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Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)

1. His life

English novelist & journalist, born in London, England, 1660, and died in London, Apr. 26,1731. Like Pope, he never went to university, but he received a good education in one of the best Dissenting academies. He started as a small merchant & all his life his business underwent many ups & downs & yet he was never beaten. Defoe also had a zest for politics. He wrote quite a number of pamphlets on the current political issues. 2. His social outlook

As a member of the middle class, Defoe spoke for & to the members of his class & his novels enjoyed great popularity among the less cultivated readers. In most of his works, he gave his praise to the hard-working, sturdy middle class & showed his sympathy for the downtrodden, unfortunate poor.

3. His major works

Defoe is generally considered the first great realistic novelist in English fiction. He based his stories on current events & materials, such as the maps & logs of actual sea voyages, personal memoirs& historical or eyewitness reports.

Perhaps his most popular novel is Robinson Crusoe (1719), an adventure story based partly on the actual experience of a man who had been trapped on a deserted island.

A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), sometimes considered his best work, has such a colorful & detailed account of the London plague of 1664 & 1665 that it seems to have been written by an observer on the scene. Defoe's third masterpiece, Moll Flanders (1722), is a lively novel tracing the adventures of a female rogue. Told in the form of "confessions", the narrative includes vivid descriptions of the courts, prisons, & other social institutions of

Defoe's era.

4. Characteristics of his works

Defoe was a very good story-teller. He had a gift for organizing minute details in such a vivid way that his stories could be both credible& fascinating. His sentences are sometimes short, crisp & plain, & sometimes long & rambling, which leave on the reader on impression of casual narration. His language is smooth, easy, colloquial & mostly vernacular. There is nothing artificial in his language: it is common English at its best.

Robinson Crusoe《鲁滨逊漂流记》

(1) Background: a real incident; 1704, Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor, was thrown onto a desolate island by the mutinous crew of his ship. He lived there alone for 5 years. Defoe read about his adventures in a newspaper and went to interview him to get first-hand information.

The first translation was done by Lin Shu in 1905 and became quite popular in China. (2) Plot: run away from home →become a sailor → a planter in Brazil →to an uninhabited island because of shipwreck →made a living there all by himself →save a negro named Friday who became his servant →back to England →visit the remote island again and Friday was killed Original name of the novel: The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

a picaresque novel with a little change (main character is different)

(3) (Discussion) Robinson Crusoe's characterization: typical of the rising English bourgeois class, practical, diligent, a restless curiosity to know more about the world and a desire to prove individual power in the face of social and natural challenges; shrewd, care about money and good at managing; courageous and

intelligent to overcome all kinds of obstacles (4) (Discussion) Theme: praising labor and man's courage and effort to conquer nature, but at the same time he beautifies colonialism and slavery (Friday)

(5) (Ask some questions about the excerpt) What is the first thing mentioned in the excerpt done by Robinson (The first paragraph) (keeping his calendar)

How Robinson made a home for himself step by step on the remote island (Finding some useful thing from the wrecked ship - making a little pale around his tent - making a hut with the roof - enlarging his cave and making it like a storehouse - making a chair and a table - making large shelves - keep everything in order

(6) (Discussion) Style: journalistic truth with many vivid details, simple and plain sentence structure and language, first person point of view, natural order in

narration, making the story intimate to the readers and become popular among lower classes

(1) Main idea

Robinson Crusoe is a romance by Defoe. In 1704 Alexander Selkirk, who had run away to sea and joined a privateering expedition under Dampier, was at his own request put ashore on the uninhabited island of Juan Fernandez. He was rescued in 1709 by Woodes Rogers. Defoe was probably familiar with several versions of this tale, and added many incidents from his own imagination to his account of Crusoe, presenting it as a true story. The extraordinarily convincing account of the shipwrecked Crusoe’s successful efforts to make himself a tolerable existence in his solitude first revealed Defoe’s genius for vivid fiction; it has a claim to be the first English novel.

The author tells now, with the help of a few stores and utensils saved from the wreck and the exercise of infinite ingenuity, Crusoe built himself a house, domesticated goats, and made himself a boat. He describes the perturbation of his mind caused by a visit of cannibals, his rescue from death of an indigenous native he later names Friday, and finally the coming of an English ship whose crew are in a state of mutiny, the subduing of the mutineers, and Crusoe’s re scue.

(2) Analysis

In Robinson Crusoe, Defoe traces the growth of Robinson from a naive and artless youth into a shrewd and hardened man, tempered by numerous trials in his eventful life. The realistic account of the successful struggle of Robinson single-mindedly against the hostile nature forms the best part of the novel. Robinson here is a real hero: a typical 18th century

English middle class man, with a great capacity for work, inexhaustible energy, courage, patience and persistence in overcoming obstacles, in struggle against the hostile natural environment. He is the very prototype of the empire builder, the pioneer colonist. In describing Robinson’s life on the island, Defoe glorifies human labor and the Puritan fortitude, which save Robinson from despair and are a source of pride and happiness. He toils for the sake of subsistence, and the fruits of his labor are his own.

(3) Text explanation






The themes of Robinson's Crusoe

a. man's struggles against nature

b. glorification of the bourgeois men who has the courage and will to face hardship and determination to improve his livelihood.

c. Glorification of labor (Robinson lives on his own hands)

attack on the injustice of England's legal system. He was cheered by people as a hero to defend himself.


1. People always say that: "As a member of the middle class, Defoe spoke for and to the members of his class" .How do you understand this sentence? Please explain it with the character of him.


1) In most of his works, Defoe gave his praise to the hard-working, sturdy middle class and showed his sympathy for the lower-class people. Robinson Crusoe was such a character.

2) Robison goes out to sea, gets shipwrecked and marooned/landed on a lonely island, struggles to live for 24 years there and finally is saved by a ship and returns to

England. During the period Robinson leads a harsh and lonely life and survives by growing corps, taming animals, etc. growing from a naive young man into a hardened man.

3) With a great capacity for work, inexhaustible energy (精力充沛), courage and persistence in overcoming difficulties (在克服困难方面持之以恒), in struggling against nature, Crusoe becomes the prototype / representative of the empire builder, the pioneer colonist. (他是大英帝国缔造者的完美典范,同时也是殖民者的先驱).

4) In the novel, Defoe glorified human labor and the puritan fortitude which the middle class praised highly, so he can be regarded as a spokesman of the bourgeois. (P98-100)

2. Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe was a great success partly because the

protagonist was a real middle-class hero. Discuss Crusoe, the protagonist of the novel, as an embodiment of the rising middle class virtues in the mid-eighteenth century England.


A. Social background: The Eighteenth Century England witnessed the growing importance of the bourgeois or middle class.

a. The Industrial Revolution

b. The expansion of international markets;

c. Values/virtues/moral standards/...different from those of the feudal aristocratic class -courageous, full of energy, hard working, practical, resourceful, self-reliant, etc; thus

d. Literature should give/provide a realistic presentation of the life of the common people; it should meet the demand/interest of the middle class peopl


B. Robinson Crusoe embodies the virtue of the middle class people.

a. Crusoe as an adventurous/courageous man full of energy and courage: (example from the text):

b. Crusoe as a practical man: (example from the text);

c. Crusoe as a resourceful/self-reliant man: (example from the text);

d. Crusoe as a patient/persistent man: (example from the text);

e. And others.

3. Daniel Defoe describes ______ as a

typical English middle class man of the 18th century, the very prototype of the empire builder or the pioneer colonist.

A. Tom Jones

B. Gulliver

C. Moll Flanders

D. Robinson Crusoe

4. Crusoe is the hero in the Life and Strange

Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner (also known as Robinson Crusoe) by _______.

A. Jonathan Swift

B. Daniel Defoe

C. George Eliot

D. D. H. Lawrence

5. Friday is a character in the novel _____.

A. Gulliver’s Travels

B. Tom Jones

C. Robinson Crusoe

D. Amelia

6. All of the following novels by Daniel Defoe are the first literary works devoted to the study of problems of the lower-class people EXCEPT ____.

A. Robinson Crusoe

B. Captain Singleton

C. Moll Flanders

D. Colonel Jack






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