Dude “Crusoe” is Famous!

Robinson Crusoe is the story of a man who gets shipwrecked and marooned on a deserted island for many years, far away from the civilization and society he has grown up in and known for so many years. The novel known for this concept, has helped to create and form many adaptations and retellings of the original story because of the ideas, concepts and themes Daniel Defoe made come to life in his first full-length novel. Defoe’s writing grabs the reader and pulls them into the pages of his novel, Robinson Crusoe. His writing is why Robinson Crusoe has become famous in todays culture and has several adaptations in other text, television, stage, film all based off of the story he tells in this novel. Everyone is familiar with Robinson Crusoe’s story, they may not know all of the details, they may never have even read the original text, but if you ask them who Robinson Crusoe is, they will know.

Robinson Crusoe, has been retold and reinterpreted hundreds of times since its original publication in seventeen hundred nineteen. It has been translated, imitated, revisioned, continued, and made into several new editions. The story of Robinson Crusoe has even spawned its own genre called Robinsonade. Robinsonade is any “fictitious narrative of often fantastic adventures in real or imaginary distant places; especially: a story of the adventures of a person marooned on a desert island”. (Merriam, Webster)

So, what is an adaptation exactly? Well, one source says that adaptations offer a retrospective insight into the workings of a source text.” “In this view adaptations are dependent or ancillary texts without full meaning in their own right that provide insight retrospectively into a originary text. The adaptation helps an audience to uncover a meaning for, and by extension a relevance of, the source text.” (Bloom) This way of thinking about adaptations has led to the idea that adaptations can be seen as a “valuable text” in their own right, if both works, the original and the “adaptation”, affect the meaning of one another. A great example of this definition of what an adaptation is exactly, is the comparison between Robinson Crusoe and Jonathon Swift’s,Gulliver’s Travels, written in seventeen hundred twenty-six. The two novels share many themes and ideas: alienation versus the collective, the individual versus society, domestic life versus World travel, and many more.

The first theme, and possibly the most important theme connecting these two works together, and the theme responsible for considering Gulliver’s Travels to be an adaptation of Robinson Crusoe, is the theme of alienation versus the collective; which is clearly apparent throughout both texts. Robinson Crusoe first runs into the battle of his own personal identity versus what society expects for him when he chooses to be a sailor and leaves his home, family and life he knows behind. Crusoe chooses to be an individual roaming the seas and other lands. By Crusoe choosing this avenue in his life, he alienates himself from the collective. Gulliver is very similar to Crusoe, in the way that he chooses to roam the seas and other lands, therefore removing himself from the collective and choosing his own path. Gulliver tries to be a part of the different societies he finds on his travels, but he just doesn’t belong. One society that Gulliver grows very fond of on his travels are the Houyhnhnms, a collective of intelligent horses who have a very “rational”, “acute”, and “judicious” society. When the time comes Gulliver is very saddened to leave the collective of the Houyhnhnms and return home, but he can never truly be a part of that society, thus feeling alienated once again by the new collectives he has encountered on his travels. Crusoe after choosing a life without a collective, literally gets alienated on a deserted island all alone; that is until the day he runs into a group of savages on the isle. After his encounter with the group of savages he ends up befriending one of them whom he decides to call Friday. He then teaches Friday to call him Master, thus once again alienating himself from any possibility of belonging to a collective. A Spaniard and Friday’s father end up on the island after Friday and Crusoe free them from the cannibal savages. Crusoe is pleased by this saying, “My Island was now peopled, and I thought my self very rich in Subjects; and it was a merry Reflection I frequently made, How like a King I look’d”, but he still alienates himself from the group by making the others his subjects and himself the king. These acts and this reoccurring theme continue throughout both of the novels. Gulliver ends up back in England a place he still doesn’t belong with a distaste for all of mankind, further alienating himself. Crusoe ends his narrative by making a promise that he will be taking more adventures and traveling. Maybe Crusoe and Gulliver aren’t meant to be a part of any collective, but rather meant to wander the seas alienated from the societies and people they encounter?

No matter the adaptation you choose to watch, read, or hear, the truth behind Robinson Crusoe will always remain…. Dude is famous!

Works Consulted
” Tidying as We Go: Constructing the Eighteenth Century through Adaptation in Becoming Jane, Gulliver\’s Travels, and Crusoe “
Gevirtz, Karen Bloom. Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture . v. 43 no. . 20140101. p. 219-237.
Defoe, Daniel, and Michael Shinagel. Robinson Crusoe: An Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. New York: Norton, 1994. Print.
Swift, Jonathan, and Robert A. Greenberg. Gulliver’s Travels: An Authoritative Text, the Correspondence of Swift, Pope’s Verses on Gulliver’s Travels Critical Essays. New York: Norton, 1970. Print.
“Robinsonade.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.
Robinson Crusoe Island. Digital image. Www.destination360.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.