Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in the text and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of Robinson Crusoe in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Robinson Crusoe at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Metaphor of Being Shipwrecked
Robinson Crusoe has found himself shipwrecked on an island, a novice sailor who took to the seas in search of adventure. He experiences a complex range of emotions that begin when he lands (a sense of relief), and continue to develop across the course of his colonization of the island that he comes to call his own. Despite the trajectory of emotion that he experiences, Crusoe never matures psychologically. At the end of the novel, he has not exhibited that any greater self-awareness or insight than he had when he started. In this way, Robinson Crusoe is a symbol of the colonizer. Adventuring for his own sense of pleasure and gain, Robinson Crusoe is not interested in using the experience as a means of personal growth.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Journal-Keeping in Robinson Crusoe
The narrator of Defoe’s novel is Robinson Crusoe himself, who introduces his adventures on the island by giving some background information about himself prior to describing the shipwreck. When he has completed this introductory preface, Crusoe presents the reader with his journal, the entries of which constitute the novel’s content. Although, or perhaps because, Crusoe is so alone, he imbues his journal with deep meaning and significance. Robinson Crusoe is painfully self-aware of his journal, which he uses as a listener because he is so desperately in want of companionship.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Robinson Crusoe as an Unlikeable Character
Robinson Crusoe is the narrator of the tale of his own life, but the credibility that may be gained from this position is mitigated by the fact that he is, quite simply, an unlikeable character. Despite the fact that the reader may pity Crusoe and his circumstances, he is so self-involved yet so unaware of himself that it is difficult for the contemporary reader to feel empathy for him. Crusoe is the typical colonizer, exploiting what benefits him and dismissing what does not. An examination of the entire novel reveals very few characteristics that can redeem Crusoe’s character.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: My Man Friday
Robinson Crusoe refers to Friday as “my man," and has a relationship with the African that is quite complicated. The use of the possessive and intimate “my" is problematic, objectifying Friday and making him “the Other." Although Robinson Crusoe believes that he is supporting Friday and helping him become a better man, he is actually just as oppressive as any other colonizer. Friday is not enriched by the “friendship" with Crusoe. IN fact, he is irrevocably damaged by it.
Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: The Adventure Tale
Robinson Crusoe is, above all, an adventure tale. The frame narrative that Robinson Crusoe establishes before he presents his diary sets up the adventure and explains why Crusoe felt compelled to make a life on the high seas, where he had no experience. After Crusoe is finally rescued, he sets off on another adventure, heading to Brazil, where his behavior remains as problematic as it was on the island. The failure of Robinson Crusoe to develop psychologically and to grow as the result of his experiences substantiates that the adventure novel is simply meant to entertain, not to educate.
This list of important quotations from Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Robinson Crusoe listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text by Daniel Dafoe they are referring to.
[My father] bid me observe it, and I should always find, that the calamities of life were shared among the upper and lower part of mankind; but that the middle station had the fewest disasters, and was not expos’d to so many vicissitudes as the higher or lower part of mankind, nay they were not subjected to so many distempers and uneasinesses either of body or mind, as those were who, by vicious living, luxury, and extravagancies on the one hand, or by hard labour, want of necessaries, and mean of insufficient diet on the other hand, bring distempers upon themselves by the natural consequences of their way of living…." (6)
“All this while the storm encreas’d, and the sea, which I had never been upon before, went very high, tho’ nothing like what I have seen many times since.… I expected every wave would have swallowed us up…and in this agony of mind I made many vows and resolutions…." (9)
“I was now landed, and safe on shore, and began to look up and thank God that my life was sav’d in a case wherein there was some minutes before scarce any room to hope. I believe it is impossible to express to the life what the extasies and transports of the soul are, when it is so sav’d, as I may say, out of the very grave…." (38)
“After I had solac’d my mind with the comfortable part of my condition, I began to look round me to see what kind of place I was in, and what was next to be done, and I soon found my comforts abate…." (39)
“But having gotten over these things….and having settled my household….I began to keep my journal, of which I shall here give you the copy…." (56)
“Even, when I was afterwards, on due consideration, made sensible of my condition, how I was cast on this dreadful place, out of the reach of human kind, out of all hope of relief, or prospect of redemption, as soon as I saw but a prospect of living, and that I should not starve and perish for hunger, all the sense of my affliction wore off, and I begun to be very easy…." (72)
“I cannot explain, by any possible energy of words, what a strange longing or hankering of desires I felt in my sould….O that there had been but one or two; nay, or but one soul sav’d out of this ship, to have escap’d to me, and to have convers’d with! In all the time of my solitary life, I never felt so earnest, so strong a desire after the society of my fellow-creatures, or so deep a regret at the want of it." (148)
“…I understood that my man Friday had formerly been among the savages…." (169)
“All these things, with some very surprising incidents in some new adventures of my own, for ten years more, I may perhaps give a farther account of hereafter." (241)
“As I have troubled you with none of my sea-journals, so I shall trouble you with none of my land journal: But some adventures that happened to us in this tedious and difficult journey, I must not omit." (227)
Reference: Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. New York: Penguin, 2001.