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The Maturity of Robinson Crusoe

Magda is a university student with a major in English, but her life seems a little bit rough, so she decided to escape from it.

Robinson Crusoe is a novel written by Daniel Defoe, first published in 1719, the work “illustrates best the peculiar quality of Defoe’s literary genius” (Macsiniuc Cornelia, 2016, 134). It can be seen as an exotic adventure story, or a study of solitary consciousness or even an autobiography, that can lead the readers to believe that the protagonist, Robinson Crusoe, was a real person and the book was a travelogue of true incidents.

However, the work should be regarded as a bildungsroman, as well, because the long road from a young rebellious teen to a humble and determined adult; marks the growth of the main character (or a coming of age), from several points of view: physical, psychological, moral and, even, spiritual.

Being the main character and the first-person narrator of the novel, Robinson was born in 1632, in a middle-class family, where he was expected to become a lawyer and have a stable life. But, the young Robinson is a rebel youth, who is continuously searching for adventures, especially on the sea; his mind is fulfilled by many rambling thoughts and wandering inclinations that led him against his father’s wishes, his mom and his friends.

His father’s discourse was meant to encourage him to live a humble life in the middle state, the most suited to human happiness, away from the hardships, the labour and sufferings; but on 1 September, Robinson runs away to sea. We can observe here when he was seasick, that he returns his prayers to God and he blame himself for leaving his father’s house and abandoning his duty; but these kinds of thoughts can be found multiple times at the beginning of the novel, and before his shipwreck.

Robinson began his adventures at nineteen years old when he was an immature, disobedient son, he becomes a slave, then a planter in Brazil and finished his process of maturation at fifty-five, when he arrives at London after leaving the island; the new Crusoe was a more mature man, with fear of God, wise and diligent.

What is maturity from our point of view? Did we perceive it as the biological transformation of the body or something else? I believe that maturity, like intelligence, isn’t shown in the grades we took in high school, neither in the age of someone or the number of their achievements. We gain this power of comprehension, humbleness and inner peace, during a long process of reflection and after living some strong experiences.

During his survival on the island, his personality begins to take a more concrete shape: his diligent mind and objective approach drove him to think about his condition, realizing that he had everything for building a suitable life, in the next 28 years.

Another important evolution about this character is present in his faith in God. If at the beginning of the novel, Robinson was a reckless youth, who only came back to the divinity when he was in danger; in the time spent on the island, isolated, he began to communicate, more often with the divinity, begging for forgiveness, after reflecting on his sins and his past life, at his father’s house. He is driven to desperation by the constant comparison between the memory of his former life and the list of his deprivations.

But, from begging for mercy, he started thanking God, for bringing him on the island and opening his eyes, he didn’t suffer from lust, pride, or greed; he, now, found his life to be much easier than before, and he frequently admired God's wisdom.

Meanwhile, Robinson became aware of surprising coincidences: the first was the day he left his father to run away to sea, was the same day of the month that he later was made a slave; the second thought that he recalled was that he escaped from the wreck at Yarmouth Roads, was on the same day a year earlier than when he escaped from Salé; and the last, but most important was the day when he was born, 30th of September, which was the beginning of his evil life, and he was cast on shore on this deserted island twenty-seven years later, which started his solitary and religious life of repentance.

He comes to enlightenment, from the most basic perceptions of his surroundings, up through reflection about his awful situation, and finally to a higher understanding of human life and then a spiritual awakening; through these stages is build an Enlighted character.

If we should describe this character, we should say that he is an adventurous, individualist and self-reliant man, but the readers may perceive him as a cold person who serves his sentence, for disobeying his father, leaving his family and losing his faith. Yes, he is. Maybe he is not the typical hero of the story, who saves people, who is kind and selfless, but could you blame him for his youthful desires, for his curiosity?

From a traveller to a settler, this is the story of Robinson Crusoe. A young boy in search of adventures, who found maturity in solitude, survived on a desert island and become a self-reliant, wise and mature man.

© 2021 Axinte Magda

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