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About 1660 Daniel Defoe was born in London, as the son of James Foe, a City tradesman and member of the Butchers` Company. During his infancy Defoe is afflicted with the rigid upbringing of his father. His family were Dissenters, Presbyterians to be precise, who did not belong to the Anglican Church. Daniel received a very good education but could not graduate from Oxford or Cambridge without taking an oath of loyalty to the Church of England.
Consequently he attended the Charles Morton´s Academy in London where he studied several languages. In 1683 Defoe became, against his father`s wishes, a hosiery merchant, and his business gave him frequent opportunities to travel throughout Western Europe.
One year later he married Mary Tuffley and his whole business went into bankruptcy.
In 1702 Defoe published anonymously a tract entitled The Shortest Way with the Dissenters , which satirized religious intolerance by pretending to share the prejudices of the Anglican church against Nonconformists. Nobody was really amused and Defoe was arrested in May 1713. He achieved literary immortality when in April 1719 he published „Robinson Crusoe“ which was partly based on the memoirs of voyagers and castaways, such as Alexander Selkirk. The novel was published in 2 parts which were called „ The life and strange surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York.“ Besides being a brilliant journalist, novelist, and social thinker, Defoe was a prolific author, producing more than 500 books, pamphlets, and tracts.
In 1731 Daniel Defoe died fundless in Moorgate, nearby London and left behind his wife and seven children.
2. Content of the novel
In 1632 Robinson Crusoe is born in the city of York. Already in his early life, Crusoe decides, against his father´s wishes to become a tradesman. On his first voyage Crusoe gets into a heavy storm and survives it only with plenty of fortune. This dangerous occurrence has the effect that he started to think about changing his choice of occupation. But an adventuresome seaman offers Crusoe to join him on his voyage to Africa. The young tradesman accepts the offer and adjourns again at sea. This time his ship is boarded by pirates and Robinson is carried off as a slave to Sale ( Western Africa ). After two years he manages to flee but has promptly to fight with dangerous animals, before he is at last picked up by an Portuguese merchant ship. As a free man he enters the ship which gets him to Brazil. The helpful Portuguese captain of the ship cares about the exhausted Crusoe. In Brazil he secures himself financially by cultivating some rice plantations.
As soon as the young farmer has enough money, he boards with the Portuguese captain a ship, which is supposed to go back to Africa.
But on this journey fortune is not on the side of the both voyagers. They get into a bad thunderstorm and the ship is shattered on shore of an uninhabited island. The shipwrecked sailor is the only survivor and has to find his way on this island far away from civilsation.
For fear of wild cannibals and animals, from whom he had heard, he constructs himself in drudgery a lodge at the top of a rock.
From the remains of the ship, which fortunately did not repel to the sea, Crusoe finds the most implements for his construction, some weapons and other tools. The former tradesman lives several years in this lodge and feeds upon goats which he kills with his lance. Of some crop seed Robinson plants a field and keeps diary about his sad condition. The fear of natives and that he could run out of supplies trouble him regularly. Moreover he has to survive a volcanic eruption and a heavy earthquake, followed by a bad exhausting disease.
After these hard times, Crusoe starts to discover the island. On his dicovery he takes some notes of remarkable animals which he has not seen before. More and more he enjoys his life far away from any civilization and thanks God for sending him on this island.
He documents his finding oneself by composing a list of all positive and negative things which have occured to him. As a result he realizes the fact that there is no status on earth of whom one shouldn’t be thankful and starts to enjoy his future reclusion and concentrates on the cultivation of his fields and growing up of his cattle. However, after umpty years of lonesomeness Crusoe discovers some footprints, which do not belong to him.
He finds out, that wild natives monthly come onto the island in order to execute captives. Once as he observed such a capitve on the run, he does not hesitate and helps him by killing all his persecutors with his musket. The saved is impressed by this deed and provides himself as a servant forevermore. Robinson calls him Friday, the day of his liberation, and forms a deep friendship with him. He teaches him his language, how to read and write, and reads him every day a passage out of the bible to explain him the Christian Belief.
After some years a Spanish ship berths with its muting crew on the shore of the island in order to suspend their defeated captain. Robinson realizes a good oportunity and kills together with Friday`s help numerous mutineers to help the captain to get back the prevalance of his ship.
As a reward for this deed the captain takes Robinson and Friday to England, where Robinson Crusoe steps ashore after 27 years of absence.
3. Classification into the literary epoch
With Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe created the first true English novel. The novel contains character development, plot, suspense, and all other elements seen in thousands of books today It can be classified into the epoch Age of Pope. When you open "The Mysterious Island" by Jules Verne or "The Lord of the Flies" by William Golding you will relive the setting of Robinson Crusoe.
No book has influenced the English novel more than Robinson Crusoe. The book is an adventure novel narrated in the perspective of Robinson Crusoe. In the preamble of the original edition of 1719 Defoe declares „ The story is just history of fact! “ which has the effect that the novel can be considered as a factual report. His motivation for this deed resulted in the virtuality that fictitious books felt flat in those times. This is represented by the work of the middle-class adventurer and political agent Daniel Defoe. Separated from the life of the upper classes he produced, among many pieces of commissioned writing, a series of true but actually fictitious memoirs. The first of these, and the greatest, is Robinson Crusoe (1719)
4. Personal opinion of the novel
I admit, I was truly impressed by this book and its beautiful story. Actually, it took a little while to become beautiful, as its boring start, with Crusoe leaving England, travelling around the world, trying to become rich, becoming an adventurer and then a slave, it was all a little slow and perhaps fake. But once he made it to his deserted island, THIS BOOK BECAME A TRUE WINNER! Moreover Daniel Defoe's creativity makes the novel fascinating to read. It gives you a real taste of what life was like both in the "civilized" world and Crusoe's island kingdom.
5. Essential vocabulary
infancy - Kindheit
afflicted - leidend
upbringing - Großziehen
oath of loyalty - Eid auf die Treue
hosiery merchant - Wirkwaren / Strumpfwaren Kaufmann
literary immortality - literarische Unsterblichkeit
to adjourn at sea - sich auf See begegebn
merchant ship - Handelsschiff
shattered - zerschlagen
drudgery - Schwerstarbeit
implements - Utensilien
reclusion - Einsamkeit
umpty - zig
muting crew - meuternde Besatzung
prevalance - Vorherrschaft
relive - wieder erleben