Robinson Crusoe By Daniel Defoe Summary and Analysis Chapters 4-5

Summary

After a good voyage, Crusoe landed in Brazil twenty-two days later. The captain was very generous with Crusoe, charging him nothing for the voyage and, instead, paying him twenty ducats for a leopard's skin and forty for the lion's skin. Furthermore, by selling all of his goods he made about two hundred and twenty pieces of eight.

Crusoe lived with a planter on a sugar plantation for some time and learned the manner of planting. He later purchased as much land as his money would buy. For the first two years, he planted mainly for food, but by the third year, he planted some tobacco and prepared ground for cane. Now he realized that he should not have sold Xury because he was in need of help on his plantation.

Soon Crusoe discovered that he was "coming into the very middle station, or upper degree of low life, which my father advised me to before." He was amused by this fact because he could have stayed at home and arrived at the same position without all of his adventures.

Since his plantation was at a great distance even from his nearest neighbor, Crusoe often thought that he "lived just like a man cast away upon some desolate island that had nobody there but himself." In retrospect, he was thankful for the slight desolation he had on his plantation.

The Portuguese captain remained for three months and, during this time, Crusoe told him of the money (two hundred pounds) which he had left in London with the English captain's widow. The captain advised him to send for one half of his money so that if that half were lost, he would still have the other half left. Crusoe wrote to the widow and had her send the money to Lisbon. He wrote the widow about all of his adventures, and she was so thankful for his safety that she sent the Portuguese captain five pounds out of her own pocket.

Crusoe's hundred pounds was invested in English goods, which the captain brought safely to Brazil. And instead of buying something for himself with the five pounds, he bought Crusoe an indentured servant. Crusoe was able to sell much of the goods at such a good profit that he bought himself a Negro slave and a European servant.

The next year, Crusoe raised fifty great rolls of tobacco and began increasing his wealth and business. He had now arrived at what his father "had so sensibly described the middle station of life." Having now lived four years in Brazil, and having learned the language and the people, he would often tell his new friends about some of the adventures that had befallen him, especially those adventures along the Guinea coast, where people often bought slaves. His friends were also most attentive to the part of his life that dealt with the buying of Negro slaves. One day, a group of his friends proposed that they would outfit a ship if Crusoe would go to the Guinea coast and bring back a shipload of slaves. Crusoe would get his equal portion of slaves and would not have to contribute to the outfitting of the ship. Crusoe considered this a fair proposal and consented to it.

Having accepted the offer to go for slaves under the condition that his friends would look after his plantation, Crusoe put into writing how his effects should be distributed in case of his death; he left half to the Portuguese captain and the other half to be shipped to England.

After the ship was ready, Crusoe went "on board in an evil hour, the 1st of September, 1659, being the same day eight years that I went from my father and mother at Hull." The ship carried little in commerce, except toys and trinkets for their trade with the Negroes. After about twelve days at sea, sailing along the coast before crossing the ocean, a storm blew up and for twelve more days they were tossed about at sea, expecting every day to be swallowed up. During this storm, one of the crew died and the cabin boy was washed overboard.

When the storm abated, they discovered that they were off the coast of Guinea and that the "ship was leaky and very much disabled." After discussing their lot, they decided to head for Barbados, where they hoped to find repairs for the ship before beginning the ocean crossing. However, a second storm came upon them and blew so violently that the ship was cast upon the sandy coast of an island. The waves were so high that they expected the ship to break up any minute.

With great effort, they managed to get a lifeboat into the high waves and everyone boarded it. After rowing part way to shore, "a raging wave, mountain-like, came rolling astern of us," and it upset the boat and scattered all of the men.

When Crusoe was under the big wave, he swam as hard as possible so as not to be drawn back to sea. He was almost out of breath when the wave finally broke, and Crusoe could feel the ground under him. But immediately he saw the "sea come after me as high as a great hill." This wave buried him under twenty or thirty feet of water and carried him a great way towards shore. Twice more he was covered by huge waves, the last one being nearly fatal since it dashed him against a rock. Crusoe held onto the rock so as not to be washed back out to sea and as soon as he could recover somewhat, he ran up the shore with what strength was left in him.

Once saved, he lifted his arms and thanked God. He began to reflect that not one soul was saved except him. After that reflection, he looked about him to see what kind of place he was stranded in. He had nothing on him except a knife, a pipe, and a little tobacco. Since night was coming on and he envisioned himself being eaten by wild beasts, he found a bushy tree and climbed into it, taking along a heavy club in case he needed protection. Being exhausted from all of the violent activities, he fell asleep immediately.

Analysis

Chapter 4 emphasizes further Crusoe's materialism, and he begins to acquire more land, goods, and money. He realizes also that he is now coming into that "middle station of life" which his father advised him to attain in England. As he prospers, he begins to regret the fact that he sold Xury, not because of his feelings for the boy but because he could have been useful as a slave. Consequently, as soon as he has the means, he buys himself a slave to work for him. Thus, in spite of Crusoe's (and Defoe's) seemingly religious nature, apparently both the author and his fictional character embrace the concept of slavery. In fact, Defoe's own attitude is at least ambivalent if not hypocritical in that, morally, he spoke out against people who "barter baubles for the souls of men" and yet he invested heavily in the slave trade and maintained that it was "the most useful and most profitable trade . . . of any part of the general commerce of the nation."

There is a touch of irony in Crusoe's main objection to his plantation — that is, his isolation, the fact that he "had nobody to converse with but now and then his neighbor." Later, the most pleasant thing to Crusoe is the sound of a human voice after about twenty years of hearing no human sounds.

Unable to be content with his fortune, and ever desiring to acquire more wealth, Crusoe once again tempts fate by planning to go to Africa to buy slaves for himself and for neighboring planters. Thus, his materialism is directly correlated to his later plight.

Having bemoaned his sense of isolation on his plantation, once he is shipwrecked and marooned on the island, he realizes that whatever one's fate is, it can always be worse.

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