Study Guide

Robinson Crusoe Wealth

By Daniel Defoe

Wealth

He told me, I might judge of the Happiness of this State, by the one thing, <em>viz.</em> That this was the State of Life which all other People envied, that Kings have frequently lamented the miserable Consequence of being born to great things, and wish'd they had been placed in the Middle of the two Extremes, between the Mean and the Great; that the wise Man gave his Testimony to this as the just Standard of true Felicity, when he prayed to have neither Poverty or Riches. (6)

Crusoe's father argues that it's best to have neither extreme wealth nor be in dire poverty. Instead, the moderation of the middle classes presents the happiest and most contented state of life possible in that society.

The generous Treatment the Captain gave me, I can never enough remember; he would take nothing of me for my Passage, gave me twenty Ducats for the Leopard's Skin, and forty for the Lyon's Skin which I had in my Boat, and caused every thing I had in the Ship to be punctually deliver'd me, and what I was willing to sell he bought, such as the Case of Bottles, two of my Guns, and a Piece of the Lump of Bees-wax, for I had made Candles of the rest; in a word, I made about 220 Pieces of Eight of all my Cargo, and with this Stock I went on Shoar in the Brasils. (31)

As a man of trade, Crusoe is very interested in the acquisition of goods and wealth. The novel often catalogues in great detail how much money he makes.

Neither was this all; but my Goods being all <em>English</em> Manufactures, such as Cloath, Stuffs, Bays, and things particularly valuable and desirable in the Country, I found means to sell them to a very great Advantage; so that I might say, I had more than four times the Value of my first Cargo, and was now infinitely beyond my poor Neighbour, I mean in the Advancement of my Plantation; for the first thing I did, I bought me a N**** Slave, and an <em>European</em> Servant also; I mean another besides that which the Captain brought me from <em>Lisbon.</em> (33)

Crusoe's sugar plantations in Brazil depend upon cheap labor and slave labor. The acquisition of wealth depends on the exploitation and slavery of others. This is all a part of imperialist expansion and capitalism.

I smil'd to my self at the Sight of this Money, O Drug! Said I aloud, what art tho good for, Thou art not worth to me, no not the taking off of the Ground, one of those Knives is wroth all this Heap, I have no Manner of use for thee, e'en remain where thou art, and go the Bottom as a Creature whose Life is not worth saving.

On the island, Crusoe realizes that whatever money he might find in the wreckage of the ship is simply worth <em>nada</em>. Wealth will mean something entirely different.

But all I could make use of, was, All that was valuable. I had enough to eat, and to supply my Wants, and, what was all the rest to me? If I kill'd more Flesh than I could eat, the Dog must eat it, or the Vermin. If I sow'd more Corn than I could eat, it must be spoil'd. The Trees that I cut down, were lying to rot on the Ground. I could make no more use of them than for Fewel; and that I had no Occasion for, but to dress my Food. (110)

On the island, there is no purpose in accumulating more than Crusoe can use.

In a Word, The Nature and Experience of Things dictated to me upon just Reflection, That all the good Things of this World, are no farther good to us, than they are for our Use; and that whatever we may heap up indeed to give others, we enjoy just as much as we can use, and more. The most covetous griping Miser in the World would have been cur'd of the Vice of Covetousness, if he had been in my Case; for I possess'd infinitely more than I knew what to do with. (110)

Crusoe realizes that there are things that should be valued for their use. He reflects and determines this to be the general state of things.

You are to understand, that now I had, as I may call it, two Plantations in the Island; one my little Fortification or Tent, with the Wall about it under the Rock, with the Cave behind me, which by this Time I had enlarg'd into several Apartments or Caves, one within another. One of these, which was the driest, and largest, and had a Door out beyond my Wall or Fortification; that is to say, beyond where my Wall joyn'd to the Rock, was all fill'd up with the large Earthen Pots, of which I have given an Account, and with fourteen or fifteen great Baskets, which would hold five or six Bushels each, where I laid up my Stores of Provision, especially my Corn, some in the Ear cut off short from the Straw, and the other rubb'd out with my Hand. (128)

While money has no use on the island, Crusoe still manages to accumulate things: two houses, supplies, goods, and so on.

Well, however, I lugg'd this Money home to my Cave, and laid it up, as I had done that before, which I brought from our own Ship; but it was great Pity as I said, that the other Part of this Ship had not come to my Share; for I am satisfy'd I might have loaded my <em>Canoe</em> several Times over with Money, which if I had ever escap'd to <em>England</em>, would have lain here safe enough, till I might have come again and fetch'd it. (163)

Though he often claims that money has no use to him, Crusoe seems oddly interested in saving the money he finds – perhaps with the hopes that he might return one day and use it.

It is impossible to express here the Flutterings of my very Heart, when I look'd over these Letters, and especially when I found all my Wealth about me; for as the <em>Brasil</em> Ships come all in Fleets, the same Ships which brought my Letters, brought my Goods; and the Effects were safe in the River before the Letters came to my Hand. (239)

The happy ending to this story comes when Crusoe returns to Europe and is rewarded with great wealth from those sugar plantations he had in Brazil. While he has learned a great spiritual lesson, it is with economic prosperity that he finds his reward.

Besides this, I shard'd the Island into Parts with 'em, reserv'd to myself the Property of the whole, but gave them such Parts respectively as they agreed on; and having settled all things with them, and engaged them not to leave the Place, I left them there. (257)

Crusoe now owns the island, which he calls, earlier in the page, his "Collony" (257). Here, he shares it with some of the inhabitants but still considers it part of <em>his</em> holdings.