Robinson Crusoe: Novel Summary: 10. "But all this while."

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10. "But all this while."

"But all this while." through ".I went away and was no more sad" (pp. 91-97)
Undaunted by the thought that, should he leave the island, he may "fall into the Hands of Savages," Crusoe attempts to salvage the boat from the shipwrecked sailing vessel in order to strike out for the land he has spied. When this plan proves impossible, he sets about building himself a canoe. Looking back on his experiences, Crusoe seems amused that he was not dissuaded from the fact that, even were he able to make such a canoe, he would not be able to pull it to water by himself. Crusoe, with much effort, fells a cedar and proceeds to make his canoe. He is able, some three months later when the project is finished, to bring it to within a hundred yards of water by himself, but no further due to a steep incline. Crusoe thus resolves to bring the water to the canoe by creating a canal. This plan also fails. Crusoe comments on the lesson he learned: "the Folly of beginning a Work before we count the Cost."
The fourth anniversary of the shipwreck passes, giving Crusoe occasion to reflect on how far separated from the world he has become. He further reflects on the many advantages that he does, in fact, enjoy in his island exile, and concludes that, since he has already received far more from God's hand than he deserves, considering his former way of life, "that [his] Repentance was accepted, and that God hath yet Mercy in store for" him.
Analysis
This section begins with some more of Crusoe's thoughts on savagery, thoughts that, as gruesome as they are, do not dissuade him from his fervor in finding some way to escape the island. The comments about savages are ironic considering that Crusoe promptly proceeds to emulate them in building a canoe; the irony is further compounded when he realizes that he-a "civilized" man-would not be able to accomplish what "the Negroes or Indians" can in bringing his canoe to the water, since he is a solitary individual. This passage, along with Crusoe's theological and philosophical reflections on his separation from "the World"-i.e., civilization-thus provide more valuable material to readers interested in tracing the theme of savagery and civilization through the narrative. (On the other hand, to Crusoe's credit, the problem with which he is faced provides further examples of his ability to learn from experience and his ingenuity, as he creates a canal to bring the water to the canoe rather than vice versa, even though the attempt ultimately fails.)
Crusoe's reflections on his separation from the world may remind readers of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes. Like that biblical figure, traditionally identified with King Solomon, Crusoe is a careful observer of nature and of human experience (namely, his own on the island), and is capable of drawing moral instruction from his observations. (For example, Crusoe thinks about the folly of beginning a labor before counting the cost, and he extols to his readers the virtues of "look[ing] more upon the bright Side of [a] Condition.") Crusoe may echo the Teacher in another way: like his biblical predecessor, Crusoe realizes that material wealth and possessions are, ultimately, of limited worth: "That all the good Things of this World, are no further good to us, than they are for our Use; and that whatever we may heap up indeed to give others, we enjoy just as much as we can use, and no more." Such philosophical reflections mirror the Teacher's conclusions that, since mortals cannot carry the goods of this world with them to the grave; the end which divine providence has appointed is "no better thing under the sun than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 8:15, KJV). Surely it is no accident that Robinson Crusoe, with its constant attention to the mysterious ways of Providence, should echo Ecclesiastes, a text with the same concern.

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