Robinson Crusoe By Daniel Defoe Summary and Analysis Chapters 19-21

Summary

Crusoe's savage was "a comely, handsome fellow, perfectly well made, with straight strong limbs, not too large, tall and well-shaped . . . and about twenty-six years of age." In general, his appearance was highly commendable, with an appealing olive complexion. When he awakened, he ran to Crusoe, prostrating himself in thankful submission. Crusoe named the savage Friday to commemorate the day that he saved his life, and taught him simple words like "master," "yes," and "no." Crusoe then gave him some clothes and Friday seemed quite happy to receive the clothes because he was completely naked.

Friday made signs to ask Crusoe if they should dig up the buried men and eat them, but Crusoe, with violent gestures, expressed his abhorrence to that idea. Going to the top of a hill, they discovered that the canoes were gone. Crusoe, armed with his gun, and Friday with his arrows, explored the camp-site. It was a sickening spectacle to Crusoe, even though Friday seemed oblivious to the horror. Pointing to the remains, Friday made Crusoe understand that he was to be the fourth feast, and Crusoe immediately saw the other three skulls and various hands and other bones of the anatomy scattered here and there in grisly array. By means of sign language, Friday told Crusoe that he, Friday, was one of many political prisoners who had supported the old king and the opponents had captured all of his group and taken them to various islands, where it was presumed that all had been eaten. Friday and Crusoe then gathered up all the remains and burned them.

Coming back to the habitation, Crusoe showed Friday how to wear his clothes. Being not entirely at ease, Crusoe put up a little tent for Friday between his two walls. Crusoe also made sure that Friday could not get inside Crusoe's innermost wall without alerting him first. Time, however, was to show that none of the precautions were necessary: "for never man had a more faithful, loving, sincere servant than Friday was to me."

After thanking God for his benevolence and righteousness for sending him such a person as Friday, Crusoe expressed his delight in his new servant, and began immediately to teach him how to speak and understand him. Friday turned out to be a very good and apt "scholar," one that "was so merry, so constantly diligent, and so pleased when he could but understand me or make me understand him."

After several days, Crusoe took Friday hunting and, killing a kid, Crusoe made signs for Friday to go pick up the animal in order to teach him not to be afraid of the gun. Friday, amazed at this weapon, thought at first that it was something to be worshipped. Until Crusoe could teach him to master it, Friday often spoke to the gun, asking it not to kill him. Cooking their game, Crusoe taught him to enjoy the flesh of other animals. Much to Crusoe's surprise, he found Friday getting sick when he tasted salt. In time, he had taught Friday to make bread and bake it. Having two mouths to feed, Crusoe began to make plans to harvest more corn, and he put Friday to work in the fields planting corn.

Crusoe found great satisfaction in Friday's company for the next year, and, during this time, Friday began to understand the English language rather well. Crusoe maintained that he began to love the creature and, in reverse, he believed that Friday "loved me more than it was possible for him ever to love anything before."

Friday explained more fully his capture and how he came to be brought to the island, where he was to be devoured, before Crusoe saved him. Familiar with the surrounding seas, Friday explained to Crusoe the appearance and disappearance of the strange currents. Crusoe asked Friday many questions about the nearby nations and land, and Friday informed him that they could get off the island in a large boat if they had one. Satisfied with Friday's progress in speech, Crusoe undertook his religious education. Friday described his rather simple religion, which Crusoe dismissed as rather heathen.

After listening to a long lecture, Friday asked a question which took Crusoe aback: "If God, much strong, much might as Devil, why God no kill Devil, so make him no more do wicked?" Crusoe, not feeling qualified to answer Friday's question suggested that perhaps God was waiting for the Devil to repent and be pardoned. Crusoe then prayed to God for the knowledge to enlighten this savage.

For three more years, the two men lived on the island. When they did not talk about the scriptures, Crusoe told Friday the story of how he came to live on the island and he told him as much as he could about Europe and England. One time, when Crusoe was showing Friday the ruins of one of the ships that was offshore, Friday remarked that he had seen one like it come to his nation. Friday made Crusoe understand that white men had lived among them. Crusoe wondered if the white men might have been eaten and so he inquired whether or not the white men were still among Friday's people. Friday explained that his nation did not eat its brothers, but only those enemies who came to destroy the nation and were captured.

Some time later, at the top of the hill, Friday spied the mainland across the sea and shouted joyfully "O glad there See my country, there my nation!" Crusoe became uneasy and worried that if they were to journey back to Friday's homeland that Friday would forget his obligation to Crusoe and have him eaten. For several weeks, Crusoe treated him less warmly than before. To relieve his apprehension, he quizzed Friday at length, and Friday comforted him greatly by saying that his countrymen would learn new ways. Relieved, Crusoe took Friday to his boat on the other side of the island and then they set sail. Friday thought that the boat was much to small to go that far. Accordingly, Crusoe took Friday to the place where he built the larger boat, but had been unable to launch it twenty-three years before. It was so rotten that Friday and Crusoe decided to make a new boat.

Felling a large tree, and working diligently, they completed a new boat in about a month, but it took nearly two weeks to roll it into the water. Friday was quite skillful in his handling of the boat, and Crusoe fitted it with a mast and a sail, which improved its navigation.

It was not yet the twenty-seventh year of Crusoe's captivity, and he thanked Providence, thinking that his deliverance was near at hand. Friday dug a dock for the boat since it was the rainy season and they laid boughs of trees across it for concealment and waited through the rainy months of November and December to start their adventure.

Crusoe and Friday began their preparations for their voyage to the mainland. Once, Crusoe sent Friday out to search for a large turtle, and Friday returned very frightened. He had seen six canoes coming to the shore and feared the return of savages. Using his "perspective glass," Crusoe counted no less than twenty-one savages and three prisoners, and their intent seemed to be a "banquet." He and Friday made plans to kill them all. Once again, he had second thoughts about the justice of his actions and thought that only Friday had the right to interfere since they were his people. Resolving to merely watch and act as God directed, he and Friday hid at the edge of the woods.

Sending Friday to scout, Crusoe found that the savages were already eating the flesh of one of the prisoners and, much to his distress, Crusoe found that the man they were eating was a white man with a beard who had been living among the natives. Observing that they had just sent for another prisoner to be butchered, Crusoe decided that he and Friday should attack to save the poor Christian man, who was about to be butchered limb by limb and be eaten. Crusoe and Friday began to fire on the savages "in the name of God," and chaos reigned as the savages ran hither and thither, screaming and crying. So preoccupied were they with their wounds and their dead, that they provided an opportunity for Crusoe and Friday to run in and save the poor victim, who was lying on the beach. The victim identified himself as a Christian, but was too weak to say much more. Crusoe revived him, partially, with a bit of rum, and gave the poor fellow a pistol to help defend himself against the possible attack of the savages. After much fighting and confusion, four of the savages were able to escape. Crusoe was then able to make an account of all twenty-one of the savages — that is, they had killed seventeen and four escaped.

Fearing reprisals, Friday convinced Crusoe that they should get into the canoe and overtake the savages and kill them, lest they bring back hundreds more and devour them. Jumping into the canoe, they found, much to their surprise, another bound victim, almost dead. They freed him and tried to explain that he was saved. As Friday came near him to speak, Friday discovered to his great joy that the bound man was his father, and he was moved to tears. Crusoe was greatly touched by Friday's expression of affection for his father.

Within two hours, such a storm blew up that Crusoe supposed that the four surviving savages would never make it to the mainland; consequently, they would not fear pursuit. Meanwhile, Friday ministered to his father, giving him raisins, and rum, and a small cake, and then the Spaniard was taken care of. Both former prisoners being extremely weak, Friday made them comfortable in the small boat and paddled it along the shore up to their creek. Since the men were too weak to walk, Crusoe fashioned a "hand-barrow" and carried them to the fortification, but they were at a loss to discover a way to get them over the fortification. Consequently, he and Friday spent two hours making a tent for them outside the fortification, making it as comfortable as possible with two beds of good rice straw and some blankets.

Crusoe once again likened himself to a king. He owned everything on the island, his people all owed their lives to him and were his subjects. Crusoe was pleased with himself that in his "kingdom" he allowed complete religious freedom; Friday was a converted Protestant, Friday's father was a pagan, and the Spaniard was a papist.

Analysis

In these chapters, Defoe describes what most people think about when they hear this novel being discussed — that is, Crusoe's relationship with Friday. The so-called savage is certainly no Neanderthal type of man; on the contrary, Friday is well-built and handsome and certainly not the hulking, stereotype cannibal. Note that he is eager to learn Crusoe's language and is amazingly adept at learning English. Also he understands, and accepts, if at first reluctantly, Crusoe's adamant abhorrence of eating other men. Friday has a rare sensitivity.

During this period of initial friendship between the two men, Crusoe, as one might expect, is a bit wary of the savage. He does protect him and teaches him English words, and he attempts also to teach Friday certain religious values, but Crusoe is, by nature, suspicious of the young native. Having had no companionship for so many years, Crusoe is torn between a desperate longing for companionship and a fear of the dark-skinned stranger. Because of this, he is hesitant to share his habitation with a man who slaughters men and eats pieces of their bodies. Defoe is very skillful in depicting Crusoe's dilemma. Yet he is never melodramatic; he, realistically, characterizes Crusoe's keeping Friday outside the habitation, making certain that the native could not get inside the innermost wall without Crusoe's being alerted. Crusoe's caution is emphasized in these chapters to highlight the fact that this is an Englishman, a man who is learned, who has lived alone, for many years, with no one to talk to except God. We respond to Crusoe's deep longing to protect and accept Friday as a companion and his fears that, during the night, this stranger might kill and devour him.

In addition to the psychology that Defoe skillfully portrays within the characters in these chapters, there is also an amazing amount of detail that enriches his narrative. Consider, for example, how Friday reacts to his first taste of salt. Crusoe was reared to always salt his food; salt, as a seasoning, has always been one of the most basic ingredients of Western cuisine. Yet Friday is sickened by the spice. Other authors in writing first attempts at this genre, the novel, might have been more concerned with plot. Defoe, however, was always concerned with emphasizing a harrowing event and, then, focusing on minute, telling details that colored his narrative.

In addition to Defoe's careful attention to detail, he was always a superb creator of character, for besides Crusoe's being a "teacher" to Friday, he is also a "pupil." Crusoe learns from Friday about the strange currents around the island and realizes that it is certain that they can escape the island if they are able to construct a boat of sufficient size.

During the first three years that the men share their close friendship, they talk of many things: ships that have come to Friday's homeland, the customs of cannibalism, and, as always, the possibility of escape — and if they could — what would ultimately happen to Crusoe, were he to fall into the hands of a band of natives. Despite Friday's assurance that Crusoe would not be eaten and despite Crusoe's own fears, Crusoe is defiant; he will, with Friday's help, escape. But Defoe is clever in continuing the sense of suspense. He does not take his hero from the island, with the aid of an unlikely, lucky sea current and a deus-ex-machina breeze of the wind; when the two men, after much hard work, are ready to launch their carved, roughly hewn boat, Friday reports that several savages have camped on the island and that the two of them are in danger. This is a brilliant stroke of narrative drama.

Another dimension of Defoe's realism, usually not found in early novels of this era, is revealed when Crusoe assumes a rather smug, egotistical attitude about being a "king" over the natives that he rescues.

At first, with Friday, Crusoe was relieved that he had a companion and he was overjoyed, if fearful, and, slowly, he became paternalistic and, finally, he assumed a sense of majesty. Defoe is showing us a very human, if perhaps negative, trait of human nature: man has an assertive, fierce dominance drive. Whereas other writers of Defoe's time were often writing simplistic tales with clear-cut morals and populating their books with "good guys" and "bad guys," Defoe was breaking new ground, creating very real, believable people. Crusoe is a man, composed of both positive and negative qualities; he is isolated and reduced to bare, essential physical and psychological essences. He is as daring, inventive, and as human as Defoe was in creating him.

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