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?

If I Were Robinson Crusoe…

As some of you know, I hate Robinson Crusoe. Due in large part to the character, Robinson Crusoe.

However, I will admit that the premise of the book is somewhat intriguing and has obviously being preying on humanity’s collective mind ever since.

Think about it.

What do you think was the inspiration for The Swiss Family Robinson? Castaway? Lost?

And so, even though I despise both the book and the fictional character, I have written this post in honor of them. And how I would do things differently.

I would…

1. Learn To Climb Trees

Actually, I already know how to climb trees. And I am quite proficient, if I do say so myself. However, there is always room for improvement, is there not?

I think so.

Also, deserted islands seem like the type of place that would afford a more intense tree-climbing experience.

More trees. Taller trees. Different kinds of trees…

The possibilities are endless, really.

2. Become Best Friends With Friday

Who wants a slave when they could have a best friend?

I mean, seriously, Crusoe. Get your priorities straight, my friend!

Nothing is more important than friendship. Nothing.

3. Live On Fruit – Forget Cooking!

I love fruit!

Crusoe goes to all this trouble to learn how to cook – which I suppose is admirable since he was used to servants doing that sort of thing and had no experience whatsoever – when he could have simply lived off of the trees.

On the one hand, I can understand. A little.

I get it that if you catch a fish, you’ll want to fry it. That steak is much nicer when roasted over a campfire.

I understand this.

What I don’t understand about Crusoe is how hard he tries to make his life on the island resemble as closely as possible his life in civilization.

Doesn’t he realize that they are two different worlds and he would do much better to simply accept that fact and move on?

This is possibly my biggest problem with the book. His utter inability to adapt. Or refusal…

He tries to make a fortress out of a cave. He tries to make clay jars and pots. He tries to cook food that will resemble what he had before. He domesticates animals. He insists on wearing clothes. He even makes himself new clothes.

Why can’t the man just accept that this isn’t England?

4. Live In A Tree Because Caves Are Stupid

As previously stated, trees are amazing things, full of wonder and possibility. And if you ever have the opportunity to live in one, I suggest you do so. Enough said.

5. Get An Amazing Tan

This is one of my life goals. Needless to say, I have not achieved it yet.

Well, that isn’t quite true. When I was younger, I had the amazing capacity to turn as brown as an indian.

I seem to have lost that capacity.

Or is it just that I never go outside…?

6. Go Swimming Every Day

Though my last “life goal” was somewhat facetious, this one is not.

I genuinely would love to become a strong swimmer. The benefits are manifold – I firmly believe that everyone should know how to swim as a safety precaution, but it’s also one of the best forms of exercise, not to mention being a lot of fun.

7. Become Strapping

Another life goal!

All that swimming and tree-climbing… it’s bound to pay off. Right?

8. Make Friends With Cannibals

Not only is this option far superior to being eaten by cannibals, but it could be potentially helpful in other ways.

I enjoy a challenge, and it would be a great way to pass the time. Also, I hear it’s handy to have a pack of man-eating friends on your side when things get rough.

9. Never Leave… Obviously!

My other biggest problem with this story – he leaves!

Are you kidding me?

This is the part of the story where Crusoe is about to get on his boat and go home – because that’s what he wanted all along – and then he realizes–he doesn’t want to leave! This island has become home and he belongs here. He has finally found where he belongs – and it isn’t England.

Readers would end the book by wiping away a few stray tears, but with a satisfied smile on their faces.

That, my friends, is how the book was supposed to end.

What would you do if you were Robinson Crusoe?