Summary and Analysis
Taking the examples of Negroes and Indians, Crusoe wondered if it were in his power to build a canoe or a piragua. He chose a tree in the woods and, with much difficulty, cut it down, and began to fashion a kind of boat, but he did not consider how he was to get it to the sea, which was "fortyfive fathoms of land away." After five months, he finished the boat.
When he finished his work on the boat, he was pleased with himself, especially since he had never in his life seen either a canoe or a piragua that was made of one tree and was as big as this one. He tried to get it into the water, but it was too heavy to move. He then thought of the possibility of bringing water to the boat by digging a series of trenches, but this endeavor also failed and, with "great reluctancy I gave this attempt over also." This endeavor was profitable because it taught him an important lesson — that is, "the folly of beginning a work before we count the cost, and before we judge rightly of our own strength to go through with it." This work took him through his fourth year on the island.
Thinking again on his condition, he realized that on this island his wants were supplied, he had more materials than he needed to work with, and he was delivered from temptations. He suffered neither from lust, pride, nor greed. He now found his life to be much easier than before, and he frequently admired God's wisdom: "All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have."
He spent entire days meditating on what his condition would have been if he had not been able to save provisions from the ship and if he had not been so plentifully supplied with game. These reflections worked on his mind, causing him to come to a "resignation to the will of God in the present disposition of my circumstances.
He became aware of a strange coincidence of days upon which certain things befell him — for instance, the day he left his father to run away to sea was the same day of the month that he later was made a slave. The next coincidence he recalled was that he escaped from the wreck at Yarmouth Roads on the same day a year earlier than when he escaped from the Sallee. In addition, he was born on the 30th of September, which was the beginning of his "evil life," and he was cast on shore on this deserted island twenty-six years later, which started his solitary and religious life of conversion.
Returning to practical things, Crusoe discovered that he was completely without bread and that his clothes were beginning to decay. Although there was excessive heat on the island, he could not go naked because of the burning rays of the sun. Going through the seamen's chests, he improvised waistcoats and breeches from things found within. He made himself a cap from one of the skins of one of the creatures he had killed. This cap held off the rain so well that he attempted to make a whole suit of clothes from these skins. He then spent a great deal of time making an umbrella.
For the next five years, nothing notable happened to Crusoe. His main occupation was in constructing a smaller boat, one which he would be able to get into the water. At the end of this five-year period, he finally had a boat which he could get into the water and he fitted it with a mast and a sail and began a journey around the island.
According to Crusoe, it was on the sixth year of his captivity when he started out on his tour around the island. At first, he went to a hill and saw a fierce current which he wanted to avoid because it might drive him out to sea. There was the same current on the opposite side of the island, which he also must avoid.
Venturing out on the third day, he found himself almost immediately carried into a current and, fearful that he would be carried far out to sea and die, he reflected on how easy it is for God to make a bad condition worse, and he wished with all his might to be back on his island. Then a breeze came up and maneuvering his mast and sails, he attempted to steer himself toward the island. An eddy carried him back to the northern shore, the opposite shore from which he had left. He fell on his knees, thanking
God, and then he moored his boat in a cove.
Now he was at a loss to know how to get back home. Walking about, he came to a bay and brought his boat there to harbor. Marching along, he found his old bower and fell asleep there. He was startled out of his sleep, however, by a voice calling "Robinson Crusoe, Robinson Crusoe." It was Poll, the parrot, sitting on top of the hedge. He and Poll then returned to their home.
His one attempt at sea so unnerved Crusoe that he lived a very quiet and sedate life for an entire year. Turning his attention to the "mechanic exercises," he fashioned himself a pipe of which he was exceedingly proud. He also improved his wickerware and made many convenient baskets. He then noticed that his supply of gunpowder was fast dwindling and he resolved to hold on to the supply and use snares to catch wild goats and other game and also to begin seriously domesticating some of the goats.
It now being his eleventh year, his first catch included a large "old he-goat, and in one of the other traps, 3 kids, a male and two female." The old goat was so fierce that he was obliged to let it go and he brought only the three kids back with him. He found it necessary to undertake making an enclosed piece of ground to restrain them and to protect them from other creatures. He went about constructing a hedge 150 yards in length and 100 yards in breadth, vowing to enlarge it as the flock increased.
Eighteen months later, he had twelve goats and, in two more months, he had forty-three goats, not counting the ones he had already eaten. Accordingly, he found himself supplied with butter, milk, and cheese. With this bountiful food before him, he praised God for the protection and good things he had received from Him. He imagined himself a king, surrounded by his servants — Poll, his dog, and the two cats — and that everything on the island was at his complete command.
Crusoe resolved to go to sea again, and he describes to us the outfit which he had decided to wear. He wore a shapeless cap made of goatskin, a short jacket made of goat skin, breeches made of the skin of an old goat, and footwear, also out of goat skin. He also carried a goat skin umbrella. He cut his beard, which was once a fourth yard long, and now was very short. Thus, in this outfit, Crusoe determined to make his second sally out to sea.
Observing the current again, he was surprised to discover that the furious eddy which drove him about the last time no longer existed. And since his first piragua was on the other side of the island, he determined to build another one for this side of the island. Perhaps to comfort himself, he made an inventory of all his possessions and of all the creatures that he was "lord" over, and he was satisfied with his realm.
In Chapter 12, "I Make Myself a Canoe," Crusoe returns to his contemplations about his fortunes in being removed from "all the wickedness of the world." There he was not tempted by "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life." Yet these thoughts are followed by distinctly materialistic or grandiose thoughts that he was a king or emperor over the island.
In this chapter also, we have one of many inconsistencies of the time sequence. Defoe is not very careful in his plotting of the chronology. In this chapter, at one time, Defoe writes that nothing happened for five years and since he has been on the island four years, this would make it his ninth year, but in a later paragraph, Defoe writes that it "was the 6th of November, in the sixth year" of Crusoe's stay on the island. These are minor inconsistencies and the reader should not be troubled if he cannot work out an exact chronology.
Inconsistencies are also seen in the character of Crusoe. First, he laments his miserable condition on the island and wishes to journey out to sea, then once out to sea, he yearns for his island, calling it a "happy desert." Throughout the novel, he is pleased to be on the island, praising God for having so provided for him and then, at any other given moment, he bemoans his fate and desires fervently to be rescued from his misery.
In Chapter 13, "I Improve Myself in the Mechanic Exercises," Crusoe has so increased his "wealth" and property by the eleventh year of his stay that he can look upon his possessions and say "what a table was here spread for me in a wilderness, where I saw nothing at first but to perish for hunger."