Hindsight’s Clarity

Daniel Defoe’s, Robinson Crusoe, is a book that exemplifies the art of recollection. For a man to spend 20 odd years alone and shipwrecked on a thought-to-be uninhabited island, and be able to recall, with clarity, the passage of time is worth being written and read. Unfortunately, since this is a work of fiction, the book is a little too perfect to be wholly believed even though the events themselves are plausible. Defoe writes his novel in the first person, as though he is Robinson Crusoe, and begins the story at his home in the city of York in 1632. He outlines his family and some of their history then launches into his disastrous first attempt at sailing. Now, even though that is one of the earliest memories he would have to write about for his book, the reader can more than understand why that memory, no matter how early, would stand out. It was a first, and it was somewhat traumatic. Not, however, traumatic enough to keep him from doing it again – and again. Much later, once he’s alone on the island, he begins a journal. The first day is dated October 1, 1659. In the interest of brevity, as he mentions there is a finite amount of ink, he dates one list of activities between October 1 – 24. He maintains this journal reasonably well until late November when it becomes a little choppy. There is a gap between November 23 and December 10 that he explains away by having, “worked to make this room, or cave, spacious enough to accommodate me…” (62). He then intentionally omits the daily log for the time between January 3 to April 14 while noting that during that time he built a camouflaged wall, accidentally grew some English barley and mentions saving the ears of corn in their season in June. The next chronological entry is for April 16 upon the completion of a ladder. Now, it is within reason that he could have kept count of the days by making marks in a tree with a knife or sharp rock or some similar way of marking the passage of days. I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried to keep a tally of other things and I always end up forgetting what day I’m on or if I’ve already tallied one thing or another. It gets confusing to say the least. Supposedly Crusoe was able to keep an account of, not only months but, years. Keep in mind, also, that this account is supposed to be written after Crusoe comes home. I can barely remember what I did three days ago – let alone three years ago. Robinson Crusoe, is a classic for a reason – that said, it is important to remember that it is a work of fiction and not an actual account of one’s past. Little inconsistencies like dating accuracy should be a welcome flaw to the reader to remind them of the difference between fiction and reality.

Works Cited Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. London: Harper Press, 2013.