At the recommendation of a long-time Smooth Harold reader (thanks, Nic), I finished Robinson Crusoe over the weekend. Regarded as the first novel written in English and first published in 1719, it’s a story about high-sea adventure, shipwrecks, castaways, gratitude, hard work, and international intrigue.
What I like most about the book is Defoe’s poetic commentary on human behavior. For example, after Robinson nearly drowned at sea for the first time, he quickly swore off his selfish ways and committed himself to God, before changing his mind after disaster had been averted:
To make short this sad Part of my Story, we went the old way of all Sailors, the Punch was made, and I was made drunk with it, and in that one Night’s Wickedness I drowned all my Repentance, all my Reflections upon my past Conduct, and all my Resolutions for my future. In a word, as the Sea was returned to its Smoothness of Surface and settled Calmness by the Abatement of that Storm, so the Hurry of my Thoughts being over, my Fears and Apprehensions of being swallow’d up by the Sea being forgotten, and the Current of my former Desires return’d, I entirely forgot the Vows and Promises that I made in my Distress. (p. 8)
Good stuff. And there’s more where that came from:
This grieved me heartily; and now I saw, though too late, the folly of beginning a work before we count the cost, and before we judge rightly of our own strength to go through with it. (p. 18) Thus we never see the true State of our Condition, till it is illustrated to us by its Contraries; nor know how to value what we enjoy, but by the want of it. (p. 129)
The book starts slowly, and the conclusion is somewhat understated. But page 142 features one of the best story twists I’ve ever read. If you like adventure, you’re sure to enjoy it. If wisdom and greater appreciation is what you seek, you’re sure to find it here as well. Overall, I give Robinson Crusoe a highly recommended three stars out of four.