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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Religion

Daniel Defoe's novel is, at its core, the spiritual autobiography of one man: Robinson Crusoe, mariner of York. He is first rebellious, then atones for his sins, and then converts himself and other...

Wealth

As an 18th-century mariner on the high seas, Robinson Crusoe is very interested in commerce, trade, and the accumulation of wealth. After all, the whole reason that Crusoe is on the ocean in the fi...

Society and Class

First, class. As Crusoe's father tells us at the opening of the novel, Robinson Crusoe's family is of the middle class. This class, according to old man Crusoe, is the best since it neither experie...

Man and the Natural World

What is man's role in the natural world? This is a question Defoe's novel wants you to ask yourself. Crusoe believes himself to be at the head of the social order. When he looks at the natural worl...

Rules and Order

How do we organize our world? Robinson Crusoe is a novel that is very interested in hierarchy and man's place in it. At the top, of course, is God. Next up? Well, Crusoe. He rules all that is under...

Family

The idea of the family is a central preoccupation in Robinson Crusoe. Crusoe must sort out his relationship to his biological father, of course, and his spiritual father (God). His defiance of his...

Foreignness and 'the Other'

Crusoe does a whole lot of thinking about other cultures over the course of the novel. Because he is a man of trade, he comes into contact with many, many different cultures. He must figure out his...

Slavery

While the plot of Robinson Crusoe does not explicitly revolve around slavery, the institution of slavery serves as a basis for much of the action of the novel. When Crusoe heads to Africa, it is to...
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