Robinson Crusoe: Novel Summary: 14. "Things going on thus."

Average Overall Rating: 2.5
Total Votes: 714

14. "Things going on thus."

"Things going on thus." through ".in this dismal Place" (pages 121-127)
Crusoe makes plans to ambush the "savages" who sail to the island from the mainland to slaughter and cannibalize their victims. As he reflects on his plans, however, he realizes he is no place to judge the local inhabitants: "What Authority, or Call I had, to pretend to be the Judge and Executioner upon these Men as Criminals, whom Heaven had thought fit for so many Ages to suffer unpunish'd." Crusoe's reflections further lead him to decide that, since the natives had not harmed him, he would be guilty of no less a crime than the Spanish conquistadores were he to fight them. He will not attack the "savages," he resolves, unless they first attack him. Crusoe comes to regard this change in his attitude as yet another deliverance at the hands of Providence: a deliverance from sin.
Analysis
Although Crusoe had purportedly made peace with his fear in the previous section, modern readers (more conditioned by what textual critics are fond of calling the "hermeneutic of suspicion") are no doubt likely to be struck by the extent to which the immediately succeeding portion of the narrative is preoccupied with the "savages." As noted in the Summary above, however, Crusoe does ultimately conclude that he is in no place to judge the native inhabitants of the island and the mainland-a conclusion he, perhaps, would not have been able to reach previously. Thus, the overall arc of Crusoe's reflections in this section may demonstrate further growth in his character; certainly, his indictment of Spain's treatment of natives in the "New World" is-if somewhat, by modern historical standards, lacking in perspective, given that Britain and all other imperial powers of the 16th through 18th centuries could be justly accused of similar crimes-an impassioned defense of rather than a fervent polemic against "savages" in the name of Christianity, and therefore noteworthy for its time. Crusoe's (and Defoe's?) excusal of Western European atrocities:-"these People were not Murtherers. any more than those Christians were Murtherers, who often put to Death the Prisoners taken in battle."-may jar 21st-century readers, but here again, the text's intent is to "equalize" the European and "savage" civilizations: Crusoe finds himself unable to sit in judgment upon the internecine warfare of this indigenous population because his home civilization acts in similar ways, fighting within itself. Similar standards of what is and is not acceptable must therefore apply. (Incidentally, readers familiar with Herman Melville's Moby Dick [1851] might find a comparison of this passage with Ishamel's reflections upon the "pagan" Queegqueeg's religion profitable: like Defoe before him, Melville demonstrates an empathy for "the other," to use a modern sociological category, not usually considered characteristic of his era.)
The section both begins and concludes with Crusoe's moralistic, almost homiletical applications of his experience to his and his readers' lives: the initial lesson that people would be happier if they avoided comparing their state in life to that of others (a lesson Crusoe now, no doubt, wishes he had heeded in his youth); and the latter lesson, "How wonderfully we are deliver'd, when we know nothing of it." Here, of course, Crusoe refers not to physical deliverance from peril but to spiritual deliverance from sin. This moral would tend to reinforce a reading of the narrative assigning symbolic value to the island as a microcosm of the human experience.

Quotes: Search by Author

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z