A Shipwreck of Faith

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In Daniel Defoe’s book Robinson Crusoe, the main character endures many battles along his adventures while entering adulthood. As Robinson Crusoe journeys across the seas, God makes Crusoe enduress many trials. First, starting from when he sets off to sea, disobeying his parents wishes in the process, to encountering many shipwrecks, and lastly the opportunity of sharing his growing faith with others. By Crusoe encountering these many obstacles, it goes just to show how having a weak foundation in faith can reveal many unwanted paths.

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Christianity plays a major role in this well-known piece, as this is the biggest obstacle Crusoe is struggling with right from the jump. Crusoe’s father had a life plan set for him ever since he was little. He wanted his son to become a great lawyer, as stated, my father…designed me for the law(Defoe 9). This was not in Crusoe’s heart obviously, as it was set for the ocean. Crusoe completely ignores what his father was trying to accomplish for his son, and set sail for the great adventure that the seas had to offer, showing us our first Christianity reference. In the Bible, the story of the prodigal son is a story of how two brothers both get share of their father’s inheritance. The father warns them to be careful of how they use such money, but only one son listens, as the other ignores his father and adventures what the world has to offer (New International Version, Luke 15.11-13).

Crusoe is unaware of his actions as he has not developed a deep and prolonging faith within the religion of Christianity itself. In the beginning, he is what most Christians would describe as a lukewarm Christian. What this means in simpler terms is that he knows what Christianity is and says he believes in the customs and aspects of the religion, but does not live his life according to what is being described within the Bible itself. With the current situation that Crusoe is found within the beginning of the story, this takes a toll on his future escapades as his weak mind and faith have him struggle in the battles soon to come.

As time moves on, Crusoe soon finds himself shipwrecked with nowhere to go. He is captured by Turkish pirates, who make Crusoe and many others their slaves. Slavery was very popular back in the time of Robinson Crusoe, so it was not looked as a terrible matter as seen today. Still, for Crusoe, he was going through a lot mentally, as one went from slave owner to slave is a drastic change in roles. Seeing this happening, readers could suggest that this was an act of God humbling Crusoe, and showing how little he was compared to everything else that was surrounding him every day, that life could change so quickly in an instant.

While captured, he meets another slave, Xury. Later when Crusoe and Xury are rescued by a Portuguese sea captain, Crusoe makes a deal with the captain, to set Xury free on only one condition: he converts to Christianity (Xury in Robinson Crusoe par. 3). With this deal set between the captain and Crusoe, this demonstrates Crusoe’s first attempt at trying to share his steady growing faith within meeting new people. As God humbled Crusoe, it brought to the surface a different kind of sailor, who wants to show others what life is actually all about. Defoe never went into anymore detail of what happened with Xury and his call to action towards a new religion found upon by both of the slaves, but this was a very large step at the development towards Crusoe’s journey in the religion.

Growing up with his parents, especially his father, Crusoe had a well-established education, not only for the base education taught in most schools, but within the profession his father wanted for him. Stated in the book, …my father and mother about their being so positively determined against what they knew my inclinations prompted me to (Defoe 6). The profession of being a lawyer is pretty rough, not only going through and living the job out in your everyday life, but finding the differentiations between everyday people and others who differ in social class. Lawyers have to find certain kinds of tactics, how to use them, and how to apply them to certain people who might think or do things contrasting from the normal way of everyone else. With this in mind, Crusoe was probably taught this by his father, which could help him with his developing faith by putting thoughts to action. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

A big example of this could be seen when Crusoe and Friday are on the cannibalistic island together. As Crusoe rescued Friday from the cannibals, he takes Friday under his ownership and shows him the basics of living, his language, and soon Crusoe’s second conversion of faith in someone (Robinson Crusoe Theme par. 1).. As Crusoe teaches Friday, Friday soon starts to understand a lot of Crusoe’s customs, but about his relationship with God. (RobinsonCrusoe par. 33) While this representation goes on, it all ties back to that original saying. Crusoe might have taught Friday about Christianity, but he also did it in action as well, most of the time unintentionally. Friday was rescued by Crusoe, but in the text he was seen calling Crusoe names of power like master (Friday in Robinson Crusoe par. 1). With this being stated, it is being depicted that Friday is under authority or power of Crusoe, much like a slave.

As a slave, Friday does whatever Crusoe orders him to. Friday soon gets into this mind set later on, and since he is Crusoe’s property he wants to follow everything that Crusoe does, including religion. Not only was the religion of Christianity being taught, but Friday wanted to learn more and develop these thoughts to show his master that he respects him who leheartedly. This could be seen as a big leap of faith, not only by Friday, but by Crusoe himself. He is starting to develop a sturdy relationship between him and God, by bringing others to know Him. This is big for Crusoe because it is showing signs of maturity and trust as he is growing through the time spent away from home and stranded on the island.

As Robinson Crusoe escapes the island and finds his way back home, he soon discovers that his plantation has made him a reasonably good amount of money. After he obtains his money from the plantation in Brazil, he pays everyone who has cared for him, starting from the Portuguese captain who rescued him and Xury, to one of his widow friends and two sisters. As this is done in the story, this could look to be another religious aspect in Christianity. Tithing is a very important matter in most churches, as it is seen as giving back to the one who has given. This is seen often, as in Christianity it is believed that the love and sacrifice that has been given to the followers of Christ is unpayable, but giving what they have to help the church is portrayed as a temporary way of doing so. This could be compared to Crusoe’s side of the story, as many have helped him and others along the way of his countless journeys and explorations all without any kind of payment or return at the time. As he receives his profit, he instantly pays back the Portuguese captain who rescued him from shipwreck. He then returns to England to then repay a widowed friend and his two sisters, another example of Crusoe giving back to the ones who gave to him in the beginning.

With evidence from the text and representations that back the religious aspects of Christianity, there is no doubt that Crusoe was struggling with a lack in faith. What Crusoe went through, starting from the beginning seen defying his parents wishes, to encountering new experiences through troubled times, and finally ending it with building a strong foundation in the faith of God shows that it was a tough ride for him all around. Many would say Crusoe has seen it all, but of course he sets back sailing again at the end of the story, adventuring even further to see what more the world has to offer. It is clearly shown in the story that the theme is constant all the way towards the end; No matter how tough the obstacles will become, God is always the guide towards a strong outcome. Crusoe constantly tried and tried again after every attempt to do things by himself, but as soon as he let God take the reins everything started to look brighter again in Crusoe’s future. As we face troubles and hardships, Crusoe should be a reminder to all that without a strong foundation in faith, it will lead us into many unwanted paths that for some, may be too difficult to endure.

Works Cited

  1. Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. 1719. Print.
  2. Shmoop Editorial Team. Robinson Crusoe Theme of Religion. Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/robinson-crusoe/religion-theme.html.
  3. RobinsonCrusoe A Born-Again Christian?, www.wordbasedcounseling.org/Articles/RobinsonCrusoe.htm.
  4. Shmoop Editorial Team. Xury in Robinson Crusoe. Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/robinson-crusoe/xury.html.
  5. Shmoop Editorial Team. Friday in Robinson Crusoe. Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/robinson-crusoe/friday.html.
  6. New International Version. Biblica, 2011. BibleGateway.com, www.biblegateway.com/versions/New-International-Version-NIV-Bible/
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A Shipwreck of Faith. (2019, Mar 21). Retrieved February 1, 2023 , from

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