Capitalism and Individualism in "Robinson Crusoe" Book Review by Shaad

Capitalism and Individualism in "Robinson Crusoe"
This paper looks at "Robinson Crusoe" by Daniel Defoe and argues that this work is a dramatization of an individual striving towards self-expression.
# 116488 | 3,577 words | 13 sources | MLA | 2008 | BD
Published by on Oct 05, 2009 in Literature (English)

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In this article, the writer explains why Defoe's 'Robinson Crusoe' is a fundamentally important work regarding the rise of individualism of modern capitalism. The writer demonstrates how Crusoe becomes the exemplar of the Protestant work ethic in action. Quoting Weber and others, the writer explains what this work ethic means, and how the Protestant's relationship to work is a form of piety. Describing how the Protestant has a personal communion with God, cut adrift from society and organized religion, the essay goes on to show how Defoe recreates this situation with Crusoe being physically separated from society and the world. The writer maintains that the novel not only reflects the rise of individualism but also partakes in it. The essay also explains why the advent of the novel form is key to development of the individual psyche and why Defoe's effort is the protean novel in every sense. The novel is about reader identification, and Crusoe is the ideal that all readers can identify with. In addition, the novel is about relationships that create the individual's world. The writer concludes that Robinson Crusoe explores the relationship that stands before all others, that with God.

From the Paper:

"In popular imagination Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe has become an adventure story for children, for which the original novel is not responsible, but the abridged and bowdlerized versions must be blamed. A close reading of the original text reveals a novel of enormous significance. In many ways the novel can be said to be defining the modern citizen of capitalistic society. It is also widely regarded as being the first modern novel. In fact this latter claim is not unrelated to the previous proposition. The modern novel is not only a mirror to the modern psyche, but also bears an organic relationship to it. A general proposition is that literature was the means by which the modern psyche came into being, and the modern novel is particularly instrumental in this sense. In this regard Robinson Crusoe not only sets the agenda of modern capitalism and individualism, but was also a key phenomenon that helped bring about its realization."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Allen, Walter Ernest. The English Novel: A Short Critical History. Boston: Dutton, 1955.
  • Chesterton, Gilbert Keith. The Victorian Age in Literature. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1966.
  • Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. ICON Group International, 2006.
  • Dickens, Charles. Selected Journalism, 1850-1870. Ed. David Pascoe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1997.
  • Grapard, Ulla. "Robinson Crusoe: The quintessential economic man?" Feminist Economics.1.1 (March 1995): 33-52.

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