The Importance of Human Interaction in Robinson Crusoe
If you were stranded on a deserted island, and were only allowed to bring one thing, what would it be? For most, the answer would be cliché, albeit necessary – food, water, shelter, and so forth. However, as demonstrated in Robinson Crusoe, almost nothing serves the titular character as abundantly as communication – specifically, interaction with other human beings. While Crusoe is able to scour the island and retrieve the aforementioned fundamentals for his survival, the search that requires the most time and garners the greatest reward is the pursuit of companionship.
For the entirety of the first third of the novel, the reader is preoccupied with Crusoe’s daily undertakings to secure himself a somewhat stable home on the island that they barely notice the lack of contact that he has with other people. All of Crusoe’s actions and thoughts are not being communicated to someone else, but rather written in a journal or continuously circling through Crusoe’s mind. Crusoe is able to preoccupy himself with teaching a native parrot to say basic phrases, and to call him by his name, which suffices for several years. The bird becomes a “sociable creature” (121) and a “domestick, … mighty well acquainted with me” (95). With his bird, dogs, and cats, Crusoe imagines himself as a head of a motley family (125). However, it is through the character of Friday that communication shows its true powers and potential effects. Though Friday is in some ways not the ideal conversational partner, as Crusoe teaches him all of his English, he still manages to access one of the main reasons for conversation – knowledge. He is able to challenge his master’s staunchly held religious views, and perhaps even throttle them through a single simple sentence – “if God much strong … why God no kill the Devil?” (184). Whether or not Crusoe gains a stronger or truer form of Christianity through this exchange, its importance must be noted. This significance is outlined in William Godwin’s St. Leon, wherein the narrator remarks upon the necessity of convening with another person, as it allows ideas to flow, take shape, and add weight. He says, “…[we] acquired a largeness of conception and liberality of judgment that neither of us would have arrived at if separate…we each gave or received something that added to value of mind and worth of character…” (41). These conversations add to the value of mind – Friday learns to not blindly accept that which is taught to him, and Crusoe learns that perhaps his views of religion aren’t as unimpeachable as he previously believed.
On a very base level, communication is essential in that it ensures that we won’ t lose our sanity, so that if we were to see the print of a human on the beach, we would not be terrified into fortifying our homes or forming wild thoughts about the devil. But on top of this, it is requisite for expanding knowledge, which is necessary to be intelligent, rational and aware beings.
Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.
Godwin, William. St. Leon: a Tale of the Sixteenth Century. London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1831. Archive.org. Web. 13 Sept. 2013. http://archive.org/stream/stleontaleofsixt00godwuoft#page/n13/mode/2up