Favorite Fictional Characters, #325: Robinson Crusoe
Not a long profile today, as my mind is elsewhere. But recently I've found myself pondering the fundamental dichotomy of the human animal. We're social by nature, craving the company of the tribe, and yet there's something in each of us that also wants at times to block it all out, to seek solitude and to know ourselves absent the maddening crowd. I think that's why stories like Defoe's narrative of the marooned mariner resonate with us. (Or Gilligan's Island, or Tom Hanks' Castaway, or any of the others in the same vein). To leave it all behind, to be left to only our own devices and ingenuity and imagination, to be free of the cacophony of modern society and its chirping, beeping, dinging demands.
Crusoe himself is a cipher, a bit of a blank canvas Defoe uses to paint the adventure stories that captivated his 18th century audience. But as little as we know about his inner life, we know he's determined, resourceful, clever. His archetype appears with some frequency on this list: Twain's Connecticut Yankee Hank Morgan, Allan Gordon from The Iceberg Hermit, heck, even Ash Williams in Army of Darkness. The lone soul against his persecutors, against nature. It plays into the mythological conceit of the self-made man, much less probable and perhaps even much less desirable now than in 1719 when Crusoe was published. But the myth remains durably seductive, both politically and personally. For all that, it is just a myth. No man is an island, even on an island.