Friday, 16 November 2012

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1/5)

GoodReads says: Who has not dreamed of life on an exotic isle, far away from civilization? Here is the novel which has inspired countless imitations by lesser writers, none of which equal the power and originality of Defoe's famous book. Robinson Crusoe, set ashore on an island after a terrible storm at sea, is forced to make do with only a knife, some tobacco, and a pipe. He learns how to build a canoe, make bread, and endure endless solitude. That is, until, twenty-four years later, when he confronts another human being. First published in 1719, Robinson Crusoe has been praised by such writers as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Samuel Johnson as one of the greatest novels in the English language.

I say: This is one of the worst books I have ever read. Knowing me, I’m sure that’s not saying much, but it still needs to be uttered.

I passionately hate this book.

Which is rather sad, because I read this when I was younger and had nothing but fond memories of it. I realise now that I read a simplified version where they had removed all of the sordid details. And I by sordid I mean racism, imperialism, an overt Christian agenda, and just plain boring.

It took me well over a week to finish this because every time I picked it up, I would read a few pages and nod off.

I wrote an analysis of Robinson where I slated him completely for being a selfish, conceited, racist and downright idiot of a person. He takes credit for surviving on the island when all he did was repeat things he’d seen done while living in England, Africa and South America. The reason he’s stranded on the island is because he wants to help some South Americans sail to Africa to bring back slaves.

Serves him right, except he should have drowned.

I mean, for serious. Do we really want to herald this man as a hero? The same man who doesn’t care if the “savages” on the island kill and eat their own kind, but woe betide them if they try to eat a white man – oh no, then they’ve gone too far and Robinson kills them all. Then he makes Friday his slave and makes him call him “Master.” And this is after spending 24 years whining about how he wants a companion to talk to.

Pardon my French, but fuck Robinson Crusoe.

He finds religion while on the island and then uses that to justify whatever heinous action he feels like doing. He’s a vile murderer who also slaughters animals all willy-nilly because of his total lack of common sense. The expression “monkey see, monkey do” just about sums him up until he finds religion and through it his own sense of superiority.

I don’t believe in burning books but I won’t deny the satisfaction I’d get out of witnessing the pages of this twaddle set alight.



Why I’d never...
I'd comment on the writing but it seems rather redundant since it put me to sleep.


  1. I heart the one out of five for this. I HATED IT SO MUCH. In ALL THE WAYS, but mainly because it was dreadful to actually read, and I still maintain that the earliest novels shouldn't be read because NO ONE KNEW HOW TO WRITE THEM YET.

    Ahem. Yeah, this sucks.

    1. Hahaha... you reply made me literally laugh out loud. It was just terrible and full of all the things I loathe. And I know you hate all the early novels but, with the risk of sounding biased, I especially can't stand the early British novels. They make me weep inside because they're mostly filled with random nonsense. I guess it took them a while to invent the editor...

  2. Wow, I had no idea how bad this was in the original! I too read a watered down version as a kid and remember it being just a cool adventure/survival story. I was even tempted to re-read it and experience all the joy all over again. But after reading this post, I'll pass!

    What do you think about watered down versions and movie adaptations that try to make up for the original? Are they really helping or should stories like this be forgotten, not revived by pretending they're something they're not?

    Sorry you had to suffer through it, but thanks for posting so I don't have to now!

    1. I was taken by surprise as well - and not a very pleasant one. Maybe you should read the children's version and hang steady to your memories before you become just as disillusioned as me and Laura :)

      It's a great premise for a story - a man is shipwrecked on an island and manages to survive on it's own. It's very heroic in a organic way; he doesn't really do anything but survive and yet that is the greatest feat of all. I just think that Robinson Crusoe is a racist idiot, and we can argue that that was simply the way people thought and reacted back then, but it doesn't change the fact that he's a rather nasty piece of work.

      You could try to read a few pages of it, but I have to warn you that he goes into great detail about things you'll probably never care for in your life.

  3. Ditto Jae's comment.

    I read my children's copy of Robinson Crusoe to shreds as a child. It was an absolute favourite until I discovered Enid Blyton's Secret Island (meant for kids). I had considered reading the original, especially in the past year. Your review has saved me from a struggle. Thank you! :)

    Oh! And this is the first time I've come across your blog. Very interesting! Am looking forward to keep up with your reviews. :)

    1. Yeah, it was a complete surprise how awful this book is. I've talked to a couple of people who feel the same way; it's so weird. I'd love to compare more classic literature in the same way to see how much is omitted from the children's versions.

      And thanks for stopping by, it's always nice when new readers find their way over since I never do any pr work for the blog and just sort of let in sit here (I should work on that). I'll be popping over your as well since you read a lot of classic lit, and you're a student of English lit and I'm obsessed with deep analytical thinking right now (I've just started studying literary science this year). So, we'll be seeing each other around ;)