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Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe – The First Fiction

Robinson Crusoe: The First Fiction

Daniel Defoe is credited with writing the first long fiction novel in literary history. Drawing from established literary genres such as the guide and providence traditions and the spiritual biography, Defoe endeavored to illustrate the life of a man who “tempted Providence to his ruine (Defoe 13)” and the consequences of such actions. While stranded alone on an island the character of Robinson Crusoe seems to have a religious epiphany about the role of Providence in his life and resolves to live in accordance with God’s will. However, Crusoe’s internal reflections throughout his narrative and his actions do not correlate, causing the reader to question the validity of this conversion. By examining the plot and the process of psychological change Crusoe undergoes, it becomes apparent that “he experiences and accepts divine control but that control can only be realized in the free context he has himself created (359).” When push comes to shove, Crusoe reverts to human instinct and his own impulses rather than what he perceives to be the will of Providence. Crusoe uses his newfound religion only when convenient and as a means to justify his actions and an acceptable reason for everything unfortunate that happens. When he finally does leave the island and returns to society, Crusoe’s faith is tested and fails miserably, with practically no mention of Providence towards the end of the story. At the beginning of the novel, Crusoe introduces himself and establishes that his narrative is a memoir of sorts, and is told while looking through more experienced, wise eyes than when he originally experienced his story. This is important to note, because his discourse is shaded with hindsight and interpreted through a mind that has come to accept Providence’s hand in his life. For example, when the Turks capture Crusoe and he is enslaved, he reflects by saying, “now the Hand of Heaven had overtaken me, and I was undone without Redemption. But alas! This was but a Taste of the Misery I was to go thro’ (15).” Because Crusoe is recalling the events from memory, as well as the lack of input from any other characters, his reliability can be questioned as a narrator. An unreliable narrator is one who may be in error in his or her understanding or report of things and who thus leaves readers without the guides needed for making judgements.

The Character of John Proctor in The Crucible:

John Proctor: “God in heaven, what is John Proctor, what is John Proctor”. John is a man of strong moral beliefs, concerned only for the safety of his family and personal welfare. He cares of nothing for the beliefs of any of the other people in the town and what his supervisor which is the Reverend, thinks either. After trying to avoid involvement in the witch trials he is later prosecuted for witchery and sentenced to hang. John trys to avoid any involvement in the Salem witch trials. His reason for doing so is to protect his image because he is afraid he will be committed of adultery with Abigail Williams. Following these events he trys to save everyone’s lives by admitting to this horrible offense adultery and ends up losing the trial along with his life. He did have a chance to live but instead of signing away his name and his soul to keep his life, he wanted to die honorably with his friends not without a name, a soul, and with guilt. “John Proctors decision to die is reasonable and believable”. Reverend Parris, the Salem minister and Proctors immediate supervisor, which says “ there is either obedience or the church will burn like hell is burning.” “The church in theocratic Salem is identical with the state and the community and will surely crumble if unquestioning obedience falters in the least.” Proctor, on the other hand, “has come to regard his self as a king of fraud,” as long as he remains obedient to an authority which he cannot respect. In other words he believes that the cannot be his true self when he has to abide by lies and not by his morals. He thinks there is to much mention of hell in God’s church and about the dangers to the community to implicit in all this talk of witch craft. He is caught in a web of moral dilemmas involving not only his own fate but that of his wife, his friends, and the entire Salem community. “John Proctor is the individual who must decide weather or not he will assert himself against an overbearing authoritarian government.” “His loyalty to his own beliefs – which do not include “golden candlesticks” for pulpits or “hellfire” sermons – are contradicted by Reverend Parris, so he resists the reigning authority and retreats to his farm.” But thus far his rebellion against the church really involves none but is own welfare, and that in no profound way.

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