My Theologian Friday
After several years of isolation, our survivalist-turned-king Robinson Crusoe is provided a chance to add a human to his growing band of subjects. The “savage” Friday, joining the ranks of Crusoe’s domesticated goats and amorous cats, quickly submits to his power. To Crusoe’s pleasure, Friday seems to quickly absorb his master’s religion. However, as the narrative is delivered from the perspective of Crusoe and Crusoe alone, one could challenge the nature of Friday’s conversion
From Crusoe’s perspective, Friday’s acceptance of religion is very similar to his own. “[A] blessing it is that the knowledge of God [is] so easy to be received and understood… so the same plain instruction sufficiently served to the enlightening this savage creature, and bringing him to be such a Christian as I have known few equal to him in my life.” But questions bubble in the novel’s subtext. While Friday is rather
comfortable with the concept of a monotheistic Supreme Being, he displays resistance to other Crusoe admits that “it was not so easy to imprint rights notions in his
mind about the devil.” Friday’s primary objection — almost immediate — is a variation on the problem of evil. “[If] God much stronger, much might as the wicked devil, why God no kill the devil, so make him no more do wicked?” Crusoe tries to ignore the topic, but Friday continues. “Why not kill the devil now; not kill great ago? Crusoe eventually ends the discussion by invoking God’s mercy — “we are oreserved to repent and be pardoned.” After “musing for some time”, Friday “mighty affectionately” praises God for pardoning all.
Friday’s conversion and acceptance of Protestantism looks rather different when one considers the narrative from his perspective. After rescuing him from the cannibal feast, Crusoe notes his manservant’s immediate subservience to him as well as his great fear of firearms. It is hardly a stretch to say that Friday’s submission is drawn not just from simple gratitude, but from the fear of Crusoe’s supernatural ability to kill at a distance. Indeed, Crusoe’s religious education plays to those same fears. Several divine traits he emphasizes includes “His aversion to sin”, “His being a consuming fire to the workers of iniquity”, and “He could destroy us and all the world in a moment”. While Crusoe does not claim to be divine, his description neatly parallels the events of Friday’s rescue. The supernatural being rushes out of the unknown, spits fire into the evildoers, then burns their corpses. “I believe,” Crusoe explains, “if I would have let him, he would have worshipped me and my gun.” Crusoe’s theology is born out of isolation and desire for spiritual comfort. Friday’s theology seems to seems rather physically driven in comparison. While he might espouse the Crusoe’s beliefs in sin and redemption (to Crusoe), his reasons are pragmatic — a healthy fear of the man with the gun. “Well, well” says Friday to his savior that loathes his cannibalism, nudity, and old identity. “That well.”