Study Guide

Robinson Crusoe Foreignness and 'the Other'

By Daniel Defoe

Foreignness and 'the Other'

By the best of my Calculation, that Place where I now was, must be that Country, which lying between the Emperor of <em>Morocco's</em> Dominions and the <em>N****'s,</em> lies wast and uninhabited, except by wild Beasts; the <em>N****es</em> having abandon'd it and gone farther South for fear of the <em>Moors;</em> and the <em>Moors</em> not thinking it worth inhabiting by reason of its Barrenness; and indeed both forsaking it because of the prodigious Numbers of Tygers, Lyons, Leopards and other furious Creatures which harbour there; (25)

Because of his role in trade, Crusoe comes into contact with many other foreign cultures.

I could not tell what Part of the World this might be, otherwise than that I know it must be Part of <em>America</em>, and as I concluded by all my Observations, must be near the <em>Spanish</em> Dominions, and perhaps was all Inhabited by Savages, where if I should have landed, I had been in a worse Condition than I was now; and therefore I acquiesced in the Dispositions of Providence, which I began now to own, and to believe, order'd every Thing for the best; (93)

Crusoe finds himself very far from England. In fact, he's near savages.

Besides, after some Pause upon this Affair, I consider'd, that if this Land was the <em>Spanish</em> Coast, I should certainly, one Time or other, see some Vessel pass or re-pass one Way or other; but if not, then it was the <em>Savaage</em> Coast between the <em>Spanish</em> Country and <em>Brasials,</em> which are indeed the worst of <em>Savages;</em> for they are Cannibals, or Man-eaters, and fail not to murther and devour all the humane Bodies that fall into their Hands. (93)

Completely disoriented, Crusoe finds himself amidst savages.

It happen'd one Day about Noon going towards my Boat, I was exceedingly surpriz'd with the Print of a Man's naked Foot on the Shore, which was very plain to be seen in the Sand: I stood like one Thunder-struck, or as if I had seen an Apparition; I listen'd, I look'd round me, I could hear nothing, nor see any Thing, I went up to a rising Ground to look farther, I went up the Shore and down the Shore, but it was all one, I could see no other Impression but that one, I went to it again to see if there were any more, and to obseve if it might not be my Fancy; but there was no Room for that, for there was exactly the very Print of a Foot, Toes, Hell, and every Part of a Foot; how it came thither, I knew not, nor could in the least imagine. But after innumerable fluttering Thoughts, like a Man perfectly confus'd and out of my self, I came Home to my Fortification, not feeling, as we say, the Ground I went on, but terrify'd to the last Degree, looking behind me at every two or three Steps, mistaking every Bush and Tree, and fancying every Stump at a Distance to be a Man; (130)

The footprint Crusoe encounters is the first sign that he's not actually alone on the island.

…and this I must observe with Grief too, that the Discompusure of my Mind had too great Impression also upon the religious Part of my Thoughts, for the Dread and Terror of falling into the Hands of Savages and Canibals, lay so upon my Spirits, that I seldom found my self in a due Temper for Application to my Maker, at least not with the sedate Calmness and Resgination of Soul which I was wont to do; (138)

Crusoe fears the cannibals.  As do we.

That this would justify the Conduct of the <em>Spaniards</em> in all their Barbarities practis'd in <em>America</em>, and where they destory'd Millions of these People, who however they were Idolaters and Barbarians, and had several bloody and barbarous Rites in their Customs, such as sacrificing human Bodies to the Idols, were yet, as to the <em>Spaniards,</em> very innocent People; and that the rooting them out of the Country, is spoken of with the utmost Abhorrence and Detestation, by even the <em>Spaniards</em> themselves, at this Time; and by all other Christian Nations of <em>Europe,</em> as a meer Butchery, a bloody and unnatural Piece of Cruelty, unjustifiable either to God or Man; and such, as for which the very name of <em>Spaniard</em> is reckon'd to be frightful and terrible to all People of Humanity, or of Christian Compassion: As if the Kingdom of <em>Spain</em> were particularly Eminent for the Product of a Race of Men, who were without Principles of Tenderness, or the common Bowels of Pity to the Miserable, which is reckon'd to be a Mark of generous Temper in the Mind. (145)

Crusoe critiques the Spanish conquest of the Americas in all of its barbarity – how is his colonization of the island different? That is, what makes him different from the Spaniards?

When these Thoughts were over, my Head was for some time taken up in considering the Nature of these wretched Creatures; I mean, the Savages; and how it came to pass in the World, that the wise Governour of all Things should give up any of his Creatures to such Inhumanity; (166)

Crusoe considers the cannibals to be "savages" and wonders how they have escaped God's grace.

It seem'd evident to me, that the Visits which they thus make to this Island, are not very frequent; for it was above fifteen Months before any more of them came on Shore there again; that is to say, I neither saw them, or any Footsteps, or Signals of them, in all that Time; for as to the rainy Seasons, then they are sure not to come abroad, at least not so far; yet all this while I liv'd uncomfortably, by reason of the constant Apprehensions I was in of their coming up on me by Surprize; from whence I observe, that the Expectation of Evil is more bitter than the Suffering, especially if there is no room to shake off that Expectation, or Apprehensions. (155)

The cannibals are the first group of people Crusoe encounters on the island and his reaction is – totally understandably – fear.  That sounds like no warm welcome to us.

He was a comely handsome Fellow, perfectly well made; with straight strong Limbs, not too large; tall and well shap'd, and as I reckon, about twenty six Years of Age. He had a very good Countenance, not a fierce and surly Aspect; but seem'd to have something very manly in his Face, and yet he had all the Sweetness and Softness of an <em>European</em> in his Countenance too, especially when he smil'd. His Hair was long and black, not curl'd like Wool; his Forehaed very high, and large, and a great Viviacity and sparkling Sharpness in his Eyes. The Coulour of his Skin was not quite black, but very tawny; and yet not of an ugly yellow nauseous tawny, as the <em>Brasilians,</em>  and  <em>Virginias,</em>  and other Natives of <em>America</em> are; but of bright kind of a dun olive Colour, that had in it something very agreeable; tho' not very easy to describe. (173)

Note the intense, highly-detailed description Crusoe gives of Friday's body. He watches him while he is sleeping.

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; and I dare say, he would have sacrific'd his Life for the saving mine, upon an y occasion whatsoever; the many Testimonies he gave me of this, put it out of doubt, and soon convinc'd me, that I needed to use no Precautions, as to my Safety on his Account. (176)

Friday is posited as Crusoe's child and servant, with no passions or designs of his own.

…I bade him go to the Tree, and bring me Word if he could see there plainly what they were doing; he did so, and came immediately back to me, and told me they might be plainly view'd there; that they were all about their Fire, eating the Flesh of one of their Prisoners; and that another lay bound upon the Sand, a little from them, which he said they would kill next, and which fir'd all the very Sould within me; he told me it was not one of their Nation; but one of the bearded Men, who had told me of that came to their Country in the Boat: I was fill'd with Horror at the very naming the white-bearded Man, and going to the Tree, I saw plainly by my Glass, a white Man who lay upon the Beach of the Sea, with his Hands and his Feet ty'd , with Flags, or Things like rushes; and that he was an <em>European</em>, and had Cloaths on. (196)

Crusoe is especially fired up by the fact that they are about to feast on one like him: a European. Why might this be?

But never was a Fight manag'd so hardily, and in such a surprising Manner, as that which follow'd between <em>Friday</em> and the Bear, which gave us all (thought at first we were surpriz'd and afraid for him) the greatest Diversion imaginable: (246)

Friday returns to Europe with Crusoe. Why? And why is he fighting a bear here? Why doesn't anyone else in the party take up with the bear? And why is it diverting to Crusoe?