Friday, May 8, 2015

Robinson Crusoe

From Joseph Bottum's "The Novel as Protestant Art"
.... Robinson Crusoe is...a tale of salvation and awareness of being born again. The isolated hero learns to see as "the Work of Providence" all that has happened to him—and thereby becomes master of the island on which he is stranded. Nearly dying of fever in the summer of 1660, he offers "the first Prayer, if I may call it so, that I had made for many Years." And as he recovers, we reach the central moment of the novel. Robinson Crusoe finally reads the Bible he has brought from the wrecked ship, and—without a church community or a teacher to aid him, sheerly from the power of the divine text itself on an individual conscience—he writes, "I threw down the Book, and with my Heart as well as my Hands lifted up to Heaven, in a kind of Extasy of Joy, I cry'd out aloud, Jesus, thou Son of David, Jesus, thou exalted Prince and Saviour, give me Repentance!" ....

Perhaps Defoe's religious sense suggested writing a story of isolation, or perhaps the author merely began a story of isolation (inspired by the nonfiction 1712 accounts of Alexander Selkirk's adventures) and found thereby a way to express his religious sense. Regardless, he created with Crusoe's island something like the ideal novelistic setting for a tale of a Protestant worldview: The journey of the self is the deepest, truest thing in the universe, and the individual soul's salvation is the great metaphysical drama played out on the world's stage. ....