on January 26, 2011
Defoe helped to define the modern fictional novel when he wrote about the tales of Robinson Crusoe. The book has a strong religious theme, as was Defoe's intention. However, this version of the text censors out some of the language against what Defoe called the Papist Church (or the Roman Catholic Church) as well as some items which would be considered racially insensitive today (but leaving in much of it as well). I don't understand why this version leaves out some of those parts, as they completely change the story that Defoe intended. I'm not sure that Amazon knows these texts are censored (not the original) as there is no allusion to it in the book's description.
The author of Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, is generally credited with being one of the first novel writers in the English language. The book is surely an influential one-- spawning countless imitations, derivations, and (in our era) reality-based television shows.
It is billed, quite fairly, as an adventure story. However, it is a very different kind of adventure than the modern action-sequence laden book which readers today may expect. It is an adventure story, but one which centers primarily on mastery and morality.
The morality is placed centrally in the book when Crusoe rejects the advice of his father to accept the happiness of the middle class life to which he was born. Against the wishes of his family, he runs off to sea to find adventure. It is not until Crusoe literally recreates a primitive approximation of that middle class life for himself on his island that he is freed.
Crusoe is also a story about the ability of mankind to master his surroundings through hard work, patience, and Christianity. The combination of these three supports are what allow him to escape captivity in Africa, overcome the deadly obstacles on the island, and finally leave the island itself. His physical prowess and combat skills are significantly less important to his journey than the message of trust and persistance that the decades he spends on the island convey. While this message might need tempering for the modern reader, it is also inspirational and important to read.
If the potential reader is not used to the diction of the time, the book itself may take some patience and persistance. It pays off, in the end, and should be an excellent book for the young teenager (or the not-so-young grown-up) interested in stories of adventure. The child who reads and enjoys My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George would probably be a good potential audience for Robinson Crusoe. For a good life-at-sea duo, you might consider pairing it with Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana.
on January 21, 2003
After reading Glyn Williams' trenchant 'The Prize Of All The Oceans' I had an overwhelming desire to read this classic once again. I first read it when I was a mere 10 year old and it completely mesmerized me; I find that it still held the same power over me thirty years later. It is difficult to put this tale down once the title character becomes a castaway on the "island of despair" (as Crusoe refers to it) and he begins the battle against the odds to survive. Facing extreme tropical heat, torrential storms, a dreadful loneliness and the struggle to master some of the simplest of skills we take for granted Crusoe wages his one-man crusade for survival. Beginning his desolate existence steeped in woeful self-pity he slowly realizes through a series of trying circumstances, devotional reading of the Bible and finally relief from his isolated state that the experience proves to be one of reverie. In the process Crusoe becomes quite possibly the most inspirational figure to spring forth from the pages of literature.
Though it is annually listed by literature scholars as one of the 100 finest works of fiction, today primarily adolescents read Defoe's enduring tale as part of their required reading for school; very few others rarely bother with this nearly three century old tale. 'Robinson Crusoe' it seems is a classic awaiting a renaissance of rediscovery by adults who regularly read for either leisure or as a part of continuing education. While the novel's approach to morality may seem a bit old fashioned by today's contemporary standards, the character's awakening to wisdom, inner strength and faith will inspire any reader of any age. Crusoe's ability to steel himself against the onslaught of natural elements, his own self doubts and finally a band of savages who discover his "island empire" should win over even the most jaded of us. This Norton Critical Edition is the perfect package to gain a deep appreciation for this masterpiece of the English language. So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book today and transport yourself back to your youth and also to a time long past. It's a journey you won't regret taking.
on January 3, 2014
For anyone who is not familiar with the Penguin Clothbound Classics editions, you're missing out on something wonderful. These are well produced clothbound editions, much better quality than most "hardbound" books now. The price is very low--if you buy them when they first come out...drat that I missed the Madame Bovary and Crime and Punishment releases that now cost hundreds of dollars. The price is typically lower than other "hardbound" books; in fact, the price is not that much more than the price of the Penguin Paperback edition of the work, but this copy will last a lifetime.
As with the other Penguin Clothbound Classic editions, this too includes introductory material and appendices typical of other Penguin editions.
I hope Penguin continues to release titles in the Clothbound Classics series, and I wish it would release more titles per year in the series.
Robinson Crusoe is best taken at two levels, the literal adventure story of survival on an isolated island and as a metaphor for finding one's way through life. I recommend that everyone read the book who is willing to look at both of those levels. If you only want the adventure story, you may not be totally satisfied. The language, circumstances, and attitudes may put you off so that you would prefer to be reading a Western or Space-based adventure story with a more modern perspective.
Few books require anyone to rethink the availability and nature of the fundamentals of life: Water, food, shelter, clothing, and entertainment. Then having become solitary in our own minds as a reader, Defoe adds the extraordinary complication of providing a companion who is totally different from Crusoe. This provides the important opportunity to see Crusoe's civilized limitations compared to Friday's more natural ones. The comparisons will make for thought-provoking reading for those who are able to overcome the stalled thinking that the educated, civilized route is always the best.
One of the things that I specially liked about the book is the Crusoe is an ordinary person in many ways, making lots of mistakes, and having lots of setbacks. Put a modern Superhero (from either the comic books, adventure or spy novels, or the movies) into this situation, and it would all be solved in a few minutes with devices from the heel of one's shoe. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I liked the trial-and-error explorations. They seemed just like everyday life, and made the book's many lessons come home to me in a more fundamental way.
Have a good solitary trip through this book!
on July 21, 2001
Wow. I haven't thought about this book in years, and I just stumbled upon it somehow through Amazon's recommendations. This illustrated edition was the first "real" book I can remember reading -- I must have been 8 or 9 -- and what a book it was. A great adventure story, gripping illustrations: the perfect tale to draw in an elementary-school kid who loves to read. I'd write more but I have to go dig out my copy!
on May 4, 2000
With Norton Critical Editions readers get the text of the novel and historical and contemporary essays in criticism. The ones in this version are some of the best Norton has ever compiled.
Both the historical and contemporary essays provide a compelling aesthetic case for why this novel is not merely a book for boys but one of the best English novels ever written. Thus, these essays not only highlight aspects of your reading you may or may not have noted but present a case for Defoe's skill as a writer.
A very short essay not to missed is the one by Defoe himself on solitude. It gives one pause.
on February 20, 2002
As a boy growing up in 17th Century England, all Robinson Crusoe wanted to do was be a sailor. His parents tried to dissuade him -- it was a dangerous occupation, and certainly a middle class child like him could find a calling much safer and more comfortable. Naturally, he didn't listen, and essentially ran away from home, finding opportunities to sail on a few ships and encountering a few dangers until he finally reached Brazil, bought a plantation, and looked forward to that comfortable life of prosperity his parents said would be his if he'd only use his head.
But Crusoe is one to push fate. He embarks on a ship bound for Africa to collect slaves, and during a storm in the Caribbean Sea, the ship is wrecked and the crew drowned except for Crusoe, who manages to swim to the shore of a deserted island. Unable to get back to civilization, he salvages as many goods as he can from the wrecked ship and resolves to survive as long as possible in this new, unwelcome habitat.
Crusoe's resourcefulness is astounding. He builds a sophisticated hut/tent/cave complex to live in, hunts goats and fowl, harvests fruit, and figures out how to grow barley, rice, and corn, bake bread, and make earthenware vessels. After living this way for nearly two peaceful decades, Crusoe discovers that savages from a distant island are using his island for their cannibal feasts. He manages to save the life of one of their potential victims, a savage he names Friday, who becomes his faithful servant. With Friday's help, Crusoe realizes he now has a chance to escape the island once and for all and get back to civilization, although his plans don't proceed quite as he envisioned them.
"Robinson Crusoe" is a neatly woven adventure yarn, but under the surface there are several themes. The most apparent is that the novel seems like a morality tale -- i.e., hard work and faith in God will see you through bad times; virtue is rewarded and arrogance is punished. Another theme is that although nature can be a cruel foe, man is better off learning to work in harmony with it than struggling against it. Most interesting to me, though, is that reading about Crusoe's self-education in the art of survival is like witnessing the anthropological process of how civilization developed from savagery.
on September 24, 2000
Unfortunately, this book suffered the fate of many other masterpieces: be classified in the "children" bookshelf. That guarantees most editions will be abridged, censored, and forgotten, since kids today read very little and waste their time playing with horrendous japanese toys. Enough lecturing. This is a book about a man who, yes, goes through many adventures, and in the way finds himself. This is not the story of a man who goes through pleasant experiences, enjoying adventure. He suffers very much finding himself alone for many years, having to survive by himself in the midst of a desert island. The book is narrated in the first person, so it's a long monologue by a truly lonely man. His reflections are deep and moving. It's good that this is a complete and unabridged edition, since the first part is usually severed from the rest, which is a pity because it puts the whole story in context. This is a fun but also an interesting reading.
on July 19, 2004
This seventeenth century classic chronicles the story of Robinson Crusoe, an Englishman who leaves his family for a sea career. Shipwrecked and abandoned on a tropical island, Crusoe must find a way to survive. During his castaway adventures, Crusoe wrestles with God's fate and is challenged to answer the haunting question: is there somebody else on the island, or is he just going crazy?
Despite the exciting premise, Robinson Crusoe is not really an 'exciting' novel. Indeed, each chapter title gives away the chapters' events. Moreover, Crusoe, who narrates his journey, is more concerned with describing the shape of the tiger's teeth, the nature of his growl, and various other details instead of building up any excitement about the encounter. Crusoe takes great pains describing how he counted all his objects and divided them up into equal segments.
Another theme about the book is Crusoe's preoccupation with mastery. Crusoe is determined to dominate everything he comes in contact with. In fact, when teaching Friday English, he teaches him to call him "Master" before teaching him "yes" and "no." In fact, Crusoe never refers to any other character by their name--very odd.
Despite these peculiarities, Daniel Defoe has created a wonderful story and portrayed it with utmost detail. Defoe really thought about every aspect of human survival, and provides an uncanny amount of realism. If you like adventures, and don't mind long descriptions, then this book is perfect.