Robinson Crusoe: Novel Summary: 3. "The generous Treatment."

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3. "The generous Treatment."

"The generous Treatment." through ".possible I could get on Shore?" (pp. 26-35)
Crusoe proceeds to settle as a plantation owner in Brazil. He eventually realizes, with rueful irony, that he has entered into the very station of life-the middle class-that he sought to escape by leaving home all those years before. No longer having the services of Xury, or of any servants or slaves, Crusoe reflects that he is living "just like a Man cast away upon some desolate Island." Making arrangements to have half of his wealth transferred from England, however, Crusoe soon buys a slave, and his plantation's fortunes continue to grow.
Four years later, some of Crusoe's fellow plantation owners prevail upon Crusoe to undertake a voyage to "Guinea" to procure slaves. Although Crusoe does not really need to increase his wealth, he agrees. On September 1, 1659-"being the same Day eight Year that I went from my Father and Mother"-Crusoe again sets sail. A hurricane soon arises, blowing the ship off course. Twelve days later, the vessel is "leaky and very much disabled," and the master resolves to return to Brazil. Unfortunately, yet another storm blows the ship into unknown waters: "we knew nothing where we were." Their ship having struck sand, the crew scrambles into an escape boat and begin rowing to shore; however, the wild waves sweep most of them away. Only Crusoe is driven to land.
Analysis
With this section, Defoe at last begins the main portion of his narrative. Now, however, readers can see the necessity of what has come before. For example, we learn something of Crusoe's character in his decision to undertake the slaving mission to Guinea. As Crusoe (who is, of course, telling the tale in retrospect) states, he ignores the multiple warnings of others and of circumstance in deciding to once more set out to sea. He does not use "Prudence" when deliberating "what [he] ought to have done, and ought not to have done" (quite possibly an allusion to St. Paul's discussion of the sinful human condition in Romans 7:14-20). Why does Crusoe make this bad decision? He indicates that his motive is greed: he confesses that the idea of the slaving voyage might have been "a fair Proposal" to a poorer plantation owner, but that for him, now "being worth three or four thousand Pounds Sterling. to think of such a Voyage, was the most preposterous thing that ever Man in such Circumstances could be guilty of." But deeper than the greed, perhaps, lies Crusoe's vanity as a motive. His plantation's prosperity leads him to plan "Projects and Undertakings beyond my Reach"-language that evokes the classical concept of hubris, or overreaching pride. In Greek drama, hubris proves to be the protagonist's tragic, fatal flaw; readers can at this point only wonder if it will prove to be so for Robinson Crusoe as well.
The text raises another set of questions, however, regarding why and how Crusoe finds himself shipwrecked and alone (a circumstance that is, incidentally, signaled with a none-too-subtle passage of foreshadowing as Crusoe reflects on his early hard labor on his Brazilian plantation). Even as he, in a sense, accepts the responsibility for his calamity by admitting his greed and pride, Crusoe also laments that he "was born to be my own Destroyer." He suggests that the sailing vessel's shipwreck on an unknown island was foreordained-"our Voyage was otherwise determined." Again, the book evidences a concern with the question of the degree to which human beings are shapers of their own destiny. Is each individual "the wilful Agent of all [her or his] own Miseries," or must the individual make allowance for the fact that "all human Affairs are. subject to Changes and Disasters?" (The two propositions occur within a page of each other, indicating the complex philosophical issues involved!) Who or what is ultimately to blame for Crusoe's shipwreck?

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