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It's really amazing how rereading a book after twenty years can give you such a different perspective on the story.  Having just reread Swiss Family Robinson (see Orrin's review) and being surprised by the relative heavy-handedness of the Christian rhetoric, I figured I may as well revisit Robinson Crusoe.  Now I recall this story from childhood as a thrilling adventure of man conquering nature and surviving in the wild, but little more than that.  Imagine my surprise when this too turned out to be essentially a Christian allegory.  In looking for links to go with this review I found an excellent essay, by Philip Zaleski in First Things, which treats many of the issues I would have raised and does so far better than I could have; I strongly recommend it.

I agree with much of what Zaleski says, with one caveat.  I think that there are legitimate reasons to have bowdlerized versions of books like this and Swiss Family Robinson.  Most of us are first exposed to these classics when we are kids and non-Christian parents could have understandable concerns about their children coping with the Christian themes which really dominate the unexpurgated versions of these books.  Personally, I found it beautiful and compelling when Crusoe has his epiphany:

    This was the first time that I could say, in the true Sense of the Words, that I pray'd in all my Life;
    for now I pray'd with a Sense of my Condition, and with a true Scripture View of Hope founded on
    the Encouragement of the Word of God; and from this Time, I may Say, I began to have Hope that
    God would hear me.

This image of a man stranded and alone facing the wilderness, but making peace with himself and with God, is one of the most sublime in all of Western Literature.  But it is part and parcel of a very Protestant text that some might find off-putting.  It is certainly better to have kids at least read a diluted version of the text, than never read it because of these parental worries.

However, it is inappropriate to use the bastardized versions when these books are being taught in High School and College.  There, when readers are sufficiently mature to understand concepts even if they disagree with them, it does a disservice to the author, the text, the student and most importantly to the importance of ideas themselves, to have them avoid the central themes which the novel is intended to express.

This, one of the earliest English novels, remains one of the best; it's popularity easy to understand.  I encourage you to return to it, particularly if you haven't read it in several decades.  It is a much richer and more interesting book than the one you may recall reading--lo, those many moons ago.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

Websites:

See also:

Classics
Sea Stories
Book-related and General Links:
    -Daniel Defoe (kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: Your search: "daniel defoe"
    -Daniel Defoe (Great Literature On-line)
    -The San Antonio College LitWeb Daniel Defoe Page
    -TIMELINE: Daniel Defoe - chronological notes
    -Daniel Defoe (Spartacus.schoolnet)
    -Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (Islomania)
    -ESSAY: Daniel Defoe, The Complete English Tradesman (North Park University)
    -Robinson Crusoe Islands (Juan Fernandez Islands, West of Santiago, Chile)
    -ARTICLE: Even Robinson Crusoe has his day (Joanne Nesbit)
    -LECTURE OUTLINE: EN3023 The Development of the Novel to 1840 Lecture Outline: Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (Dr MacLachlan's Home Page)
    -ESSAY: Alexander Selkirk: The Real Robinson Crusoe (James S. Bruce and Mayme S. Bruce
Published in The Explorers Journal, Spring 1993)
    -ESSAY: Notes on Marx's Capital and Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (Laura Mandell)
    -ESSAY: No. 1021:  ROBINSON CRUSOE (John H. Lienhard, Engines of Our Ingenuity)
    -ESSAY:   I wish I'd written Robinson Crusoe (Simon Armitage, Books Unlimited)
    -ESSAY: Daniel Defoe: Crusoe's creator a controversial pamphleteer (STEVE KING - A Literary Almanac - CBC Radio)
    -ESSAY: Daniel Dafoe: A Paradoxical Genius (PHILIP ZALESKI, First Things)
    -SUMMARY: Robinson Crusoe   by Daniel Defoe (c. 1659-1731)
    -ETEXTS: The Daniel Defoe Page
    -ETEXT & NOTES: Robinson Crusoe (The Grid)
    -LINKS: (UK Unlimited)
    -ONLINE STUDY GUIDE: Robinson Crusoe  by Daniel Defoe (SparkNote by Ben Florman)
    -REVIEW:  The Strange Shipwreck  of Robinson Crusoe (Philip Zaleski, First Things)
    -REVIEW: Robinson Crusoe  by Daniel Defoe (Edward Tanguay, Online Reading Club Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of DANIEL DEFOE His Life. By Paula R. Backscheider (Pat Roger, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Robert M. Adams: The Defoe File, NY Review of Books
        The Canonisation of Daniel Defoe by P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens
    -REVIEW: P.N. Furbank: The Hack of Genius, NY Review of Books
        Daniel Defoe: The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures by Richard West
    -REVIEW: of The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Daniel Defoe  by Richard West Hack with Genius: Full of Fibs and Fantasies  (Keith Waterhouse, Literary Review)
    -REVIEW: Irvin Ehrenpreis: The Moral World of Robinson Crusoe, NY Review of Books
        The World of Defoe by Peter Earle
    -REVIEW:  D.J. Enright: Visions and Revisions, NY Review of Books
        The Messiah of Stockholm by Cynthia Ozick
        Foe by J.M. Coetzee
    -REVIEW: of FOE By J. M. Coetzee (Denis Donoghue, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of FOE By J. M. Coetzee (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: Roger Shattuck: Why Not the Best?, NY Review of Books
        Friday by Michel Tournier and translated by Norman Denny
        The Ogre by Michel Tournier and translated by Barbara Bray
        Gemini by Michel Tournier and translated by Anne Carter
        The Four Wise Men by Michel Tournier and translated by Ralph Manheim
        Le Vent du Paraclet by Michel Tournier
    -REVIEW : of  DANIEL DEFOE: MASTER OF FICTIONS By Maximillian E. Novak (Philip Hensher, Spectator)
    -REVIEW : of DANIEL DEFOE: MASTER OF FICTIONS  By Maximillian Novak (Matthew Price, National Post)
    -REVIEW : of The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Daniel Defoe  by Richard West (Keith Waterhouse, Literary Review)

FILMS:
    -INFO: Man Friday (1976)(Internet Movie DataBase)

GENERAL:
    -WEB SITES: THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY NOVEL
    -An Outline of the English Novel: The Short List (San Antonio College LitWeb)
    -REVIEW: Christopher Hill: History Turned Upside Down, NY Review of Books
        Criticism and Compliment: The politics of literature in the England of Charles I by Kevin Sharpe
        Feminist Milton by Joseph Wittreich
        Puritan Legacies: Paradise Lost and the New England Tradition, 1630-1890 by Keith W.F. Stavely
        The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740 by Michael McKeon
        The Cultural Meaning of the Scientific Revolution by Margaret C. Jacob
    -REVIEW: of WHO BETRAYS ELIZABETH BENNET? Further Puzzles in Classic Fiction. By John Sutherland (Daniel Zalewski, NY Times Book Review)Great Literature On-line

Comments:

You misuse the word "bowdlerized." To bowdlerize means, essentially, to make something more Christian by taking out the juicy parts, like what Disney has done with Grimm's Fairy tales.

- DAniel Springle

- Jul-15-2003, 15:30

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