Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe is a world-known story demonstrating that perseverance, self-belief, and optimism can enable people to overcome all challenges and survive despite multiple obstacles. The novel encourages readers to analyze various topics, including isolation, society, individuality, religion, mistakes, ambition, contentment, relationships, the unknown, and others. Nevertheless, progress must be recognized as one of the main themes in the novel Robinson Crusoe because physical, mental, and intellectual development is the story’s integral part at all stages.
Robinson Crusoe’s physical progress is the most obvious development in the novel: the character faces significant challenges when aiming to survive in his first sea storm but successfully overcomes obstacles on a desert island and spends twenty-eight years there. The boy’s first sea journey is difficult, explaining why he promises to prevent going to sea in the future. However, Robinson realizes that he cannot imagine his life without sea voyages and continues his journeys despite obstacles. When Crusoe enters the desert island, he is confused and troubled: the man initially believes that his survival in this place is impossible. Nevertheless, optimism and perseverance enable him to create comfortable living conditions: the man not only survives on the island but also develops various objects that make his life comfortable, allowing him to focus on hunting and farming (Defoe, 1719). Robinson covers enormous distances, reaches the ship to find the things necessary for his survival, and successfully fights against cannibals and pirates while staying on the island. As a result, the man’s physical strength and self-belief enable him to continue living in the most complicated situations even when readers believe that his survival is unthinkable, and his physical progress plays a vital role in this story.
Undoubtedly, Robinson Crusoe’s mental development results from his experience and the difficulties he has faced throughout his life. A young Crusoe focuses only on his goals and dreams: he aims to earn money and travel the sea throughout his life. The boy is uncertain whether God exists and has internal conflicts when analyzing the role of God in his life. However, the man’s staying on the island makes him recognize the necessity of being grateful for everything and enjoying his life rather than dreaming about things he lacks. Robinson’s experience helps him understand that God significantly influences his life and enables him to survive despite various challenges. Crusoe states: “I survive by the Word of God, and by the assistance of His grace” (Defoe, 1719, p. 125). This statement proves that Robinson accepts his conditions and difficulties and enjoys the life God has given him. Likewise, life on the desert island encourages Crusoe to state: “Thus fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself” (Defoe, 1719, p. 153). The man has changed his attitude toward fear because he realizes that he must regulate his fear and make it unable to affect his life. The man promises to avoid traveling the sea during his first sea storm but overcomes more complicated challenges without fear on the island. Therefore, the man’s mental progress demonstrates that obstacles are essential for becoming more self-confident, optimistic, and persistent.
The character’s intellectual progress is also impressive because his desire to earn money and find the most effective methods to improve his life motivates readers to recognize that all problems, even the most complex, can be solved. When Robinson Crusoe starts traveling the sea, he constantly searches for proper approaches to survive and profit. Even when the character becomes a slave, he continues fighting for his freedom and develops an appropriate plan to escape. Robinson effectively establishes friendly relationships with people, explaining why they are ready to help him accomplish his objectives. Although Crusoe lives on the desert island, he develops a calendar, creates tools and furniture, finds grain to start farming and animals for hunting, and demonstrates significant progress in his living style. Robinson explains, “It is never too late to be wise” (Defoe, 1719, p. 167). Crusoe constantly analyzes his life, values, and critical issues and makes necessary conclusions that make his life more meaningful. The man finds a friend, Friday, and teaches him everything he has learned on the desert island; he also teaches the parrot to talk to feel less lonely and builds a house in a cave to protect himself from animals and cannibals. Hence, Crusoe’s intellectual progress and ability to adapt to new circumstances demonstrate his development as a personality and prove that people can survive in various conditions if they aim to fight for their lives and freedom.
In conclusion, progress is the primary theme in Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe because the author analyzes this aspect from multiple perspectives, demonstrating the character’s physical, mental, and emotional development. The challenges Robinson faces throughout his life, especially his experience on the desert island, show his progress as a personality and make readers understand that people can overcome all difficulties if they struggle for their survival, comfort, and happiness. Thus, the novel Robinson Crusoe explains that progress is an inseparable part of every person’s life, while humans’ quality of life and overall satisfaction with their living conditions depend on their ability to adapt to new circumstances and continue living despite the new obstacles.
Defoe, D. (1719). Robinson Crusoe.