Chapter summary

Chapter 1: Start in Life

Setting: The port city of Hull, on a ship bound for London

Time: September 1651- 1652

Characters: Robinson Crusoe, an acquaintance of his, a ship's captain, sailors

The first-person narrator Robinson Crusoe from Daniel Defoe’s novel with the same name briefly tells of his life: He is born in 1632 in York, a city in northern England. His father is a wealthy merchant from Bremen. Even as a child, Robinson dreams of going to sea and having adventures, but his father is against it. However, this does not stop the boy from making his dreams come true.

One day, Robinson meets an acquaintance in the English port city of Hull. The acquaintance offers him a ride on his ship to London. Without informing his parents, the young man agrees and goes on board. Shortly after departure, a heavy storm shakes the sea. Robinson becomes seasick and feels intense fright. When the strong wind calms down the next day, he feels better again and begins to slowly get used to the sea. His acquaintance also encourages him and says that the weather wasn't so bad.

On the eighth day of his journey, another storm hits the sea. This time, however, it is much worse. The sailors have to throw out the emergency anchor and cut both ship's masts to avoid shipwreck. The entire ship's crew is terrified. Robinson also panics. During the night, the sailors discover a leak in the ship. There is nothing more they can do about it. The crew flees from the ship in the lifeboats. Shortly afterwards, their ship sinks into the sea.

The fleeing ship's crew row to a nearby beach, where they are met by many people who rush to their aid. The ship's crew and Robinson are warmly welcomed by the inhabitants of the nearby town, where they recover from their misfortune. The inhabitants then help them to continue their journey to London.

Chapter 2: Slavery and Escape

Setting: London, near the Canary Islands, Saleh in Mauritania, on the coast of Africa

Time: 2-3 years after Robinson's departure

Characters: Robinson Crusoe, a ship's captain and his crew, a band of pirates, the crew of a merchant ship

Once in London, Robinson is too ashamed to return home. He does not want to be laughed at because he has failed. He decides to embark on a new sea voyage.

Soon after, Robinson meets a ship's captain who wants to go on a voyage to Guinea to do business there. The captain suggests that Robinson accompany him on his journey. Robinson accepts this offer and befriends the captain.

With some money Robinson borrows from relatives in London, he buys toys and other merchandise to sell on his journey. The first weeks of his voyage are very pleasant for the young adventurer. The captain teaches him mathematics and trains him in basic nautical skills over the course of the first few weeks of a pleasant trip.

Near the Canary Islands, the ship is attacked by pirates. The crew tries to escape, but the pirates catch up with them. The two ships fire cannons at each other before the merchant ship is boarded. A terrible and bloody battle breaks out on the deck. The pirates prove to be much better armed and superior, so the ship's crew and Robinson eventually have to surrender.

The entire crew is captured and taken by the pirates to Saleh, a Moorish port. Most of the crew is then taken inland. Robinson, however, remains in the port city and becomes the personal slave of the pirate captain. Because Robinson is young and skillful, he has to do menial work for the pirate captain from then on. But he never loses his hope of escape.

After two years of captivity, Robinson has the opportunity to escape. His master orders him to go fishing for several days in a boat together with one of his followers. Robinson takes sea charts, provisions, a compass, and weapons on board. During the sailing trip, Robinson manages to throw his guard overboard. He is convinced that the guard will reach land because he is a good swimmer.

Robinson then sails along the coast for eleven days before he is finally discovered by a Portuguese merchant ship. When Robinson comes on board, he tells his story and how he escaped from the pirates' captivity. The curious crew welcomes him.

Chapter 3: Wrecked on a Desert Island

Setting: Brazil, an unknown island

Time: About five years until the shipwreck on 30 September 1659

Characters: Robinson Crusoe, crew, some merchants and plantation owners

The crew of the merchant ship takes Robinson to Brazil. Robinson sells his boat and some of his cargo for 220 gold coins. He then settles in the South American country and leads a fairly comfortable and wealthy life.

After some time, Robinson is made an offer by some merchants and plantation owners. He is to take a ship to Guinea and trade in slaves there as the delegate of the plantation owners. In return, he is to receive slaves as wages. The adventurer accepts the generous offer and sets sail with a crew.

A few days later, the ship is hit by a terrible tornado. The crew is no longer able to steer the ship, which drifts aimlessly at sea. It suddenly runs aground on a sandbank and gets stuck there. Fearing that it might collapse, the crew flees in the lifeboat.

The eleven sailors fight for survival in the storm and row as hard as they can towards land. Suddenly, however, a large wave overturns the boat. Robinson is swallowed up by the sea and struggles against the overwhelming forces of nature. Completely exhausted, he is finally washed ashore. The rest of the crew is drowned.

After waking up, Robinson wanders inland, where he finds a source of water. He spends the night in a tree, afraid of wild animals. When he wakes up the next day, he finds that the ship has drifted closer to land. He swims to the ship and climbs aboard. With the materials he finds there, he builds a raft. He loads it with clothes, supplies, weapons, powder barrels, and tools and rows back to land. He also takes the ship's dog with him.

Robinson, however, still does not know where exactly he is. He climbs a nearby mountain to get better look. At the top of the mountain, he realizes his situation: he is completely alone on an island. Around the island there is nothing but sea and some rocks. He discovers no trace of other people. The stranded adventurer is completely desperate. With a few crates and planks he has taken down from the ship, he builds a makeshift night camp and goes to sleep.

Chapter 4: First Weeks on the Island

 Setting: An uninhabited Pacific island

Time: Around 1660

Character: Robinson Crusoe

Robinson gets some more supplies from the ship and settles down in a cave with a grassy plain in front. He hammers posts into the ground and buil...

The text shown above is just an extract. Only members can read the full content.

Get access to the full Study Guide.

As a member of, you get access to all of the content.

Sign up now

Already a member? Log in