Question: Discuss Robinson Crusoe as an allegorical journey to imperialism. Or, discuss the theme of colonialism in the novel “Robinson Crusoe”.
The novel Robinson Crusoe by Defoe (1660-1731) deals with various kinds of themes. Colonialism is one of the themes. Some critics like Earnest A. Barker think that colonialism is the ultimate theme of this novel. In the seventeenth century, Europe was crazy for discovering new lands across the sea to make them colonies. The novel has certainly allegorical significance of imperialism.
Impact of the contemporary tendency
The people of Europe were not satisfied with their prosperity due to development in the fields of science and technology. They wanted to occupy the earth and rule the people of the whole world. We see it at the beginning of the novel. For a life of adventure, Robison Crusoe fought against his parents to go to sea. His father was a middle-class businessman, and he was very pleased with medieval life. He wanted his son to be a lawyer. However, Crusoe was a young man in the spirit of his time. He could not think of himself as happy to be with his father and mother. On the one hand, Crusoe wanted a life of adventure and on the other, he wanted to be a very rich man. Thus, his father could not persuade him to stay home and act as his father intended.
The experience of slavery
When Crusoe was captured by the Turkish pirates, he became a slave for nearly two years of the captain of the pirates. His experience as a slave flourished his notion of imperialism. He got trusted by his master starkly which is why he was given an opportunity to go to the deep sea for catching fish with another servant Xury. He allures Xury to make him free and eventually Xury became a slave of Crusoe. Here the point of imperialism is that a slave makes another person his slave. Crusoe with Xury was directionless in the sea for ten-twelve days. After Crusoe and his slave had been rescued by a Portuguese ship. Crusoe sold Xury to the captain. This business without any investment is the paradigm of imperialism.
Robinson Crusoe came to Brazil after the Portuguese ship’s captain had rescued him. He wanted to settle there as a merchant. He started a plantation business in Brazil with some other partners. He did a good job in the production of sugar and tobacco and made remarkable progress in the plantation trade. He repeatedly promised never to go to sea. But he could not keep his oath. He was persuaded by some of his partners, planned to move to New Guinea to buy slaves and to trade gold. In fact, Crusoe’s colonial consciousness could not settle him in Brazil. The sea called him to sail and to find out any new place to colonize.
Robinson Crusoe was on the desolate island for more than twenty-eight years. He began to think that all things on the island were his personal property. When he saw the footprint on the sand of the seashore, he was frightened.
“Thus fear of danger is ten thousand time more terrifying than danger itself.”
He thought that he could be attacked at any moment by the barbarians living in his vicinity. At the same time, he was afraid of losing ownership of the island. The colonial mind of Crusoe was terribly shaken by the sight of the footprint on the seashore. His mental peace was completely disturbed by the fact that the cannibals were feasting on human bodies along the coast of the island. He wanted to kill all the cannibals though he did not do so. He saved Friday from the cannibals and called him ‘my man’. He also protected Friday’s father and thought them his subjects. Thus, the island is the symbolic concept of imperialism.
In the last pages of the book, we see that Crusoe is again going on a voyage to the East Indies. On the way, he visited his island. He was happy to see that the Spaniards were dominating the island. Later, he sent them some workmen like carpenters and blacksmiths. He sent some English women to increase the white men on his island. Thus, Crusoe established a new colony on the island.