From a Cave to a Castle
In the aftermath of the shipwreck that left Robinson Crusoe stranded, one of his first endeavors was to secure a safe habitation. The development of this habitation and Crusoe’s attitude towards it provides an excellent depiction of the process of colonization during the eighteenth century. Crusoe’s perspective on his habitation evolves as the story develops. What begins as a simple accommodation grows to become a kingdom.
As Crusoe begins to establish the best methods of survival on the island he makes improvements to his abode. He works with diligence to fortify, multiply, and expand his residencies. While Crusoe becomes more familiar with the island and discovers different regions he muses on the prospect of having an entire island as his possession, “…surveying it with a secret Kind of Pleasure…to think that this was all my own, that I was King and Lord of all this country, and had a Right of Possession” This attitude towards the island comes through in Crusoe’s naming of his dwelling place as well. When he first arrives he refers to his dwelling as his “habitation” or “cave”. As he begins to improve his dwelling he uses phrases like “country house” or “sea coast house.” While it would be a stretch to consider a cave luxurious living it would be hard to say the same of a country house. A cave is a dwelling that is acquired out of necessity. However, a country house denotes establishment and comfort. During the latter years of his time on the island when he had established an extensive home he refers to his residency as his “castle.” Now a country home is a definite improvement from a cave but a castle is the premier example of luxurious living. A castle not only indicates royalty and opulence but it also points to a kingdom. Castles rarely existed where there was not a kingdom to be ruled.
Crusoe possessed his own domain on the island. This progression is indicative of an expanding kingdom. Crusoe is cultivating his own colony and increasing the reach of his empire. The culmination of this progression is when Crusoe refers to the island as “my island.” Crusoe removes all doubt as to whether he feels entitled to the island. Crusoe, being a proud Englishman, was implementing the colonization mentality of his homeland. His perception of his home on the island as it develops helps the reader understand the process of colonization. Later, as the English entered and began to colonize, they would expand their domain, from a cave to a castle.
Defoe, Daniel, and Michael Shinagel. Preface. Robinson Crusoe: An Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. New York: Norton, 1994.