A Navigator's Voyage to Enlightenment
Robinson Crusoe is one of the earliest works of fiction in English literature. In this book Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) illustrated an adventurous and stubborn young man who had a long-cherished desire to travel by seas and oceans and to explore the world. That young man was Robinson Crusoe, the protagonist of the story. His father wanted him to study law and didn't support his son's willingness to travel overseas as a navigator. But Robinson Crusoe did not pay heed to his father's advice. He left home one day and moved away to London from his hometown York by a ship.
He proceeded from England to other countries and on his way through different maritime zones he learnt the strategies of a trader. He purchased several food items, clothes and other things from one port and sold those commodities to another. From this point of view, we come across the image of a colonial merchant in Robinson Crusoe. We have read in history that during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries traders from England, France, Spain, Portugal and some other countries visited different parts of the globe in order to set up colonies across continents. Robinson Crusoe was virtually on a similar pursuit. He landed on the soils of Africa and Latin America to quest for business opportunities. However, he got in a big trouble while sailing along the African coastline when his ship was seized by a gang of Moorish pirates. Those pirates plundered all the belongings of Robinson Crusoe and the pirates' ringleader detained him and later made him a slave. Robinson Crusoe passed two years on that island of the Moors under captivity. Anyway, one day he escaped. He had with him another slave named Xury while running away from the pirates' den. They were picked up by a Portuguese captain on his ship that took them to Brazil. Robinson Crusoe sold Xury to the Portuguese captain and got a good amount of money. While in Brazil, Robinson Crusoe made plans to become a slave-trader because he thought there would be very lucrative monetary prospects in this business. So, he left for West Africa to procure black slaves from there and to sell them out to different nations. But his ship capsized near the coast of the Caribbean Islands. Robinson Crusoe alone survived that shipwreck while all his companions drowned. It was a terrific test for Robinson Crusoe to survive on that remote, solitary island. One lucky thing happened at that time that, the remains of the wrecked ship were brought ashore by a strong current which enabled Robinson Crusoe to recover a few guns, ammunitions, a little food and some more things including a copy of Bible from the rubble of the ship. Nevertheless, he became very repentant for not listening to his father.
Robinson Crusoe's struggle for survival continued through hunting goats and birds and gathering foodstuff from trees and plants. He also learnt to make fire which gave him a little light to read verses from the Bible inside his small hut which he had made with branches and planks of wood by cutting down trees. One night it seemed to him that he was visited in his dream by an angel and he came to realize that God had sent him to that island for deliverance from his previous sins and for spiritual regeneration. He apologized to God several times for his reckless, impious past life and his penitence enlightened him with the truth that sufferings purify human souls and get humans closer to sanctity. He started to view his total loneliness on that island from a brighter angle and envisioned himself as the king of that landscape. After some years he came across another human being on that island who belonged to a primitive clan and was a cannibal. Robinson Crusoe saved that man from his opponent group of cannibals and thus became his master. Robinson Crusoe named him Friday, taught him a little English and gradually converted him into Christianity. This is another aspect of colonialism that the white Europeans intermingled with different nations, subdued them in different ways and also preached Christianity to the native people.
During Robinson Crusoe's initial days on that island where he had been marooned for over two decades, he once asked himself:
"Can God spread a table in the wilderness?"
His query was answered before long. Mother Nature offered her benevolent resources generously to make survival easy for Robinson Crusoe on that island. It made Robinson Crusoe overwhelmingly glad as he came across a great deal of fruits in one part of that island and he expressed his pleasure through the following lines:
"I found melons upon the ground in great abundance and grapes upon the trees. The clusters of grapes were just now in their prime, very ripe and rich."
The trees on that island not just yielded edible fruits to Robinson Crusoe; they proved highly essential to him as he chopped down wood from those trees for making fire, for securing his hut and also for making a boat. He built a bower in a particular part of the island surrounded by hills and woods which he found beautiful and at times he stayed there to delight himself with the pristine natural glamour of the island.
Anyway, after many years Robinson Crusoe and Friday were rescued from that island by a ship bound for England. Coming back home, Robinson Crusoe found that his parents had died before his return. Only his two sisters were alive. He left England once again for East Indies in 1694 to make new commercial efforts. The story ends with Robinson Crusoe's revisit to that island where he had been stranded for over twenty years. When he went back there, he found that the island had become a Spanish colony and looked much more civilized than before. So, through the voyages of Robinson Crusoe we get to look back on the colonial history of past centuries as well as a man's rediscovery of himself in an absolutely new light while he was going through hardships, hunger and hazards and finally experienced a spiritual resurrection accorded by God.
The reviewer is Vice President, Chowdhury Philanthropic Trust, Sylhet.
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