Necessity is the mother of inventions could undoubtedly be regarded as one of Daniel Defoe (1660 1731)'s favourite proverb, and indeed, he employed the maxim in his History of Trade, writing: Necessity which is the Mother, and Convenience which is the Handmaid of Invention, first Directed Mankind from these Originals, to Contrive Supplies and Support of Life. Actually, this common motto operates rather well on Robinson Crusoe, the eponymous main character and narrator of The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an uninhabited 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 deliver'd by Pyrates -which is the full title of the masterpiece. Published as a fictional chronicle in 1719, the book met with such a huge success that its author quickly went on writing two lesser-known sequels to it, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and The Serious Reflections of Robinson Crusoe, neither of which attracted as much consideration as the original. The genuine story of Alexander Selkirk, popularized through diverse narratives during the eighteenth century, is usually held to represent the major source for Robinson Crusoe.
[...] We have seen in our first part how order and disorder seemed to be opposed at first sight. Indeed, the text shows various instances of such contrasts. However, the struggle between those worlds must be considered from now on, because the two notions of order and disorder are not only separate and distinct: they use all their skills to outdo and try to defeat each other as well. When the reader comes to the end of the story, what he has in mind is indeed the victory of order out of disorder. [...]
[...] The storm and Crusoe's condition as a slave function as warnings -they are clear signs given by God that he should never go to sea again-, but the shipwreck is indeed the point of no return: from this moment on, Crusoe has to struggle in order to survive, and our hero constantly refers to his sin as a possible explanation for his misadventures. When the protagonist finds himself marooned on the sterile island, it really seems that nothing worse can happen to him, and disorder seems to be likely to have the upper hand in its fighting against the setting of order. [...]
[...] However, the ideas of order and disorder in Robinson Crusoe merit more than a mere topical study. What we will try to draw is a careful examination of the progression of the connection between the two notions of order and disorder in Robinson Crusoe. Which elements can originally be depicted as ordered or disordered in Robinson Crusoe? To what extent can the reader draw sharp oppositions between those notions in some parts of the book? Which varieties of contrasts are presented throughout the unfolding of the plot? [...]
[...] To put it bluntly, the first impression elicited in the reader while reading Robinson Crusoe is indeed a fierce antagonism between strict natural disorder and an undisturbed and serene milieu. Indeed, the two notions seem diametrically opposed: at first sight, no compromise is reached. Robinson has to deal either with the most terrible disasters or with the implacable stillness of nature. Another distinction can be drawn as far as order and disorder are concerned in Robinson Crusoe: mental insanity stands at the opposite of serenity and spirituality. [...]
[...] The fierce opposition between order and disorder cannot be clearer than in the study of society in Robinson Crusoe. As we have already mentioned, the book actually sets the individual against community. Indeed, the reader can draw sharp contrasts between loneliness and group of people, isolation and society, savagery and culture and so on. In Robinson Crusoe, there again, there seems to be no compromise: the social order Robinson left when he decided to depart from his house is quickly replaced by a total loneliness on the island, and, later on, by a chaotic community made up of savages and animals. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee