Study Guide

Robinson Crusoe Family

By Daniel Defoe

Family

My Father, a wise and grave Man, gave me serious and excellent Counsel against what he foresaw was my Design. He call'd me one Morning into his Chamber, where he was confined by the Gout, and expostulated very warmly with me upon this Subject: He ask'd me what Reasons more than a meer wandring Inclination I had for leaving my Father's House and my native Country, where I might be well introduced, and had a prospect of raising my Fortunes by Application and Industry, with a Life of Ease and Pleasure. (5-6)

Robinson Crusoe's father is introduced right away, and with good reason. As the prodigal son, Crusoe must deny his father's advice in order to follow his own "wandring Inclination." Crusoe's relationship with his biological father can be read as an earthly version of his relationship to his spiritual father (i.e., God). We'll see Crusoe consistently denying the power and authority of God as well – at least in the first half of the novel.

…I went on Board in an evil Hour, the 1st of <em>Sept.</em> 1659, being the same Day eight Year that I went from my Father and Mother at <em>Hull,</em> in order to act the Rebel to their Authority, and the Fool to my own interest. (36)

Most of the poor decisions Crusoe makes in his life, he traces back to the initial rebellion against his parents – especially his father.

It would have made a Stoick smile to have seen, me and my little Family sit down to Dinner; there was my Majesty the Prince and Lord of the whole Island; I had the Lives of all my Subjects at my absolute Command. I could hang, draw, give Liberty, and take it away, and no Rebels among my subjects. (125)

Crusoe's family consists of his pets on the island. Notice that the structure of the family is hierarchical, with Crusoe at the head.

I have been in all my Circumstances a <em>Memento</em> to those who are touch'd with the general Plague of Mankind, whence, for ought I know, one half of their Miseries flow; I mean, that of not being satisfy'd with the Station wherein God and Nature has plac'd them; for not to look back upon my primitive Condition, and the excellent Advice of my Father, the Opposition to which, was, <em>as I may call it</em>, my ORIGINAL SIN; (164)

For Crusoe, defying the advice of his father is the source of his miseries. He even calls it his "original sin" (in all caps, no less).

But I needed none of all this Precaution; for never Man had a more faithful, loving, sincere Servant, than <em>Friday</em> was to me; without Passions, Sullenness or Designs, perfectly oblig'd and engag'd; his very Affections were ty'd to me, like those of a Child to a Father; (176)

Crusoe establishes his relationship with Friday as a paternal one. Why?

This was the pleasantest Year of all the Life I led in this Place; <em>Friday</em> began to talk pretty well, and understand the Names of almost every Thing I had occasion to call for, and of ever Place I had to send him to, and talk'd a great deal to me; so that in short I bgan now to have some Use for my Tongue again, which indeed I had very little occasion for before; that is to say, <em>about Speech</em>; (180)

Crusoe expands his "family" to include Friday. How would you characterize their relationship?

When <em>Friday</em> came to him, I bad him speak to him, and tell him of his Deliverance, and pulling out my Bottle, made him give the poor Wretch a Dram, which, with the News of his being deliver'd, reviv'd him, and he sat up in the Boat; but when Friday came to hear him speak, and look in his Face, it would have mov'd any one to Tears, to have seen how <em>Friday</em> kiss'd him, embrac'd him, hugg'd him, cry'd, laugh'd, hollow'd, jump'd about, danc'd, sung, then cry'd again, wrung his Hands, beat his own Face, and Head, and then sung, and jump'd about again, like a distracted Creature: It was a good while before I could make him speak to me, or tell me what was the Matter, but when he came a little to himself, he told me, that it was his Father. (200)

We meet Friday's father, who soon becomes part of Crusoe's family. But how has Friday's own family changed now?

He had been with us now about a Month; during which time, I had let him see in what Manner I had provided, with the Assistance of Providence, for my Support; and he saw evidently what Stock of Corn and Rice I had laid up; which as it was more than sufficient for my self, so it was not sufficient, at least without good Husbandry, for my Family; now it was encreas'd to Number four: (207)

Crusoe's family grows and soon includes Crusoe, Friday, Friday's father, and the Spaniard.

I went down afterwards into <em>Yorkshire;</em> but my Father was dead, and my Mother, and all the Family extinct, except that I found two Sisters, and two of the Children of one of my Brothers; and as I had been long ago given over for dead, there had been no Provision made for me; (234)

Crusoe finds himself the last of his line.

In the mean time, I in Part settled my self here; for first of all I marry'd, and that not either to my Disadvantage or Dissatisfaction, and has three Children, two Sons and one Daughter: But my Wife dying, and my Nephew coming Home with good Success from a Voyage to Spain, my Inclination to go Abroad, and his Importunity prevailed and engag'd me to go in his Ship, as a private Trader to the East Indies: This was in the Year 1694. (257)

Notice that Crusoe's marital and family life back on land only gets about a paragraph of description. Why do you think that is?