A man and an island
Robinson Crusoe. Think cast-way, the 18th century version. After a shipwreck, Robinson Crusoe finds himself alone on an island, an island he names the “Island of Despair.”
A few weeks ago I was at Barnes & Noble. Did you know that they print their own books now? Cheap paperback classics, currently by 2 get 1 free. So I, a shopper always looking for a great deal, stocked up on classics I’ve never read. Like Robinson Crusoe.
I knew the story and understood references. Kind of like Moby Dick, you know it’s about the whale but you haven’t actually finished the book. (Which, if you’ve actually read Moby Dick cover to cover, every word, you should win an award or something. Seriously, it’s impossible to finish. I’ve tried…multiple times.)
So I picked up Robinson Crusoe from my stack of classics.
While Daniel Defoe wrote the story of Robin Crusoe in 1719, I was surprised to relate easily to Robin and his story. The themes and ideas are timeless.
In the first pages we meet Robin Crusoe, a man worried about money, and making more of it. But, as usual, once he has it he becomes obsessed with wanting more. Robin has a nice farm, but the prospect of making more money is ultimately what gets him back out to sea, and washed up on the “Island of despair.”
From beginning to end we see Robin transform. At one point while exploring the wreckage of a ship, Robin finds chests filled with gold. But that doesn’t matter to him. All he wants is a pair of shoes:
I would have given it all for three or four pair of English shoes and stocking, which were things I greatly wanted, but had not had on my feet now for many years. (188, B&N edition).
Robin Crusoe survives a horrible wreck, but he lives alone on the island for over 25 years, only speaking to a parrot he taught to talk. But he finds meaning in his life, breeding cattle, farming, building shelters, even finding some hope in a Bible. Not once do we hear him wish he didn’t survive the wreckage.
In fact, from the moment Robin arrives on the island, he goes into survival mode. He’s practical and plans for the future, salvaging what he can from the wreck and building a shelter.
So if you haven’t read Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, give it a try. I promise it’s better than Moby Dick.
What’s most important in your life? And what would you do if that one thing was taken?