Thursday, August 24, 2006

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - Part 11

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Crusoe makes another shocking discovery and sets himself on a course of action that leads him to one of the book's most interesting passages. It is here, in Crusoe's struggle with his own outrage and his ideas about what makes for civilized behavior, that Defoe begins to turn the novel in a new direction. He is examining the underpinnings of Western civilization. What makes a person civilized? What does the right of self defense really mean? This kind of thinking and questioning is perhaps somewhat lacking in certain countries today. Notice also how religion, for Crusoe, seems to have a moderating, calming influence. He resists using it to justify himself or his actions.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - Part 10

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Our lone character, Robinson Crusoe, succeeds in raising his herd of goats and learns to use them for meat, milk and cheese. But his shocking discovery on a beach shakes his foundation and fills him with dread.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - Part 9

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Let's get on with our story, shall we? It's a good story and reading it is a lot of fun. Difficult, but fun. Defoe's language is up and down and backward and forward. It makes you think fast. Try picking up the book and reading any part of it out loud and fast. It's tricky. But it's a very good way to learn more about how Defoe's mind worked. Amazing. Are you starting to wonder why Crusoe constantly reminds us of things and says things like: 'As I told you before,' or 'As I said earlier?'

He almost insists that you follow the correct sequence of events, but he skips ahead in order to achieve a much more important goal. He wants you to follow along with his state of mind. That's why his story-telling language is so twisty and folds back on itself so often. This is certainly one of the most fantastic things about Defoe's novel. Its obsessive focus on the man's state of mind sets a precedent that influences almost all of literature following Defoe. It is really this that makes the book so modern.

This story holds surprises for us. Stay tuned until next week...

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - Part 8

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Robinson Crusoe struggles to harvest his corn, make bread, build a boat and sew some clothes. The efforts he makes are constantly set back by mistakes and errors in judgement. He deals with his lack of expertise in the various arts that he must call upon with a certain amount of humor. Pay attention to how Crusoe constantly monitors his state of mind and is ever willing to discuss his mistakes and to poke fun at himself.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - Part 7

Crusoe details how he learns to grow crops that will help sustain him when his ammunition runs out. He journeys to the far side of the island, finding better land and more plentiful game there. He describes the difficulties overcome in learning to weave baskets and cut lumber from a tree. He also writes about his religious thinking and how he begins to come to terms with his solitary condition.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - Part 6

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Crusoe continues to offer the reader his journal entries, describing how he brought supplies from off the shipwreck. He battles sickness and finds a way to speed his recovery. He begins to read a copy of the Bible that he finds in one of his chests. This causes him to ponder the nature of his deliverance and he begins to read the book regularly for the first time in his life. Defoe is here beginning his fascinating analysis of a human being's place in the world and how hardship can lead a person to question the very nature of existence.

As Crusoe recovers from his sickness, he begins to venture farther abroad on the island, discovering things that will assist his survival efforts.

The illustration is by NC Wyeth (1920). Crusoe reads his Bible and ponders the nature of his deliverance

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - Part 5

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Crusoe explains how he made his own tools and built his home on the island. He begins to show us his journal entries which track each day's activities. He goes hunting and, much to his surprise, begins to use agriculture. All his mental efforts are bent toward making his survival upon the island long-term. He even considers what he will have to do to ensure his survival when his health and strength begin to fail. The inclusion of the journal entries, which actually repeat some of the very things Crusoe has already told us, are a striking literary device on the part of Daniel Defoe. Pay attention to how the voice (I mean the literary voice, not the audio voice!) of Crusoe changes ever so slightly with these journal entries as compared to the rest of his narration. Crusoe also begins struggle with religious thoughts and wonders whether some sort of divine providence is behind his being the sole survivor of the shipwreck.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - Part 4

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Crusoe experiences a terrifying shipwreck and is the only survivor. His struggle for food, water, and a place to sleep begin. No matter what situation Crusoe finds himself in, he never stops thinking.

The illustration is by NC Wyeth (1920). It illustrates Robinson Crusoe taking supplies off his shipwreck on his hastily built raft.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - Part 3

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In this section of the novel, Crusoe continues making good on his escape. He then makes a series of fateful decisions as he tries to get on his feet and make a life for himself.

Defoe begins to get into the slavery issue and how it plays the major role in Crusoe's single most important decision.

The illustration is by NC Wyeth (1920). It illustrates the conversation between a young Robinson Crusoe and his father from the first part of the podcast novel.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - Part 2

Crusoe learns more of what it means to be a seaman. He is captured off the west coast of Africa and made a slave.

In this section of the novel we get into Defoe's treatment of the issues of slavery and race. Reading the early parts of the novel, one might get the mistaken impression that Defoe is intolerant of other races. This is not the case. One must remember that he was writing his book before 1719. His continued treatment of the slavery issue throughout the novel is many years ahead of its time and shows him to be a deeply thoughtful and serious commentator on the social injustices he saw around him.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - Part 1

Here is the little surprise I promised last week. 'Robinson Crusoe' by Daniel Defoe is one of the greatest novels in existence. It marks the start of English novel-writing. There's so much more in this book than one would ever know from the silly movies that have been based upon it. In fact, there has never been a remotely good movie made of this incredible book. It goes so much farther than most writing at exploring the human spirit and the foundations of civilization. It is one of the most modern books I have ever read. It was written in 1719. You'll know what I mean if you listen to it. It just keeps coming at you without any letup.

I may move this over to a new blog site specifically for Robinson Crusoe. But for now, this will do just fine. I will try to add some introductory information about Defoe over the next week or so.

Listen and have a good time.