Colonialism

Robinson's property

Many critics of Daniel Defoe`s novel Robinson Crusoe characterize the main character as a typical representative of the colonial era. In the first edition of the story (1719), Robinson refers to the island as “my new colony” (Chapter 20, 83%). In the novel, the adventurer claims that he has the right to rule over it and its riches: “to think that this was all my own; that I was king and lord of all this country indefensibly” (Chapter 7, 18%). Thus, like the colonists consider the territories they discover their own, he regards the island as a “blank page” and decides to claim ownership over everything that is there.

Robinson reaffirms this belief later in the narrative when Friday, Friday`s father and a Spaniard stay with him on the island:

My island was now peopled, and I thought myself very rich in subjects; and it was a merry reflection, which I frequently made, how like a king I looked. First of all, the whole country was my own property, so that I had an undoubted right of dominion. Secondly, my people were perfectly subjected—I was absolutely lord and lawgiver—they all owed their lives to me, and were ready to lay down their lives, if there had been occasion for it, for me. (Chapter 16, 86%)

He feels like the unrestricted ruler of the island and its inhabitants. He refers to his dwellings as “castle” (Chapter 11, 39%; Chapter 12, 18%; 45% etc.), “fortress” (Chapter 4, 53%), or “residence” (Chapter 17, 89%).

Arrogance and mistrust

Two qualities characterize Robinson that were also typically possessed by most European colonists: arrogance and mistrust.

Arrogance

Robinson shows his arrogance and perceived superiority in various contexts. As a merchant, he borrows some money from relatives in London, buys toys and other trade goods to sell on his journey to the west coast of Africa. Often, the colonists exchanged the low-value goods they brought back with them in the colonies for valuable things, such as art, gold, or precious stones.

Robinson also proves arrogant and deceitful, when he goes from Brazil to Guinea to engage in the slave trade as an agent. He is to obtain labor for the plantation owners, meaning Robinson is to buy slaves for them. In return, he is to receive slaves as his wages.

Moreover, Robinson shows his arrogance in his interactions with Friday. Just like the European colonists, who regarded the in...

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 PrimeStudyGuides.com, you get access to all of the content.

Sign up now

Already a member? Log in