). In Defoe's life it was the ministry that his father wanted him to pursue (Sutherland 2), but, instead, Defoe chose to become a tradesman (DIScovering Biography). The depth of the relationship between Crusoe and his parents in the book was specifically not elaborated upon because his parent's become symbolic not only of all parents, but of society. In keeping this ambiguous relationship, Defoe is able to make Crusoe's abrupt exodus much more believable and, thus, more humane. The reader, in turn, supports Crusoe's decisions even though "his social relationships were shipwrecked by the rising tide of individualism" (Watt 59). Defoe, too, "shipwrecked financially" in the economic boom in England in 1962 in what he would go on to say shaped Robinson Crusoe (Sutherland xi).

In Robinson Crusoe, Defoe uses the tale of a shipwrecked soldier to criticize society. Mainly, the story of Robinson Crusoe is based on a Scottish sailor named Alexander Selkirk who lived alone of the island of Juan Fernandez for over four years until he was rescued (Sutherland 7). In the island setting, Defoe was able to show what is necessary for the formation of a utopian society. This depiction, however, differentiated from later writers such as Huxley who's vision is "regarded as a classic examination of modern values and utopian thinking" (Bloom 232). "(Crusoe) takes a piece of paradise and makes it a sovereign state. He is king of vale, lord of the country, squire of the manor" (Seidel 10). While politicians argue about the best way to create a "perfect" society, Defoe says that the only way that it happens in the presence of everything except people, creating "Catch-22" irony. This was a very controversial topic in England at the time. Many citizens and people of certain religions were being persecuted because of their political beliefs (DIScovering Biography). Defoe, however, believed that religious freedom and political freedom was a right that every member of society should have, so "his entry into the world of politics was perhaps inevitable. Defoe was never content to remain for long in the realm of impersonal thought; he had a dangerous way of applying his mind to persons and parties" (Sutherland 2).

In his isolation from the rest of the world, Crusoe is able to create a utopian society that not only he depends on for survival, but it is also dependent on him (Defoe 58). This "Marx-like" economic system which was created proved that a utopian environment is possible to create, though easier having only one "citizen". There are no other people to corrupt or destroy the harmony in which Crusoe is living in with nature. "It was now that I began sensibly to feel how much more happy this life I now led was than the wicked, cursed, abominable life I led all the past part of my days"(Defoe 113). As Defoe depicts it, the narrator's solitary confinement, even...

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