The theme of commerce in the novel Robinson Crusoe

Question: Comment on the theme of commerce in the novel Robinson Crusoe. Or, Robinson Crusoe conveys an economic doctrine. Do you agree? Elaborate on your answer.



The economic framework of the novel Robinson Crusoe is the essential dimension of it. Defoe portrays Crusoe as homo economics or an economic man. The ”action and movement” of Robinson’s voyage seems to be the work of a businessman, who involves in the transaction of money and wealth. His life both begins and ends as a tradesman. The economic implication of the novel will come out if we discuss the major events of Crusoe’s life.

Methodical running after money

Robinson Crusoe pursues money very methodically, keeping account of his profit and loss. This a characteristic feature of a modern businessman. We find Crusoe’s worldliness and monetary motive at the outset of his voyage to Guinea. While they were on the voyage, the captain gave Robinson advice t buy some toys and trifles and to earn some profits by selling them. This voyage made Robinson both a sailor and a merchant. Robinson says;

“This was the only voyage which I may say was successful in all my adventures and which I owe to the honesty and integrity of my friend the Captain.”

The speech is evident in Crusoe’s interest in money. He buys goods, sells those, and finally earns a profit. He acts like a trader.

Life of adventure for gaining name, fame, and money

Robinson Crusoe abandons his parents’ advice and chooses the seafaring life. He desires to be a prosperous and wealthy man. in this way, he wants to rise above the middle status of life. The novel states the miserable condition of the middle-class family of England. Crusoe is trying to be well off in the economic aspect of his life and it is the general tendency of the bourgeois family of England. This is the reason Karl Mark attacks the novel in his Das Kapital. Robinson Crusoe possesses a capitalistic tendency in his life. He becomes a true materialistic man. his economic individualism prevents him from paying heed to the familial ties.

Selling Xury to the Portuguese captain

Again, Robinson’s economic motive makes him a commercial traveler. Whenever he gets an opportunity, he involves in trade and commerce as a means of profit. When he escapes from the Moors, the Portuguese captain sets him up with a little capital, with which Crusoe intends to run his trade. Even he becomes heartless in selling his slave Xury to the captain. He becomes the owner of above 5000 pounds. These are examples of the economic implications of the novel.

Commercial travel to Brazil

Robinson considers his voyage to Brazil an economic success. He learns about sugar plantations there. He finds that sugar-planters grow rich, so he becomes a planter. He imports laborers from Guinea. Crusoe’s activates in Brazil become typical of a white colonizer who was used to set up a plantation in a far-off land. The only aim of these Planters was to make money in a very short time. Thus, the voyage of Robinson Crusoe illustrates the economic aspect of colonialism.

Monetary consideration in a desolate island

Even in his desolate condition on the remote island, Crusoe does not forget his monetary consideration. He regards himself as the master of the island and a rich man. This materialistic note is evident when Crusoe says:

“The land was now peopled, and I thought myself very rich in subjects.”

When Robinson reaches Lisbon and meets the Spanish captain of the ship, he takes all the account of his property from him. He declares that he will give one-third of his wealth to the king and two-third to St. Augustine, which will be spent for the benefit of the poor and the conversion of the Indians to the Catholic Faith. Crusoe becomes ecstatic for lots of money all around him.


Thus, materialism and capitalism lie at the heart of the novel Robinson Crusoe. Robinson seems to be a capitalist and an economic man. Certainly, the novel conveys an economic implication.

Click here: for all notes of Robinson Crusoe.

Biswazit Kumar
Biswazit Kumar
Articles: 64

Leave a Reply