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Robinson Crusoe: Novel Summary: 4. "After I had solac'd my Mind."

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4. "After I had solac'd my Mind."

"After I had solac'd my Mind." through ".those things were of small use to me" (pp. 35-43)
Crusoe surveys his surroundings and determines that he has experienced "a dreadful Deliverance," for he sees, upon climbing a hill, that he is stranded on an island, "environ'd every Way with the Sea." He therefore has no visible hope of returning to civilization. He has only a knife, a pipe, and a little tobacco. In order to secure more provisions, he makes as many trips to the shipwreck as he can before the waters entirely engulf it. On one occasion he notes an irony: "if we had kept on board [instead of abandoning ship in the smaller boat], we had all. got safe on Shore." As it is, of course, Crusoe is-so far as he believes-utterly alone. Nevertheless, he manages to gather a fair amount of provisions and even to establish a hut-like shelter for himself, though not without expending much effort in the process. He establishes himself near the coast in the hopes that a passing vessel will see and rescue him. He gathers munitions from the sunken ship, creating a means of self-defense should he need it. He even brings ashore coins that he found in the wreckage-although he ruefully laments that money is of little use to him now.
Crusoe makes two rafts in this section; the second is superior because he has "had Experience of the first." This new raft is one small but concrete example of how Crusoe will learn from his experiences. He will adapt because he must in order to survive. Readers can trace Crusoe's growth through his experiences during the rest of the narrative. This theme of development-one might even term it "maturation"-follows naturally on the heels of the "baptismal" rebirth that Crusoe experienced when he was washed ashore (see section 3 of this commentary).
One way in which readers may already see Crusoe's development is in his attitude toward money. He smiles as he brings the now-worthless treasure ashore, addressing it as "O Drug!": "Thou art not worth to me, no not the taking off of the Ground." Readers cannot fail to note the irony, of course; it was the pursuit of this same "drug" that induced Crusoe to undertake a slaving voyage that he did not need to undertake. The money is of no use, and thus confronts readers with the question: What is of ultimate value in life?
On the other hand, this section shows readers that Crusoe is not ready to abandon all accoutrements of civilization: when he fires his gun at a bird, he muses that "it was first Gun that had been fir'd there since the Creation of the World." The mention of Creation may have prompted Defoe's original audience to think also of humanity's fall from grace (see Genesis 1-3), a concept expanded in post-biblical literature to typify human beings' inevitable fall from evidence. Perhaps even the physical form of a rifle could be interpreted as a symbolic "snake" in Crusoe's "garden!" (If this be the case, of course, the irony is compounded: whereas Adam and Eve wished to stay in Eden and were exiled because of their fall into the knowledge of good and evil, Crusoe's similar sin-namely, pride [see section 3]-has sent him into exile in "paradise!") Naturally, on the literal level of the text, Crusoe is simply doing what he must to survive (or must he?-latter portions of the text will return to this question in ways both subtle and overt). At a deeper, symbolic level, however, Crusoe may be unwittingly inviting readers to view him as the "satanic" agent who introduces "civilization"-in the language of Genesis 3, "the knowledge of good and evil," incarnate in Crusoe's rifle-into a heretofore unsullied environment (the kind of environment which Crusoe's comments on previous voyages have led readers to view and perhaps dismiss as the desolate realms of "savages!"). Granted, only continuing to read the full story will determine whether such a view of Crusoe is justified; nevertheless, the symbolic potential has here been established.


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