Sunday, July 15, 2012

Robinson Crusoe

As a kid, both when I was pretty little and as a teenager, I found the idea of survival in the middle of nowhere intriguing.  I like to think this stemmed from being well acquainted with camping and from a healthy imagination tendered by plenty of time outside in the dirt in the backyard.  The possibility of bugs in our shelter notwithstanding, I found the wilderness survival merit badge in Scouts a lot of fun.  I read with interest the news stories about downed pilot Scott O'Grady, who was shot down over Bosnia and survived in the forest eating leaves, bugs, and avoiding patrolling Serbs.  Now that I'm not a kid, I am much less confident in my abilities to make it on the proverbial deserted island alone.

In Daniel Defoe's classic fiction, Robinson Crusoe (ISBN: 978-0-14-143982-2), the eponymous hero is also initially rather suspicious of his chances of survival after being shipwrecked in the middle of nowhere.  Having already lived through one adventure, he decides to give survival everything he's got, and works hard to salvage things from his old ship; learns through trial and error various farming, carpentry, sewing, hunting, and pottery skills; and explores the deserted island to learn just what is at his disposal.  Two things change his situation immensely: one, he comes to be a more fully committed and believing Christian, and two, he saves an Indian from his cannibal pursuers, thereby gaining the Indian's services for life.  That really comes in handy when Crusoe must fend off other cannibals and then a mutinous ship crew.  In the end, Crusoe considers himself greatly blessed as he is able to save some lives, a ship, and get back to England, where he settles into a comfortable, middle-class life.

I quite enjoyed reading the book.  As with all classic literature, there are a few slow points and it is sometimes hard to get through certain passages because of the modern reader's lack of knowledge regarding geography and history.  Some of the philosophy and theology was also slow, but it didn't take away from the story, which I thought moved along at a pretty good pace and was full of adventure after adventure.  The only real disappointment for me was that Crusoe was not able to help the Spaniards he came in contact with.  It seemed to me that with his knowledge of how much he would've liked to've got back to England and his newfound Christian desire to help others, he would've worked harder to get those guys out of their stranded state.  In the end, though, the book's a good read and it was kind of interesting to get acquainted with one of the books that most people read in their youth (I have found that I have a much greater appreciation for the classics now that I am reading them of my own volition).

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