Wednesday, June 6, 2012

55 Books in a Year: Book #23 Robinson Crusoe

So, it should be illegal to have illustrated classics...they are very misleading. From about the age of 10 until I started this book, I thought Robinson Crusoe was just about a guy who got stranded on an island, met a properly clothed native named Friday and got off the island a rich man.

And, I thought it would be a bit of an easy read.

11 pages and at least one 160 (approximately) word sentence in, I realized so many things about weren't exactly as they appeared.

Let me break it down

A guy who got stranded on an island
Yes, Crusoe gets stranded on an island. He gets stranded on an island for almost 29 years and about 3 years in he realizes that he can't get off the island alone. There's also about 100 pages of detail about how he goes against his father's wishes and goes out to sea, makes a fortune and loses it and makes a fortune again, becomes a slave, runs away, owns a plantation and plans the voyage that is to be his final one for a long time. He also goes on and on about praying and religion and how he does both well in times of stress. He builds a house. He talks about how money really is a waste. He details planting crops and taming a parrot and shooting cats. He watches cannibals eat people. It's not as exciting as it sounds.

Met a properly clothed native named Friday
Friday is about to be eaten by cannibals. He is, in fact, part of them. Crusoe teaches him to be a good Christian, this, of course, means that he can no longer eat people and he must wear clothes. Crusoe points out that Friday is a better Christian than he is because Friday is naive. I liked reading about Friday the most as I found Defoe's description of Crusoe's view of Friday quite progressive. Crusoe treats Friday as an equal and considers him a friend, although he is dark skinned.

Got off the island a rich man
I have no idea why I thought this book was more like Treasure Island or Swiss Family Robinson with island treasure hunts and jewels and such, but I did. I was amazed to find that Crusoe had made his money before he left and instead of spending more years wasting it by creating adventures and buying stuff, it accrues value and he, alone on the island, learns how to take pleasure in the simple. If only every man got to spend time away from society during his most wayward years.

To say I disliked this book would be a bit harsh. I am glad I read this adult version of this book. There are so many allusions I understand on a deeper level, especially all of those presented by Betteredge in The Moonstone. I don't really see myself going back to it as a reference and if I want a Crusoe fix, I think I'll stick to that mini-series starring Pierce Brosnan.

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