Robinson Crusoe: The Perfect Protagonist?

Robinson Crusoe is, without a doubt, a terrible person masquerading as someone with selfless morals and pure intentions. Crusoe is selfish, rude, and thinks of himself before all others. He considers himself to be some sort of benevolent savior, as shown in this quote:

“It was remarkable too, we had but three Subjects, and they were of three different Religions. My Man Friday was a Protestant, his Father was a Pagan and a Cannibal,and the Spaniard was a Papist: However, I allow’d Liberty of Conscience throughout my Dominions: But this is by the Way.”

The problem with this quote is that Robinson Crusoe sees himself as a good person for allowing freedom of religion on HIS island. Remember, this is the same island Crusoe likened to hell tens of times. However, once others show up Crusoe immediately claims the island as his and places himself at the top of the hierarchy. A case can be made that Crusoe is only acting in terms of his colonialist upbringing, but I think this idea can be thrown at the window when taking various actions of Crusoe into account. For example, Crusoe was raised in a strictly religious household, yet when being tested he immediately assumed god had abandoned him and allowed himself to be seeded with doubt. Crusoe immediately disregards his extremely religious upbringing saying,

“How mercifully can our Creator treat His creatures, even in those conditions in which they seemed to be overwhelmed in destruction! How can He sweeten the bitterest providences, and give us cause to praise Him for dungeons and prisons! What a table was here spread for me in a wilderness where I saw nothing at first but to perish for hunger!”


so what’s to say he couldn’t do the same in terms of the colonialist influences of his life?

Despite his obvious flaws Crusoe’s “story” has captivated countless around the globe. We can ask ourselves “why?” as much as we’d like, but deep down the answer is evident. Stories are meant to transport you to another place, a place you can believe in and follow, and this is the most important aspect of the book. Defoe places a torch  the  protagonist and sets one of the most valuable examples of intertextuality throughout all forms of media. The Crusoe archetype is one that invades every aspect of media, from video games to paintings. The idea of a morally compromised character is not one we’re alien to, and is most likely a category that most of our favorite characters fall into. Our fascination with these characters is even a focus in media, with stories like The Dark Knight having an entire plot centered around the corruption of it’s main character. We’re fascinated by this idea because it’s what we can relate to on a base level.

Reading a story about a flawless protagonist is one that gets tiring quickly, and examples of this are abundant all throughout modern media. An example would be Superman having kryptonite introduced into his comics to humanize him to the reader. These stories contain protagonists who fail, fall, and sometimes dont get up. That’s what makes Crusoe’s story a fascinating read, the main character isn’t a thinly veiled analogy about the virtues of an ideology, it’s the story of a man struggling to find his way in a world that keeps throwing obstacles at him. We watch him stumble, fail completely, question his faith, and abandon hope time and time again yet the idea of this character is one that fascinates and inspires us to create. This makes Crusoe the perfect amalgamation of everything wrong about a story that keeps us engaged and interested, making him a truly imperfect, perfect, protagonist.