Ideas for Analyzing Robinson Crusoe

Robert Harris
Version Date: June 2, 2000

Questions for Further Investigation and Analysis

1. There are many instances of foreshadowing in the book. What is their purpose or role? Is that purpose effectively attained?

2. Discuss the use of Biblical allusions in the book (Jonah, prodigal son, golden rule, etc.). What seems to be their function?

3. How does Crusoe's spiritual growth affect his psychological state at various places and in various circumstances?

4. What evidences for haste in composition do you find? (Hints: inconsistencies, loose ends never tied up, Defoe changing his mind about outcomes.)

5. A hero has been described as "someone who alters the environment for the better." In other words, a hero engages in the moral, physical, or spiritual improvement of others. In this sense, is Crusoe a hero? Why or why not?

6. The concept of deliverance is a powerful one in the book. Trace this concept in its various meanings (or forms) throughout the book. What different meanings does it have? How does Crusoe's understanding of "God's deliverance" change over the course of the story?

7. What does Crusoe learn during the course of his life? How does he grow?

8. What prejudices (or hatreds) does Crusoe have early in life that he learns to give up later on? What causes him to feel compassion and acceptance?

Ideas for Computer Analysis

1. Is there a connection between mention of his father (father, my father) and mention of God? Check to see how well they correlate, that is, how closely proximate they are found. You might divide the book into fifty sections to get two percent at each graph point.

2. What is Crusoe’s position about the source of events at various places in the novel? That is, how does he decide between fate and Providence? Search for fatal, fate, fortune, fortunes, misfortune, misfortunes, prophetic and Providence.

3. "Crusoe is a continual thinker--he contemplates his situation often." Support or rebut by searching for reason, reasonings, think, thinking, thought, thoughts, reflect, reflection, reflections, reflecting, reflected, mused, musing, musings, consider, considered, considerations. Use another book written around the same time as a foil text for comparison. Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) is also a travel-adventure story and might serve this function well.

4. Crusoe is often "accused" of being an obsessive quantifier, always counting things and putting numbers on them (as in "two pistols"). Search for all the number words, including one through ten, eleven through nineteen, twenty through ninety, hundred, thousand, million, first, second, third, twice, dozen. To discover whether your results are evidence of quantitative obsession, once again use another book written around the same time as a foil text for comparison. Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) is also a travel-adventure story and might serve this function well. You could also run the search on another Defoe work, such as Moll Flanders.

5. "Crusoe is unusually concerned with comfort." Support or rebut by searching for comfort, comforting, comfortable, comforts, comfortably. You might also run the same search on another novel of the period, such as Gulliver’s Travels, and compare the results.

6. "Crusoe is not consistent in his discussion of how much gun powder he has." Test this theory by looking for all references to powder and examining what he says about his supply at the different places in the novel. You can do this with just a word processor--no need for any other software. Just open the text and use the Find command.

7. Run searches on emotional-state words for happiness and then for sadness and compare them to see where they occur in the book. Is there any overlap? (Be sure to mark all such words as you read through.)

8. The concepts of hope and fear were common in the eighteenth century. Many writers often spoke of them together. What about Defoe? Graph all the hope words against the fear words (fear, fearful, fearing) or simply choose hope and fear. Then discuss what you find.

9. A kind of code phrase used by some of the Dissenters like Defoe to refer to the stirring of the Holy Spirit was "secret joy." Defoe uses some other similar phrases. Search for secret and for joy and see what you find. (You could use a word processor to do this.)

10. Does Crusoe pray when he is frightened or threatened or when he is calm and thoughtful? Search for pray, prayer, prayed, prayerful, prayers, praying and graph the occurrences against terrified, fright, fear, frighted, frightened, frightful, terrible, dreadful, agony.

11. At what points is Crusoe most concerned with religion? Graph the words related and locate the passages of highest density. (religious, religion, bless, God, Providence, God's, blessing, grace, mercy, miracle, miraculously, Heaven, Lord, soul, divine, Bible, Bibles, Scripture)

12. Here are a few other lists of thematic words that might suggest an analysis:

surprise, surprised, surprising, astonish, astonishment, startled, amazed
diligence, work, labor, laboriousness
wicked, wickedness (Does the occurrence rise, decline, or stay the same? So what?)

VirtualSalt Home
Copyright 2000 by Robert Harris | How to cite this page
w w w . v i r t u a l s a l t . c o m
About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com