Robinson Crusoe and Slavery
Robinson Crusoe: A Representation of the European Ideology In a society where the exploitation of the natural resources of a nest was the engine of a country’s prosperity and power, the requirement of a labor force was important for that nation’s development. Europe discovered that force through the practice of slavery, subjugating locals of the West Indies and “Negroes” from Africa because they were regarded as savages and for that reason as inferior beings. This institution, in addition to that of serfdom, was deeply deep-rooted in the Vintage due to the extreme trading that the eighteenth century provided.
As an outcome, numerous books from this duration– specifically travel literature– reflect these styles in their pages. In Daniel Defoe’s unique Robinson Crusoe they can be seen in numerous parts of the book, such as the time when Crusoe ended up being a servant himself; when he had for a quick time his kid Xury; when he embeded in a trip to acquire Negroes from Guinea; and in his subsequent relationship with Friday. Thus, a few of the events told throughout the entire story show the colonialist and imperialistic nature of the primary character, which in turn represents white civilization’s idea of superiority.
From the start of the book, Crusoe exists as a guy from the “middle state”. According to his dad, that was the best position a male could ever have– a point of view that Crusoe will come to understand and agree with later in the novel–. Specifically this middle sector of society was the one who was committed to trading in this duration of excellent business growth, and also the one with the desire to build and develop due to affordable aspirations. In the unique, the primary character is consistent with this design, for every single time that he finds himself flourishing, and has the possibility to do so, he desires to obtain servants or servants.
This can be seen when he becomes the owner of a Brazilian plantation of sugar cane, “I might state I had more than four times the value of my very first freight, and was now definitely beyond my bad neighbour, I imply in the development of my plantation; for the first thing I did, I purchased me a Negro servant and an European servant likewise” (39 ). It is essential to keep in mind here that Crusoe makes a clear distinction between the African and the European: while he utilizes the term “servant” to the previous, he utilizes “servant” to the latter, therefore placing them in different levels.
Despite the fact that both are subordinated to a master, the white individual exists under a rather more positive light than the black one, which highlights the vision of superiority of the Caucasian race. Another example of his ambition to get workers appears within the very same chapter, when fellow planters and merchants propose to him to fit out a ship to go to Guinea in order to trade some Negroes exclusively for them; a proposal which he finds reasonable and irresistible. The concept of wealth as an element dependant on the enslavement of others was very typical at the author’s time.
As an eighteenth century file manifests: “Slaves were the labor force that allowed England to flourish and to enable it to pay its National Financial obligation” (Berkeley 12), which not only implies that they were essential to the abundance of the colonies, however to the mom country also. This reliance between both sides represents a deeply rooted symbiotic economic relationship, given that the colonists supplied the raw products for products, and in turn they needed the transformed products from the empire, therefore becoming a market.
Being a merchant himself, Daniel Defoe perceived this as the general concept of progress, simply as Downie asserts when stating that the unique consists of “Defoe’s imperialistic propaganda: trade is the lifeblood of the country, and the source of British greatness” (77 ). Robinson Crusoe’s colonialist vision in the story is manifested in his understanding of the island, in addition to in his social relationships with the slaves.
In relation to the notion of the isle, even though initially it is a hostile environment for the storyteller, he eventually manages to “tame” the wilderness through effort– an entirely Puritan practice–. Once he takes control over the land he lives in and starts to exploit it, he begins to refer to the island as his “kingdom” and he sees himself as the outright ruler: “I was lord of the whole manor; or if I happy, I might call myself a king, or emperor over the entire nation which I had belongings of. There were no rivals. I had no rival, none to conflict sovereignty or command with me” (131 ).
In addition, he establishes himself as the sovereign of all, after the island starts being populated, “My island was now peopled, and I believed myself extremely rich in subjects; and it was a merry reflection, which I frequently made, how like a king I looked” (243 ). Furthermore, at the end of the novel he reviews the island and clearly calls it “my brand-new nest”, which imposes his imperialistic nature. Worrying his contact with servants, his very first direct experience takes place early in the unique, more specifically, in the second chapter of the book.
His negative fate leads the ship in which he travels in the method of some pirates, who offer him as a slave to a Moor. Seeing himself decreased to this unpleasant and helpless state, the main character’s only ideas are related to his liberty and the methods to attain it. Once he finds the methods and does it, he makes his fellow slave Xury swear “to be devoted to me and go all over the world with me” (25 ). The oath made by the young boy– as he continually calls him– is important because it marks their more tie in the way that the protagonist considers that now he refers to him.
While they are navigating and trying to survive, Xury areas a Portuguese ship and reports it to his “master” with great shock. Thinking about that it was a ship managed by Europeans, this might suggest instant redemption to Crusoe, however not a lot to Xury, which might discuss his “baseless” worry when seeing the vessel. A contrast that can be seen regarding the difference in treatment that a white individual and one from another culture receives, is displayed in the fact that while the British Crusoe is rescued simply out of great Christianity and remains a totally free male, whenever a non-European is conserved, he is constantly reduced to a state of bondage.
Another fascinating element to discover in this part is that it is not until this point– when the Portuguese captain proposes a rate for Xury– that the storyteller employs the possessive “my” when referring to him: “he used me also sixty pieces of eight more for my boy Xury, which I was loath to take, not that I was not happy to let the captain have him” (35 ); implying that the kid was his residential or commercial property and was in the position to sell him.
As a result of this very first experience, Crusoe’s viewpoint on slavery is not unilateral; however he does not change his mindset towards it. Furthermore, he just remembers and misses his former servant, “Now I longed for my young boy Xury” (126 ), when he is in desire of assistance for his deliverance from the island. After the encounter with Xury, Crusoe’s 2nd direct contact with slaves– which takes place much later on in the narration– takes place in his relationship with Friday. This more occurring is extremely substantial concerning the conventions of the master-slave bond.
When the protagonist chooses to assist the man that will be called Friday from other “sorrowful creatures”, or savages, he sees the opportunity of getting a servant, and only possibly a companion or an assistant (205 ). After being saved, the native indeed becomes Crusoe’s servant. It is essential to tension that the very first words that he finds out in English are his own name “Friday” and “Master”– which Crusoe teaches as his own–. In this method, by thinking about Friday as a savage and thus inferior, Crusoe draws an extremely well defined line in between the two.
Likewise, the storyteller provides a really comprehensive description of Friday: He had a very good countenance, not a strong and surly element, but seemed to have something really manly in his face, and yet he had all the sweetness and softness of an European in his countenance too, specifically when he smiled … The colour of his skin was not quite black, however really tawny; and yet not of an ugly yellow, nauseous tawny, as the Brazilians and Virginians, and other locals of America are; but of a brilliant kind of a dun olive colour that had in it something really reasonable though not extremely easy to explain. 208) In this comprehensive representation, we can observe that when Crusoe bestows some European qualities to Friday, they are just favorable characteristics. On the other hand, when he points out the skin color, he utilizes negative adjectives, such as “ugly” and “nauseous”, to refer to natives of other societies. In this way, the narrator evinces a European complex of superiority. The character of Friday also satisfies of representing a design of “excellent savage”, i. e. one who wants to change his own customs for those of the colonizing culture.
This effort of instilling Western worths is illustrated whenever the main character suppresses Friday’s mores, for example when he covers his nakedness by supplying him with clothing or when he forbids the practice of cannibalism: “for I had, by some ways, let him know that I would kill him if he offered it” (210 ). As the story advances, these modifications are performed by Friday with eagerness and excellent disposition. In the very same vein, when the native finds out English, Crusoe starts to lay the foundations on the knowledge of the “true” faith.
The process of evangelism was practiced practically in every colony that Europe posessed, due to the conviction that the “others” were ignorant and barbarians and in need to be reformed (No abolition 4). Though Friday manifest some appointments and concerns concerning some aspects of the Christian religion, he shows a total change in his system of beliefs, becoming a complete Puritan like his master, “therefore, the character of native population is frequently stressed out in Defoe’s stories, as if to suggest their preparedness for conversion and civilization” (Downie 80).
Thereby, Crusoe does all these actions since he thinks that he is civilizing Friday; for him, the European values are what identify an industrialized culture from a “savage” one. As any piece of literature, Robinson Crusoe is influenced by the scenarios of its time, and thus it includes some colonialist and imperialist features within its passages.
The aspects provided by this book can draw a link in between empire, slavery and industry, which were essential to Defoe’s worldview; for he even stated in a file that he who eliminates slaves “is a fool, for they are his Estate, his Stock, his Wealth, and His Prosperity” (Andersen 34). Likewise, the book displays much of the reasoning behind the ideology of the Western World, such as the belief of informing and improving the way of living of the native cultures from the New World.
Also, it portrays the social attitudes and the various roles that the Europeans put among everyone, depending on their race. In fact, the relation between slavery and the book has marked the English language, considering that the expression “male Friday” is commonly used to refer to a “male individual assistant or servant” (Oxford). In this manner, this unique– with all these financial and social elements– can give us a precise representation of the conceptions with respect to the servant culture that prevailed during those times in Europe. Works pointed out Andersen, Hans H. The Paradox of Trade and Morality in Defoe.” Modern Philology. Vol. 39, No. 1 (1941 ): 23-46. JSTOR. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. Berkeley, George. A proposal for the better supplying of churches in our foreign plantations, and for Converting the Savage Americans to Christianity. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. British Library. 1725. Web. 9 Nov. 2013. Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. New York: Signet Classic, 2008. Print. Downie, J. A. “Defoe, Imperialism, and the Guidebook Reevaluated.” The Yearbook of English Studies. Vol. 13 (1983 ): 66-83. JSTOR. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.
No abolition; or, an attempt to prove to the conviction of every reasonable British topic, that the abolition of the British trade with Africa for Negroes, would be a measure as unfair as impolitic, deadly to the interests of this nation, ruinous to its Sugar Colonies, and more or less pernicious in its effects to every description of the people. In the course of which are inserted important extracts from the report of the best Honourable Committee of Privy Council. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. British Library. 1789. Web. 9 Nov. 2013. Oxford Dictionaries Online. Oxford University Press. n. d. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.