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The Original Castaway
Jun 23, 2003 10:29 PM 9007 Views
(Updated Jun 23, 2003 10:29 PM)



The Author

Daniel Defoe is considered by many serious researchers of English Literature to be the first Englishman to ever publish a novel. Quite like his countryman Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who came along a century and a half later, Defoe was a man of many talents. Apart from being considered to be the Father of Journalism in Britain, he is also credited with having developed the first ever espionage system in UK.

He was politically a radical and highly susceptible to vilifying the existing politburo which resulted in him being thrown into prison on a number of occasions. Could anyone ever expect a person with such multi-tasking abilities to have written and published hundreds of stories, poems and other forms of literary occupations? To label him as having been a cornucopia of talent would be a gross understatement of the great man and his invaluable contributions to the world in various fields.

Like HG Wells, Defoe too was a pioneer of sorts. His brilliant ideas were clearly ahead of his times but despite his tremendous contributions to the society, he died in severe penury.

The Book

This hero first stemmed from the vivid imagination of Daniel Defoe in 1719 but continues to enthrall generations of avid booklovers to this day. Defoe wrote it at the ripe old age of 60 and though he penned several other masterpieces, none was destined to become as famous as Robinson Crusoe (RC) did.

Who hasn’t heard of Robinson Crusoe? It’s the engrossing story of the son of a rich man who wants to get away from the world in which he resides to one of thrill and adventure aplenty. Much against his father’s wishes, he sets sail on a ship that’s unfortunately shipwrecked and our man is the sole survivor.

Faced with the harsh fact that he’s on a desolate island with barely any hope of help, he sets about learning the art of survival. He makes pets, builds a small hut, cultivates food, makes clothes and in general lives the life of a retired hermit for an amazing 28 years, 2 months and 19 days!

Quite contrary to what one might feel about this seemingly wafer thin story, Defoe packs it with adventures of all kinds – shipwrecks, mutineering pirates, bloodthirsty cannibals, wild animals and a whole lot of other “masala”.

It’s only during the last few years of his stay on the deserted island that things begin to get interesting. He spots cannibals, rescues a man from their clutches and aptly names him “Friday” after the day of the week on which they first met. Thence commences a great tale of camaraderie and friendship between these two.

RC finally gets of the island when a ship of mutineers sails his way. He aids the Brit captain in wresting back control of the ship and reaches Britain after nearly 35 years to find that he has inherited a rich legacy.

Thus Spake TiC

The best time to read this book is when one is a kid. It’s easier to identify with the character and to some extent even think like how RC must have when he first lands on the God-forsaken island. It's a tale of endurance and a strong willpower to live in times of extreme disaster and hardship.

It’s a simple story of an ordinary man who’s ordained to be put to extreme tests and emerges successful despite them all. Yet, a discerning reader would not fail to observe the outmoded style of narration as it hampers the flow of a real adventure story to some extent.

The book was apparently written by Defoe based on the real life adventures of a Scottish sailor who went to sea and actually got himself marooned on an island for 5 years in a spirit of adventure. Since then, the book has gone through various forms of abridgement but still retains the original flavour and essence.

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Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe