Robinson Crusoe: Worst Hero Of All Time

“Hero: An ordinary person facing extraordinary circumstances and acting with courage, honor, and self-sacrifice.”

I have read some awful books in my time. I expect that most people who read books inevitably encounter books that, for one reason or another, they think are poorly done and come away with a very unfavorable feeling about the book, perhaps even the author or the genre. I am no exception – if I find a book boring or the writing weak or the dialogue unrealistic then I will rarely read that book a second time. As a general rule, I like to give an author at least two chances, but if the book is really bad, I may just make the decision to avoid that author in the future. That said, I do not believe I have ever encountered a book I hated as much as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.

Yes, it was that bad.

Not only could I not get over his sloppy, rambling writing style that prominently featured the most horrendous punctuation I have ever seen, gross overuse of capitalization – every single noun is capitalized, be it animate or not – and sentences that run on for entire paragraphs, making it an agonizingly slow and frustrating read, but the hero – Robinson Crusoe – does not deserve the name at all.

Heroes Are Courageous: Crusoe is one of the weakest, most cowardly “heroes” I have ever encountered. Scared to the point of passing out of a storm at sea, he is also terrified of lions – even though they are on land and he is on the water. He even goes so far as to openly admit that the only reason he saved Friday – his only friend – is because he thinks he can use him, otherwise he would have been too afraid to intervene.

Heroes Sacrifice For The Other Person: Crusoe is something of a control freak. Though he is on equal footing with both Xury and Friday he makes them both his slaves. What makes him think that he is in any position to do such a thing, I have no idea. Crusoe seems to think any kindness on his part is a great benevolence – when in fact it is the least he could do for them, as they are his superiors, both in intelligence and resourcefulness.

Heroes Are Resourceful: Commonly lauded as incredibly resourceful, I found that Crusoe was nothing of the sort. Left on his own, he is almost entirely helpless; instead he relies heavily on first Xury, and later, Friday.

Heroes Have A Purpose: As a young man, Crusoe willfully and deliberately disobeys his well-meaning father who advises him to settle down and be an honest businessman. Instead, Crusoe runs off to sea, where all his troubles begin.

Heroes Are Not Delusional: It is apparent that Crusoe has actually gone stark raving mad after so many years alone on a deserted island – he has started referring to the trees and animals on the island as his “subjects,” calling himself a “king” and a “ruler” and his cave a “castle.”

Why is Robinson Crusoe such an enduring classic? I can’t imagine anyone admiring this man.

What do you think makes a hero? Does Crusoe fit the bill? Who is your favorite hero in literature?