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Robinson Crusoe: Novel Summary: 5. "My Thoughts were now wholly employ'd."

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5. "My Thoughts were now wholly employ'd."

"My Thoughts were now wholly employ'd." through ".forc'd to leave it off" (pp. 43-52)
Crusoe builds a more secure and permanent dwelling for himself, which is both "a Cave in the Earth, [and] a Tent upon" it: "Into this Tent I brought all my Provisions, and every thing that would spoil by the Wet, and having thus enclos'd all my Goods, I made up the Entrance." He further fortifies the dwelling when he realizes, during a sudden storm, that a blast of lightning could explode the gunpowder he has salvaged from the shipwreck. He divides the powder into smaller portions for safety's sake.
Crusoe hunts daily for food, but, his physical situation now somewhat more secure, he begins to devote time to reflecting philosophically and theologically upon his predicament. Furthermore, he erects a makeshift monument on the spot on which he came ashore, where he marks off each day as it passes. His only companions at this point, aside from his thoughts, are a dog and two cats from the ship. Crusoe begins a journal, which he proceeds to reproduce in the present narrative. It covers the time from which he was shipwrecked until, having run out of ink, he was obliged to abandon it.
Readers should not fail to note the humorous understatements Crusoe makes not only in this section but throughout the narrative. For instance, as he introduces his philosophical reflections upon his plight, Crusoe tells us of his "Thoughts about Living, which it may well be suppos'd were not a few." No doubt!
Irony surfaces in Crusoe's lengthy description of how he built his new shelter: although his main concern is securing himself against the so-far unverified threats of "Savages" and "wild Beasts," he hints that he later discovered "there was no need of all this Caution." This realization raises the question of how secure any of us are in our lives. People, particularly in affluent societies, spend a great deal of time and effort "securing" or insulating themselves. Crusoe's comment could prompt readers to wonder if this time and effort are necessary, and whether the "security" that results is real or illusory, for apparently Crusoe will learn that he was "secure" enough from the beginning of his island exile.
This section of the narrative could also lead readers to wonder whether Crusoe is trusting or, indeed, should trust in Providence more. Although we have seen him attribute his survival to God, we have also heard him call it a "dreadful Deliverance," and now we watch as he "secures" himself away in his shelter with all the provisions he salvaged from the foundered ship. Readers conversant with the Bible, as Defoe's original readers undoubtedly were, may be reminded of Jesus' admonition, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal" (Matt. 6:19, KJV). Surely Crusoe, of all people, is now free from materialism: what, beyond the basic essentials of survival, does he need? He speaks often of improving his comfort, but how "comfortable" need he make himself-and has he learned anything about Providence from his experience thus far? These questions remain as yet unresolved.
And yet so does the nature of Providence itself. Crusoe's inner debate, summarized in the list of "evil" and "good" that he writes, attempts to penetrate the mystery of Providence: is it identifiable with fate, and it is benign, malignant, or indifferent? Is Crusoe's situation "a Determination of Heaven"? Does divine Providence "compleatly ruine its Creatures" so that life is no longer something for which to be grateful? While such thoughts may seem natural to Crusoe for a time, they run counter to sentiments expressed previously-for example, that he was "born to be [his] own Destroyer" (see section 3). This tension is not completely eased, but Crusoe does determine that any situation, no matter how dire, can yield some positive good. His philosophy is admirable, especially when expressed under such circumstances; only the remainder of the narrative will show whether it serves him well.


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