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Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe

by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe Life on the Island Summary

  • Crusoe realizes he's all alone with no supplies, only a "Knife, a Tobacco-pipe, and a little Tobacco in a Box" – he proceeds to have a meltdown (41).
  • After finding water, Crusoe climbs up a tree to sleep and rest.
  • Waking, Crusoe decides he needs supplies, so he swims out to the still intact ship. (It wasn't torn to bits by the waves after all.)
  • Crusoe snags food, clothes, spirits, tools, ammunition, and arms. He then makes a raft out of some of the ship materials and floats them all back to shore.
  • Crusoe, even though he knows nothing of the land or where he is, must now figure out where to set up camp. Surveying the land, he sees that the island is barren and, he guesses, uninhabited. He builds a hut on the shore.
  • Crusoe makes another trip out to the ship for supplies. He fortifies his hut area by adding a tent, and then finally goes to sleep.
  • Crusoe continues to make daily trips out to the ship to strip it of any useful supplies. After thirteen days, he has made eleven trips back to the ship.
  • On his last trip to the ship, he finds gold and silver. He starts to take the money, but a storm rises up and he swims back to shore. The next morning, the ship has completely sunk.
  • Crusoe sets out to find a new place for his camp. He needs a location with water, shelter from the sun, security from attack, and a view of the sea. He finds a "little Plain on the Side of a rising Hill" that fits the bill (51).
  • The first thing Crusoe does is build a fence around his camp to protect himself. He sets up two tents, carries his provisions inside, and then digs into the side of the rocky hill to make a sort of cellar.
  • During this time, Crusoe witness a lightning storm and decides to parcel out his gunpowder into different bags and boxes so it won't catch fire.
  • He also roams around the island with his gun, shooting goats. He attempts to tame a kid (that is, a baby goat), but has no luck, so he eats it.
  • Crusoe's thoughts turn inward and he starts to get a little depressed about his prospects. Before he lurches into despair, though, he realizes that he was the only one saved of all the men and he has tons of supplies. He concludes "All Evills are to be consider'd with the Good that is in them, and with what worse attends them" (54).
  • Crusoe hatches a makeshift calendar on a post with his knife so he can remember how long he has been on the island and when to observe the Sabbath. He landed on September 30, 1659.
  • Further inventory of Crusoe's stock from the ship: he rescued a dog and two cats, along with ink and pens and a Bible or two. He, however, lacks tools such as a shovel or a spade.
  • Crusoe draws up a pro/con list (titled "Evil" and "Good") about his current situation. For every evil, there is always a good to balance it (57).
  • Crusoe works on improving his situation: he carves out more space in his cave, he builds a table and chair, and he carves places to hang his guns on the wall. Crusoe also begins to write in his journal, which he will do until his ink runs out.
  • Crusoe begins his journal on the "Island of Despair," as he calls it (60). The journal begins on September 30, 1659, with Crusoe's arrival on the island.
  • The entries for September 30 through the end of the year (January 1, 1660) detail the events Crusoe had previously described: his salvaging supplies from the ship, improving his camp, building a table and chairs, etc.
  • In January, Crusoe begins going farther into the valleys to hunt goats with his dog. This doesn't turn out so well.
  • Crusoe also begins building an enclosing wall around his camp, which an editor's note tells us he worked on from January 3rd to April 14th.
  • The rain increases during this period and Crusoe also accidentally plants some barley, which springs up and provides him with crops. He interprets the growth of the barley as a miracle from God at first, but then realizes it grew because he scattered chicken feed there.
  • Crusoe begins cultivating and growing the barley, and also some rice.
  • After Crusoe finishes his wall in April, an earthquake hits, followed by hurricane-force winds and rain. Crusoe is unnerved and takes a shot of rum in his cave.
  • Afraid of being buried alive, Crusoe decides to move his camp to a new, earthquake-safe location, but cannot decide where or how.
  • The wreckage of his old ship is washed ashore by the hurricane. Crusoe works on salvaging beams, planks, and iron bolts from the wreck from May 1st to June 15th.
  • Around this time, Crusoe falls ill with a fever. He prays to God for help, the first time "since the Storm off of Hull" (74).
  • In his feverish state, Crusoe dreams of a man with a spear who has come to kill him for not repenting. Various religious reflections follow.
  • Crusoe experiences a spiritual awakening of sorts, remembers the words of his father, and prays to God for help (for real this time).
  • The next day, Crusoe prepares food for his sick self and asks God to bless the turtle eggs he's about to eat.
  • More spiritual reflections follow, culminating with the question: "Why has God done this to me? What have I done to be thus us'd?" (79). He immediately checks himself for asking such a question.
  • Crusoe finds one of the Bibles left over from the ship's cargo and begins to read it, though he doesn't make much progress because he also tries to chew some tobacco. He does take note of these words: "Call on me in the Day of Trouble, and I will deliver, and thou shalt glorify me" (81).
  • That night, he prays before bed, drinks some tobacco-steeped rum, and falls into a sleep of recovery for probably, he reckons, a day or two.
  • From here on out, Crusoe starts reading the Bible regularly and praying. During this spiritual awakening, Crusoe realizes that he should be seeking deliverance from his sins rather than "Deliverance from Affliction" – that is, escape from the island (83).
  • Crusoe decides to explore the island: he finds melons and grapes and limes and lemons and also a lush and awesome little valley that he immediately thinks he's the rightful "King and Lord" of (85).
  • Crusoe considers moving his habitation to the lush side of the island, but thinks better of removing to the interior, away from the sea. Instead, he decides to build a tiny vacation hut and spend his summer months there.  This is almost starting to sound luxurious.
  • Crusoe's summer ends and the rains come. He returns to his cave on the bare side of the island.
  • He finds that his cats have had kittens, which is kind of weird since they're both female. After a while, he decides there are too many cats, so he kills them "like Vermine" (88).
  • Crusoe rations his food during the rainy season and expands his cave to include a back door. September comes and Crusoe has been on the island a year. He celebrates the anniversary with religious reflections.
  • During this time, Crusoe experiments with growing barley and rice. He eventually figures out that he must plant in February in order to take advantage of the rains in March and April, and yield a good crop.
  • Crusoe tends and cultivates a circle of hedge trees around his summer bower and main home.
  • He describes the seasons on the island, always alternating between rainy and dry.
  • Crusoe takes up basket weaving, making many wicker items for carrying his corn and other things.
  • Intent on exploring the whole island, Crusoe treks to the West with a hatchet, gun, and his dog. He cannot discern whether he is in the Spanish occupied dominions or among cannibals, people whom he terms "savages" (93).
  • On his trek back home, Crusoe knocks a parrot out of a tree with a stick and decides to keep it as his pet and name it Poll. He also picks up a kid goat with the help of his dog and decides to keep it and tame it.
  • September 30th rolls around, and so too the two-year anniversary of Crusoe's landing. He spends the day in religious observance and realizes he's happier now than he was in his life before.
  • A general description of Crusoe's third year on the island follows: reading scripture, hunting, cooking and preserving food, making a shelf (with much labor), planting barley and rice (protecting his crops from birds, fashioning tools), and trying to figure out how to make bread.
  • Crusoe manages to make bread: he molds some pots together with clay and figures out how to glaze them in the fire so they're waterproof. He then fashions a mortar and pestle out of a giant block of wood and a few sieves from old seaman's clothes.
  • Crusoe cooks everything up in the fire in pots around which he sets embers and voilà – bread!
  • With lots of harvest coming in, Crusoe figures out that he need only plant his barley and rice once a year.
  • Crusoe attempts to make use of the ship's boat that washed ashore, but it's too big to move. Instead, he carves a canoe out of the trunk of a tree.
  • Crusoe carves the canoe from a big cedar tree over the next several months. He fails, though, to figure out how to get it from the land into the water.
  • Crusoe first attempts to build a dock, but realizes that it would take him years to do without help. He gives up, realizing it is best not to undertake building a giant boat without planning how you're going to get it into the water first.
  • Crusoe passes his fourth anniversary on the island and celebrates with even more religious reflections: he is now "Lord of the whole Mannor" and therefore has no want or envy (109). He is thankful for being on the island, as it has made him into a Christian.
  • Crusoe is low on ink, bread, and clothes. He makes clothes out of fur, and also starts to build a (much smaller) canoe with which to explore the rest of "my little Kingdom" (116).
  • Crusoe tricks out his boat with sails, an umbrella, lockers, supplies, and ammunition, and then sets out on an adventurous sailing trip around the island.
  • After a few days, Crusoe's boat gets caught in a current and takes him far away from the island. Eventually, though, an eddy brings him back toward the island.
  • Crusoe harbors his boat and realizes he is on the Northern (the opposite) side of the island. He makes his way back home, passing by his country house.
  • Resting a bit at his summer place, he comes across Poll, who scares the life out of him when the parrot says his name.
  • Over the course of the next year, Crusoe leads a calm and restful existence improving his craftwork: carpentry, earthenware making, and wicker weaving.
  • In his eleventh year on the island, Crusoe starts running low on gunpowder, so he decides to trap goats in order to tame them and breed them. This involves digging big pits and luring goats into them.
  • Crusoe encloses a "Savanna" on the island for the goat enclosures where he breeds them like flocks of sheep (124). After several years, he gets 43 goats, which keeps him stocked up on milk, cheese, butter, and meat.
  • Crusoe describes sitting down to dinner with his island family: Poll the parrot, his dog, and two cats.
  • Crusoe also describes himself, all dressed in goat skin and long whiskers. A far cry from that English gentleman we first met.
  • Around this time, Crusoe decides to go back for his canoe, but decides simply to build a second boat and have one on each side of the island.
  • Crusoe takes stock of his goods and how he has spent his time: he has made a wall, grown fields of corn, built a country house, tended goats, planted grapes, and all in all kept himself very busy.
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