“What is required is a passion for the truth.”
“A passion for the truth,” said Henrietta meditatively. “Yes, I can see how dangerous that might make you. Would the truth satisfy you?”
He looked at her curiously.
“What do you mean, Miss Savernake?”
“I can understand that you would want to know. But would knowledge be enough? Would you have to go a step further and translate knowledge into action?”
—Agatha Christie, The Hollow
Robinson Crusoe is for classical political economy what the statue, the first man, will be for the theory of knowledge.
—Pierre Macherey, Pour une théorie de la production littéraire
Robinson Crusoe starts out upon his long, weary, and solitary journey to ultimate prosperity with a thoroughgoing rejection of family, and particularly of father. His mother, indeed, is included in that rejection only inasmuch as she functions as his father’s deputy. Crusoe sets out, as he later remarks, “in order to act the Rebel to their Authority.”1 The rebellion is, then, conscious and deliberate.
This beginning is, of course, exceedingly well known, and it has had to withstand the commentary of almost all those who have written on the matter of Robinson Crusoe. For reasons which previous chapters will already have made clear we, in turn, cannot pass by without comment. For Crusoe is written in the light of and in response to a discursive order which is now already established.
We may say, indeed, that that is what Crusoe is ‘all about.’ The novel is not a tale of origin; nor is it the story of the creation of a new type of society or economic order, an allegory of “natural man” or the “fortunate fall,” a revelation of “the miracle of a new view” of things, as Pierre Macherey puts it.2 Crusoe elaborates the place of the individual (as it will be known) in an already familiar order; it is the story of the legitimization of that elaboration and of that place.
Crusoe’s sojourn on the island is generally recognized to occur in the context of journeys to and from the Mediterranean, Africa, Brazil, England, and Portugal. It has also been noticed that this sojourn is enclosed within the ‘story’ of his Brazilian plantation: its purchase and ever increasing value (not to mention sale).3 But Crusoe’s entire situation and behavior is enclosed in a context which is indicated only a little less clearly than the context of the island episode within that entirety. If the first forty or so pages are given over to the creation of this latter context, the first ten or so, the last pages, and much of The Farther Adventures provide the former context. For what has been but little remarked upon (indeed, I have found it nowhere: but reading the mass of Defoe criticism would be almost a life’s work) is that Robinson’s father appears to have acted in a way very similar to that in which his third son will also act. This provides an indication, that is to say, of the discursive context.
Crusoe tells us that his father was a “Foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull,” that there he made himself “a good Estate by Merchandise, and leaving off his Trade” moved to York to settle down and marry (p. 3). His father, then, has also left his family and native country for the sake of trading elsewhere, and has cut himself off to a greater or a lesser degree from any ‘authority’ but his own (the reason why he might have done this is never given: the fact remains that his past activities stand, as such, as part of the context of his son’s future activities). Crusoe’s two older brothers have taken similar measures on their own account: the eldest has been killed fighting the Spanish after going off against the express advice of his father (p. 6), while of his second brother, Crusoe writes, “I never knew any more than my Father and Mother did know what was become of me” (p. 3).
Crusoe’s entire family, then, as its behavior is related by him, supplies a very particular context for his future. It appears as one whose successive generations deliberately set out to cut themselves off from what preceded them, as one in which the individual is accustomed to seek entire responsibility for his actions, as though each were entirely at liberty to make his own path through life. It is not just Robinson who is the epitome of “economic individualism” (see the writings of Moore, Watt, Novak, and others). That is the nature of the very context out of which he springs, though his father may not only have settled down to trading by the time the story begins but have already given it up in favor of a settled life of leisure. Indeed, that his father has now given up trading suggests that the time he spent as a merchant was simply a stage on the way to respectability. Nor does he suggest that his son take up trading: on the contrary, he affirms that the latter need not be “embarass’d with the Labours of the Hands or of the Head,” that he can “in easy Circumstances [slide] gently thro’ the World,” and that he is “under no Necessity of seeking [his] Bread” (p. 5).
The father started by traveling, continued by trading, and is ending by settling down in ease. He wants, indeed commands, his son to maintain that ‘ending.’
From the outset, however, Crusoe views his own life as a series of journeys (“my Head began to be filled very early with rambling Thoughts”) whose foundations, if we may so call them, are to be found nowhere but in forward movement itself in the mere idea of process: they do not look toward any specific goal, and they are preceded by nothing (says Crusoe). He is “not bred to any Trade,” he has a “competent Share of Learning” but nothing more, his family is of small account to him, he has no possessions of his own of any kind.
It is as if Crusoe wishes to see himself as coming from a kind of void, so that responsibility for what he does, for what he can do, and for what he becomes will be all his own (though this will, as we shall see, have to be concealed): “[Defoe’s and Crusoe’s] impulse is toward process rather than end, toward unfinished life endlessly in the making rather than the simple illustration of a predetermined and fixed pattern.”4 So writes Donald Crowley. He is speaking of the end of the novel and of its continuation in The Farther Adventures, but he might just as well have been speaking of its beginning: Crusoe desires to make his own roots. And so he will, with a vengeance.
His father will beseech Crusoe “not to play the young Man” by heedlessly going off traveling, almost as though he wished to see in his son the image of his own now “ancient” self (p. 5). Crusoe, at this time, is eighteen. His father sees him as certifying, so to speak, the station of life to which the family has been brought, and desires to make a lawyer of him (p. 3). But this law of the father is repudiated by the son who will be satisfied “with nothing but going to Sea,” and there follows a clash of wills and desires, or at least of words, whose resolution marks a rupture of authority: “I continued obstinately deaf to all Proposals of settling to Business, and frequently expostulating with my Father and Mother, about their being so positively determin’d against what they knew my Inclination prompted me to” (p. 7). In order to follow his penchant he must set himself “strongly against the Will, nay the Commands of [his] Father” (p. 3), he must contradict his “Father’s Desire” (p. 6).
Certainly Crusoe refers to this repudiation of paternal authority as the “fatal” result of “that Propension of Nature” (his desire to travel) which will lead, says he, “directly to the Life of Misery which was to befal” him (p. 3). I will return to this “misery” shortly, because I believe its implications have been largely misunderstood. But let us also note that this reflection precedes the well-known praise of “the middle State” of life, a state which his father affirms is envied by all who do not themselves occupy it. Criticism does not appear to have taken overmuch notice of the fact that this praise is sufficiently contradictory as to undercut both Crusoe’s attempt here to suggest that his future “misfortunes” are caused by his refusal to occupy this middle state and his much later, and celebrated, remark to the effect that this refusal is his “ORIGINAL SIN” (p. 194).
Crusoe, then, relates how his father tried to convince him of the foolishness of his impulse to wander: “He ask’d me what Reasons more than meer wandring Inclination I had for leaving my Father’s House and my native Country, where I might be well introduced, and had a Prospect of raising my Fortunes by Application and Industry, with a Life of Ease and Pleasure” (p. 4). How is one to reconcile this “Application and Industry” with a “Life of Ease and Pleasure”? Indeed, as certain quotations have already indicated, we soon find his father arguing that he will be able to enjoy, quite simply, a life of idleness and pleasure, with no question of work. As Crusoe’s story unfolds it becomes more and more certain that he abhors such an attitude toward life: for him, as the episode of the mutineers on the island make quite clear, idleness and criminality are natural and necessary companions.
Here, then, is the first contradiction to which I have alluded. The praise is contradicted, too, at a slightly different level (‘externally’ rather than ‘internally’). We may not know what were his father’s reasons for doing just exactly what he is now counseling his son against (leaving his father’s house and his native country), but the fact remains that his father’s advice runs directly counter to his own life’s experience and to his own actions. Since he considers his own present situation to be entirely admirable and enviable, there can be no question of this advice being a warning to his son to avoid errors he himself might have made: clearly he has made none. What he rather appears to be demanding is that his son continue a visible success in the exact terms provided by the father: “he would do well for me, and endeavour to enter me into the Station of Life which he had just been recommending to me” (p. 5)—his own.
Indeed, the father’s ties with his son depend entirely upon the son’s submissiveness. He will, he says, provide for his son if the latter will stay, but he will give him nothing if he chooses to leave. By warning his son he discharges “his Duty,” after which he is able to affirm that he has “nothing to answer for” (p. 5). We might do well to remember this when Crusoe praises the Portuguese captain who picks him up off the coast of Africa and refuses to accept any of his money in payment on the grounds that if he did so Crusoe would be left destitute upon landing in Brazil (pp. 33–34), or when Crusoe later finds himself in the same position with regard to the members of the burned French ship out of Quebec and makes his nephew refuse such payment so that those victims would not find themselves destitute either when put ashore. For, writes Crusoe, “if the Portuguese captain that took me up at sea had serv’d me so, and took all I had for my deliverance, I must have starv’d, or have been as much a slave at the Brasils as I had been in Barbary.”5 His father does just that to him on the grounds that he will not encourage his folly by giving him anything.
Crusoe’s father leaves him destitute on life’s shore, because he refuses to accept that father’s authority, will, and desire; because he will not agree to become his father’s image. That father then goes on to threaten him with another authority by affirming that if he does leave home “God would not bless” him (p. 6). In order to impose his authority the father finds himself not only in contradiction but in excess—for this is surely to take the name of the Lord in vain: save, possibly, inasmuch as duty to father and duty to God may be taken as following naturally the one from the other.
Robinson Crusoe, then, cuts loose from and is cut loose by his father. He will undergo experiences that both ‘repeat’ those of his father and go far beyond them. The repetitions happen as though the father’s experiences had never been: the son’s are a complete replacement. By and large the father is forgotten, save only when Crusoe finds himself afraid of something and once in The Farther Adventures when he reacts to Will Atkins’s regret for having mistreated his father: “I murder’d my father as well as you, Will. Atkins, but I think for all that, my repentance is short of yours too by a great deal” (FA, 319).
The father’s advice is a kind of sealing off. It is as though a process had come to an end and the father wished to make that ‘end’ permanent: to seal his son forever in his image. This is, indeed, made quite clear in the text: Crusoe writes that his father is to be found in “his Chamber, where he was confin’d by the Gout” (p. 4).
Robinson seeks to begin the process afresh and on his own behalf. He wishes to write his own story and to make it ‘right’ within a process that, as far as he is concerned, is permanently underway, but in which his story will have to be inserted and justified. I will argue that his cries of “misfortune” and the like, the story of his “conversion,” are a necessary part of the legitimization of his story. Certainly we cannot otherwise take his talk of “misery” too seriously. While a third of his life is indeed spent alone on the island he is very far from being miserable the whole time he is there. On the contrary, he is able to take particular pleasure in his privilege of kingship, power, and authority, in the mechanical and agricultural arts which he gradually masters and makes productive, in the taming of the island and the bending of nature to his will. Afterward, of course, the island will become a part of his very considerable wealth, and something of whose ownership he will boast even after he has confessed his failure to take proper care of it and has stated he will no longer speak of it.6
We may well be tempted to ask why, in the light of this, Crusoe so constantly deplores his life? And that from the very moment when its process gets under way: he left Hull, he writes, “in an ill hour, God knows” (p. 7). Soon he is remarking: “never any young Adventurer’s Misfortunes, I believe, began sooner nor continued longer than mine” (p. 8). There is a constant harping on the subject. It may be granted that he does get into a storm immediately upon leaving the mouth of the Humber, but storms in the North Sea in September are scarcely unknown. The main point, however, is that Crusoe is writing his story after it is over (indeed, after what is related in The Farther Adventures is over, too, for he speaks of this at the end of the first novel) and that he knows this first departure to be the first step on the way to wealth and fortune. He will constantly imply that actions can be judged only by their results, and the result of his “misfortune” is ultimate success both in wordly and, he affirms, in spiritual terms.7
This success militates against our accepting his regrets at their face value. And in that case then “the Breach of my Duty to God and my Father” (p. 8), so regretted during Crusoe’s first experience of a storm at sea, should not be taken at its face value either; indeed, at the time, he is himself very quick to forget it: “we went the old way of all Sailors” (p. 9). Besides, we may well ask, what is his duty? To sit on what he is given and do nothing, as his father seems to advise? Or to go out and work? By the end of his story we can be in no doubt as to the answer. Indeed, in The Farther Adventures the answer becomes one more way of rejecting the father, who, it will be recalled, has given up trading so as to live at York in ease. After the death of his own wife, Robinson becomes increasingly restless and leaves the country to go up to London. But even there he finds that living off the fruits of his labors is not for him: “I had no relish to the place, no employment in it, nothing to do but saunter about like an idle person, of whom it may be said, he is perfectly useless in God’s creation; and it is not one farthing matter to the rest of his kind whether he be dead or alive” (FA, 229).
In suggesting that we cannot accept at face value the exclamations of misery and the like, I am not speaking of ‘sincerity’ or ‘honesty’ or of any such moral judgment that the critic might make upon the novel and Crusoe’s attitudes. I am proposing rather that their meaning lies elsewhere than on the surface, where they appear to encounter a number of contradictions. We are given a clue as to where this meaning might lie at the very outset of Crusoe’s life’s process.
What is related in the first few pages of the novel is a clash of will and refusal, of desire and counterdesire, of command and disobedience. It is all very deliberate. Yet Crusoe’s departure from home is, he would have us believe, distinctly accidental, scarcely, he affirms, his fault at all: “But being one Day at Hull, where I went casually, and without any Purpose of making an Elopement that time; but I say, being there, and one of my Companions being going by Sea to London, in his Father’s Ship, and prompting me to go with them . . .” (p. 7).
It is as though his launching out upon his own ‘process’ were entirely passive. I spoke in earlier chapters of an ‘occultation’ of the enunciating subject, of the disappearance of the ‘responsibility of enunciation.’ It seems to me that by this time this is the form these take: no longer are they the gradual result of the invention of a class of discourse, as we saw them to be in the texts examined previously. The discourse has been invented, it has been established, and this occultation and this disappearance are two of its essential characteristics.
What is remarkable in Robinson Crusoe is that every important moment or aspect of its hero’s path through life is marked discursively by this very same passivity, this very same lack of responsibility: the departure from Hull, the landing on the island itself (continued process), the first growing of seeds and the discovery of how to fire pottery (acquisition of knowledge and power), the growth of his Brazilian estate (acquisition of property and capital), even elements of possession and authority in quite general terms, as we will see. I say ‘discursively’ because, of course, all these things demand that Crusoe ‘do’ something: the point is that when they are related, they are related as though he had done nothing—as though he were caught up in a process, in a discourse, for which he is not responsible. His passivity is occulted activity.
Such an operation implies the necessity of two kinds of ‘activity’:
(1) In order to deny responsibility for the process he and all others are “caught up in in spite of themselves,” he must show that such responsibility lies elsewhere, because the discourse occurs and because he does have the power and authority he will constantly claim. The appeal to God, the exclamations of misfortune, the passiveness of the subject are the result. The discourse, the process, is not organized by any particular subject of enunciation: that subject is merely inserted into an already existing discourse. So, at least, the narrator will imply.
(2) If Crusoe then wishes to claim any authority, power, or right of possession (as he puts it), he cannot utterly deny such responsibility. To do so would be to lose the authority, power, and possession he is claiming, as indeed he admits risking in the The Farther Adventures.8 He is obliged, therefore, to find some way of legitimizing such claims. This he can do by the various affirmations that he has worked for them, suffered for them, and, finally, that God has granted them to him by His favor. He can also do it by allowing the discourse, so to speak, to work for him, though it may appear not to do so. He can ‘do’ this by means of the various occultations which are now inscribed in analytico-referential discourse—it is certainly not Crusoe or Defoe who invents them.
It must be shown, then, that the discursive order we have been discussing does in fact control the text of Robinson Crusoe, that it does aim toward certain goals, that it does “replace” another(’s) discourse but ‘acts’ as though it did not, that legitimization is therefore necessary. I must also show, more generally, that all this corresponds to what has been suggested with regard to a dominant class of discourse.
Many critics have claimed that Crusoe’s “original sin” lies in his refusal of trade and his “breach of duty,” in his repudiation of a wealth of whose increase he should have been the steward (indeed, Crusoe himself is the first to suggest this), in exchange for the pursuit of a will-o’-the-wisp. No doubt all this is the case. But we must never forget that his story is an afterword: Crusoe is relating it after he has won out at the end. His talk of “sin,” his laments of “misfortune,” “miseries,” and “woe” are precisely akin to his father’s precautionary counsel: do not do as I have done, do as I say I would do now. Now Crusoe himself is the figure of authority seeking to seal off the process whose continuation would be the replacement of his authority by another’s. Indeed, at one extraordinary point in The Farther Adventures at which we will look later, Crusoe undertakes that very continuation on his own behalf: a kind of self-criticism that might have started his story all over again.
If the father had been obeyed all future gain and knowledge, all authority, would have been the father’s: just as, later on, the island, its inhabitants, and its produce are all considered to be Crusoe’s—by himself and by his “tenants.” This is why Crusoe cannot follow his father’s counsel. He could not but repudiate it in the light of his story, whose entire ‘point’ is what he has achieved through undertaking a forward-looking process on his own behalf. And in all worldly and material terms he is eminently “successful.” What he has, he has a “right” to have.
He succeeds because of the way he goes about it, not in spite of it, as Crusoe himself would have us believe and as so many critics have argued. The way he goes about it is by following the path we have seen established by the writing of Bacon, Galileo, Cyrano, Hobbes, to some extent Descartes. The same path is followed by economic writers like Petty, by philosophers such as Locke, not to mention others. That is why Robinson Crusoe, and others of Defoe’s writings, have been considered illustrations of economic or possessive individualism. But capitalism, scientific positivism, and puritanism or Calvinism are not linked to each other as cause to effect, or, at least no evidence can show that they are. It is not one or the other that is preponderantly important in Robinson Crusoe, for example, as so much recent criticism seem to suppose, following the work of Max Weber and his successors: so that the novel would become the story of the new individualistic capitalism, or a criticism of it, or a relation of a (the) fall and redemption. That is not to say that the novel does not make use of such themes. But they are simply the material of discourse, just as particular ‘myths’ may be (as we saw of Prometheus in Cyrano’s novels). The form of discourse is what provides them with a particular ‘meaning,’ their discursive relation. What I am suggesting is that a general process of change in the use of signs (here, linguistic signs) is taking place—by now, has taken place. The result of this change is called “puritanism” in one type of discourse, “capitalism” in another, in another “positivistic science,” in yet another “neoclassical literature,” elsewhere “modern” philosophy, and so on and so forth: all these are parallel types of a single class of discourse, the product of Kepler’s notes to the Somnium, if you will.
The order of this discursive class shines out through the text of Robinson Crusoe. All particular interpretations are readings in terms of one or other of the parallel types of discourse. They are not ‘wrong’ but rather in a way superfluous, for once the order is apparent then clearly its correspondence to any particular inflection is relatively easily demonstrable. Certainly a pattern of fall and redemption lies somewhere in the background, but it is carried along in a new class of discourse as a kind of ‘remnant,’ ready to be placed in a whole new set of relations. No longer is it dominant; it is part of the material out of which this new discursive class has been made, as certain theological beliefs are of ‘Puritan’ science. For “sin” there is not; rather there is a process of learning, of acquisition, of making, of coming to power and authority.
Knowledge is made and found in a variety of different domains: meteorological, navigational, and geographical; agricultural and mechanical; economic; political and social. As Crusoe himself puts it at one moment with regard to the second of these: “I improv’d my self in this time in all the mechanick Exercises which my Necessities put me upon applying my self to” (p. 144). What he has particularly in mind and has already demonstrated by this time are carpentry, candlemaking, pottery, basketmaking, tanning, butchering, baking, hunting, farming. It is scarcely surprising that in The Farther Adventures the inhabitants of the island “could not name any thing that was more useful to them” than the Jack-of-all-trades brought by Crusoe (FA, 298). That Crusoe should use the word “thing” when writing of this “general mechanick” (FA, 231), and that this man can do considerably fewer things than Crusoe himself (FA, 231–32), is equally revealing.
Underlying and accompanying the acquisition of these domains of knowledge, indeed making it possible, is a gradual process of learning what ‘knowledge’ is in a more general sense. This process is performed in the particular order of which I have been speaking (the class of discourse itself) and it is the end product of that order. Crusoe insists upon it, and Robinson Crusoe is, first of all, the story, the history, of that all-important acquisition. Francis Bacon had long before spoken of just this knowledge in terms of which Robinson Crusoe could almost be the illustration:
if my judgement be of any weight, the use of History Mechanical is, of all others, the most radical and fundamental towards natural philosophy; such natural philosophy I mean as shall not vanish in the fumes of subtle or sublime speculations, but such as shall be operative to relieve the inconveniences of man’s estate. For it will not only be of immediate benefit, by connecting and transferring the observations of one art to the use of others, and thereby discovering new commodities; a result which must needs follow when the experience of different arts shall fall under the observation and consideration of one man’s mind [and follow, let us add, the same discursive order]; but further, it will give a more true and real illumination concerning the investigation of causes of things and axioms of arts, than has hitherto shone upon mankind.9
In the same chapter of the De augmentis, Bacon makes the link between the terms “mechanical” and “experimental”: they refer to the reasoned production of “works” in nature, made possible by a particular discourse. “History mechanical” is the writing of that production, of experiments in nature: it is their “literacy,” so to speak.
That is what Crusoe learns, and the The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures is the history of that learning:
I must needs observe, that as Reason is the Substance and Original of the Mathematicks, so by stating and squaring every thing by Reason, and by making the most rational Judgment of things, every Man may be in time Master of every mechanick Art. I had never handled a Tool in my Life, and yet in time by Labour, Application, and Contrivance, I found at last that I wanted nothing but I could have made it. [P. 68]
He becomes, he writes, “a compleat natural Mechanick” (p. 72). Once order is established, experiment becomes “literate.” In this way Robinson acquires a knowledge of planting and harvesting: “by this Experiment I was made Master of my Business, and knew exactly when the proper Season was to sow” (p. 105).
“Mastery” is important, and Crusoe says here that it is an acquisition, not something he started out with. We will see that such a claim represents an occultation much like the one we saw with regard to the responsibility of enunciation: they are clearly linked. We will see that this mastery is inscribed in the very order of the writing of his story. Crusoe goes on to argue, following Bacon, Descartes, and the rest, that reason and language define man, that every human can therefore enjoy the same powers provided only that he learns the right way to use them (“he” only, because women for Crusoe are definitely possessions and could never enjoy the same powers). Indeed, the castaway ties this argument to a criticism of the divine ordering of things. He wonders why God has given to all men the “same Powers, the same Reason, the same Affections, the same Sentiments of Kindness and Obligation, [etc.] that he has given to us” (p. 209), and yet He has deprived some (others) of the possibility of using these abilities and capacities. He wonders indeed why He allows us to make so “mean a use ... of all those” even when we are not so deprived. Above all, reason and the right method for the use of reason are all-important. Crusoe discovers this ‘formally’ on the island, but we may say that he knew it ‘intuitively’ from the time of his first desire to wander (that is, “very early”) and from his mere repudiation of paternal authority.
Certainly Crusoe appears to check, at the moment we have just been talking about, his doubts concerning divine justice with the traditional assertion that it is impossible for humans to know the divine “Light and Law,” but he does not do so before admitting that he “sometimes was led too far to invade the Soveraignty of Providence” (p. 210). He cannot go too far in what amounts to a repudiation of divine authority, because this would reveal where the true responsibility of enunciation lies. So he makes confession.
The matter of legitimization enters into account, then, at the very moment when the narrator is concerned with teaching the right use of reason, and thus of overcoming the disability that is due to an apparent flaw in divine justice, a flaw that would deny man his humanity. For to deny him right use of reason is to deprive him of the very faculty which (with language) defines him. So Crusoe, in setting out to correct the divine plan, must do so with what amounts to a longish apologetic. But the absolute sway of the new discursive order is such that no sense of criticizing the divine plan can prevent Crusoe from instructing Friday in accordance with what he himself has been doing, from teaching him the right use of reason and the right idiom for its use:
I was greatly delighted with him, and made it my Business to teach him every Thing, that was proper to make him useful, handy, and helpful; but especially to make him speak, and understand me when I spake, and he was the aptest Schollar that ever was, and particularly was so merry, so constantly diligent, and so pleased, when he cou’d but understand me, or make me understand him, that it was very pleasant to me to talk to him. [P. 210]
In light of what was said in the previous chapter, it is interesting to note that Crusoe should be teaching Friday “especially” to “speak.” For in relating his rescue of the Indian he had written that the latter “spoke some Words to me, and though I could not understand them, yet I thought they were pleasant to hear, for they were the first sound of a Man’s Voice, that I had heard, my own excepted, for above Twenty Five Years” (p. 204). It is as though Crusoe, in teaching Friday to speak his language and his way of using it, were introducing his servant to language as to something entirely new. But for Friday, what is new is English and analytico-referential discourse.
Before Crusoe can properly achieve this introduction (as he says), he must ‘reinvent’ the Indian, he must ‘place’ him in his own discourse: “first, I made him know his Name should be Friday, which was the Day I sav’d his Life” (p. 206). Friday is to be named in terms of Crusoe’s activities (though we could note that Friday has at least as much part in saving his own life as Crusoe has) and as a consequence of Crusoe’s needs: “now was my Time to get me a Servant, and perhaps a Companion, or Assistant” (p. 202). Not for nothing does Crusoe write “I made him know”; or continue with “I likewise taught him to say Master, and then let him know, that was to be my Name.”
It is a form of discourse that Friday is learning here, for “Master” has no social meaning for him: it is but a name, as Crusoe says, like his own. For Crusoe, however, it inscribes a particular order in their relations with one another long before that order corresponds to anything in an external ‘social reality.’ The latter, in fact, derives from the former.10 The naming will produce the fact, as in the case of the demon of Socrates, where the meaning of the name does not depend on the object but rather the reverse. The fact produced is an object ‘viewed’ in a way which is entirely dependent on the discourse which will have produced the fact. “Friday” as “servant” is just such a fact. Once an object has been inserted into discourse as a fact, the instruction can begin. Of course, and necessarily, this insertion is not treated as though it were entirely dependent upon Crusoe’s use of language: on the contrary, Robinson treats the whole matter as though it were a natural part of an existing social order. “Friday” is inserted in just precisely the way Crusoe himself had refused to be inserted at the outset of his story. Friday is seized by a particular discourse, at once Crusoe’s and not Crusoe’s (because it is not that of a single individual, he seems to suggest).
The process of learning and teaching is a joyful one because it is involved with the right order. And Crusoe can affirm that it is a natural order, indeed the natural one, for it merely confirms in use what is already part of the definition of man. Thus there is no longer any question of establishing a discursive class: it has become the natural and familiar order. And Robinson Crusoe is its story. Rousseau is not slow to acknowledge this:
Since we must have books, there is one which, to my thinking, supplies the best treatise on an education according to nature. This is the first book Emile will read; for a long time it will form his whole library, and it will always retain an honoured place. It will be the text to which all our talks about natural science are but the commentary. It will serve to test our progress towards a right judgement, and it will always be read with delight, so long as our taste is unspoilt. What is this wonderful book? Is it Aristotle? Pliny? Buffon? No; it is Robinson Crusoe.
Lord Macaulay was to echo the sentiment in an official document on education in 1835: “Give a boy Robinson Crusoe. That is worth all the grammars of rhetoric and logic in the world.”11
The book provides the essential order of discourse: processive, sequential, emphatic of ‘thing’ and of action upon things. This is certainly why the preface announces that the “Editor believes the thing to be a just History of Fact” (p. 1). Such is the discursive ideal: literature is a ‘natural’ system (“History”) which at the same time provides an analysis of the order of the real (“Fact”). Robinson Crusoe gives us nature still, but nature methodiz’d, to use Pope’s phrase. It is, then, an ideal instrument; it is at once equal to reality and able to be studied by scientific metadiscourses just as reality itself can be (which is Rousseau’s declared intention), and at the same time it is a denotative representation of reality (the “Editor’s” claims). As such it is an almost archetypal example of neoclassical ‘literature.’
Still, this entire process is, as already indicated, an entirely open-ended one. Crusoe deprives himself of an origin. He comes from a kind of ‘void’ he has created for himself, and he proceeds through a series of never-ending journeys. Even at the end of The Farther Adventures a cliché is used to prevent closure of any kind: “And here, resolving to harrass myself no more, I am preparing for a longer journey than all these” (FA, 427). Rousseau, then, is entirely wrong in affirming that the important part of Robinson Crusoe is its hero’s sojourn on the island, the rest being a mere fatras.12 The process of power, of acquisition, of learning and authority begins before Crusoe’s marooning and never ends—much as it does for Rousseau’s pupil, for whom the novel itself is but a single stage in a longer process.
Crusoe is never confined to his island in the broadest of senses. All his tools come from the ship; the kind of life he envisages is that with which he is already quite familiar in terms of productivity and labor: even its solitude is not something to which he is unaccustomed. It is perhaps small wonder that he leaves up to the reader the choice of viewing his sojourn as part of a whole over which he has control or as something unfamiliar to him and separated from the controlled process (and that he leaves it to the reader is again a means of displacing responsibility): “in the sixth Year of my Reign, or my Captivity, which you please” (p. 137). There will be no doubt as to how Crusoe himself views it. His life on the island is in every way part of a longer—indeed an unlimited—process that began in the novel with his father (and before him with his, and before that with . . . ) and continues after the novel with The Farther Adventures, with the “longer journey” to come, and, equally important, with the readers whom Crusoe is constantly conscious of addressing: a process which Crusoe now conducts.
If there is any “sin” at all, we are forced to conclude, it is that Crusoe constantly belittles that desire to travel whose result will be less misfortune than rewarding labor and wealth. Crusoe, writes Maximillian Novak, “does not disobey his parents in the name of free enterprise or economic freedom, but for a strangely adventurous, romantic, and unprofitable desire to see foreign lands.”13 If there is one thing his desire is not, in terms of its outcome, that is “unprofitable.” Crusoe constantly recounts how he doubles, triples, quadruples his capital. Again, as before, there is a kind of occultation here: he acquires possessions without having to admit that he ever intended to do so. Crusoe becomes victim of an inexplicable providence, he proposes.14
If there is any “sin” it is an extraordinarily fortunate one: it makes the entire future possible as an organization of acquisitive knowledge, power, and authority in the face of which exclamations of misery and misfortune lose any literal significance. They become a kind of white ground upon which to outline his felicity the more clearly, at once part of the ‘void’ from which he has come and the mark of a possibility of displacing responsibility: for they provoke the inference that his discourse is not isolated, that it is part of a familiar and communal scheme, that what is done by its means is therefore supported by the discursive reality of an entire society. Only thus can the individual make his own place: to choose a quite different discourse would be the choice of madness (perhaps not possible, as a choice); to adopt what is provided would be the choice of servitude (Friday’s “choice,” but also that of Robinson’s “tenants”). Crusoe goes a middle way by means of the ruses I am collectively calling a ‘legitimization.’15
Talk of “misery” and “misfortune,” then, is Crusoe’s obeissance to the discourse of the father (whether biological or divine) and the eventual justification for his reentry, so to speak. It marks a point of departure and return that must be both affirmed and rejected: the latter cannot occur without the former, but nor, without it, could he insert his own discourse into society’s. At first this talk of woe is classified as that of a “young Sailor” who had “never known anything of the matter” (p. 8); later it will be the sign of making his way back. At first the “Vows and Resolutions” (p. 8) he makes to go home to his father if he survives the storm are a mark of fear, and fear is closely allied with the authority of another. Later, fear will be divorced from misfortune and will become something he, Crusoe, will inspire in others.
For authority depends on fear—fear of deprivation, fear of punishment, fear of divine wrath (as when the Father says he will withhold God’s blessing). As soon as Robinson Crusoe begins to be “a little inur’d to it” (in the form of the stormy sea, at this point) this aspect of the father’s argument fades away to nothing and there is a kind of liberation: “the Sight was, as I thought, the most delightful that ever I saw” (p. 9). Part of the story of Robinson Crusoe will be the tale of the rejection of an authority and the growth of a new one. That rejection, that process of growth, the open-endedness of that growth and its story, are all major aspects of the structural order of experimentalism.
It is time to take a look at that order as it occurs in Crusoe:
The repudiation is gradual, and these four sequences are almost alike even as to the content of their four stages (the variables). In each sequence, especially the first two, the last stage confirms the first (authority and fear), but only partly: Crusoe does, after all, survive to repeat his rejection. With the third sequence, Crusoe admits for the first time to a specific decision to go on, only to be confronted in the fourth sequence with the advice of the captain, who stands almost as a surrogate for the father. His traveling “by land” may be viewed as a commentary on the advice of the seaman— a minor mark of repudiation. For the fifth sequence inaugurates something utterly different, something that produces an even clearer echo of the sequences of experimental discourse:
I first fell acquainted with the Master of a Ship who had been on the Coast of Guinea; and who having had very good Success there, was resolved to go again; and who taking a Fancy to my Conversation, which was not at all disagreeable at that time, hearing me say I had a mind to see the World, told me if I wou’d go the Voyage with him I should be at no Expence; I should be his Mess-mate and his Companion, and if I could carry any thing with me, I should have all the Advantage of it that the Trade would admit; and perhaps I might meet with some Encouragement.
I embrac’d the Offer, and entring into a strict Friendship with this Captain, who was an honest and plain-dealing Man, I went the Voyage with him, and carried a small Adventure with me, which by the disinterested Honesty of my Friend the Captain, I increased very considerably. [Pp. 16–17]
Certainly all question of “sin” has so far disappeared that even his “Father, or at least [his] Mother” (p. 17) contributed something to his journey: as though the son were beginning to draw some authority to himself. In the same way, the elements of the sequence now look forward, instead of backward. Not only do they lead into new sequences whose variables do change considerably, but the end of each sequence marks a particular acquisition of a knowledge or capacity that Crusoe did not previously possess or declare:
Just as Friday will later, he finds he takes “Delight to learn” (p. 17). To be sure, once he is home again he can speak of “those aspiring Thoughts which have since so compleated my Ruin,” upon which we have perhaps commented sufficiently. But it is worth remarking that this time he chooses to support his clamors of “ruin” with the claim that even this voyage was not free of misfortune, as though he were no longer quite sure that his reader will believe him. For he writes that he had suffered a bad fever (p. 17). Clearly, such a “misfortune” was a normal part of sailing at the time: he might as well have lamented that he caught a cold from going out in the rain.16 The implication seems to be that the writer feels a need to indicate that his activities are part of a larger whole, but that he no longer takes it very seriously. Lamentations are no longer necessary. Crusoe is beginning to feel self-sufficient.
From now on the sequences repeat what we have just seen in the fifth, and the completion of each represents what one might call an increasing command over the order: each one concludes with an increase of some kind, even when he has reason to lament his “misfortune.” He becomes increasingly self-possessed, increasingly the director of his discourse:
The defeat of fear in himself is quickly followed by his inspiring of fear in others:
He makes, of course, several trips more out to the ship, but we may perhaps say that the disappearance of the ship in the next storm, after he has completely unloaded it, marks the end of an episode in his life. Rousseau says we should begin reading the book at this point, and it is certainly the life on the island that chiefly comes to mind when the reader thinks of Robinson Crusoe (not surprisingly, since it composes five-sixths of the book). It is here too, I think, that the enumeration of sequences may be concluded. It is quite possible to continue with it, but the main purpose has been to show how the experimental series guides the story of Crusoe. Before we do leave it, however, I would like to note one rather remarkable passage that comprises an entire sequence in itself. It is remarkable because of its position in the story and because its object is money.
On his last trip out to the ship, Crusoe discovers some coins he had previously overlooked:
We might remark (as others have) that throughout the story financial acquisition and possession form a kind of ‘model’ for all other kinds of acquisition (for example, as a particular part of sequences 5, 6, 9, 10, 11). The usefulness of money obviously depends, as Crusoe remarks here, on the presence of other people, on a market. It is therefore significant that Crusoe should devote a full sequence to the matter at the very moment when that usefulness is lost. It is almost as though he is assuring himself (and us) that there will remain with him the sign of a process which has brought him to the island and, above all, whose future continuation is already foreseen.
The passage is actually considerably longer than my quotation from it, and there is no break in the first paragraph stronger than a colon once the “Second Thoughts” have begun. The sequence is really complete by the end of that paragraph because at the beginning of the next he has already “gotten home.” Crusoe shows a kind of breathless haste to note down that he remains in the context of an ongoing process, that all he has done till now and all he will have done by the ‘end’ of his story is a part of the same story.
Nor does he neglect to remind us later that he has this money: “I had, as I hinted before, a Parcel of Money. . . . There the nasty sorry useless Stuff lay” (p. 129). In view of what we have just been saying the understatement of that “hinted” is a masterpiece. As Peter Earle remarks: “Fine thoughts, but Robinson Crusoe found plenty of business for his money once he got off the island.”17 Indeed; and that, once again, is just the point: constantly writing of the money maintains a discursive link with the past and the future of the process along which Crusoe is traveling in terms of the very paradigm of the acquisition, possession, power, and authority which are inscribed in the process of the discourse of experimentalism. There are, needless to say, other links: Crusoe notes, for example, that he has “a tollera-ble View of subsisting without any Want as long as [he] liv’d” because, having saved so many useful things from the ship, he does not have to start at the beginning (p. 63).
Yet it is precisely the apparent paradox of his insistence on keeping a store of “useless” money that marks his reminders to the reader as having a purpose different from his comments on things that are obviously able to become an integral part of his life on the island: “all the good Things of this World, are no farther good to us, than they are for our Use” (p. 129). Saying this does not prevent him from taking a particular pleasure in the “glorious Sight” of his cave, partly at least because he decides that its sparkling is due to nothing other than gold (“which I rather suppos’d it to be,” p. 179). Nor does it prevent him, more significantly yet, from repeating the money sequence again on the occasion of the wreck of the Spanish ship when, having removed two sea chests to the shore, he finds in one of them a considerable amount of coin and uncoined gold: “as to the Money, I had no manner of occasion for it: ’Twas to me as the Dirt under my Feet; and I would have given it all for three or four pair of English Shoes and Stockings.” This time Crusoe goes even further than before in his reminders of a link with past and future—perhaps because he has been so many years longer on his island.
The incident of the Spanish ship is enclosed in such reminders. Before he tells us of removing anything, Crusoe remarks that if the ship had not broken up so rapidly, he “might have made a good Voyage” because he believes she “had no doubt a great Treasure in her; but of no use at that time to any body” (pp. 191–92). At the conclusion of the incident the link becomes specific:
Well, however, I lugg’d this Money home to my Cave, and laid it up, as I had done that before, which I brought from our own Ship; but it was great Pity as I said, that the other Part of this Ship had not come to my Share; for I am satisfy’d I might have loaded my Canoe several Times over with Money, which if I had ever escap’d to England, would have lain here safe enough, till I might have come again and fetch’d it. [P. 193]
Money, then, forms a discursive link with the social and economic order out of which he presently finds himself but into which he foresees his ‘reinsertion.’ Upon that occasion it will be necessary that he not appear to organize that order himself but that he be merely a part of an order objectively existent, exterior to any desires and wishes of his own. Already I have suggested that ‘mastery,’ ‘responsibility of enunciation,’ and ‘intention to possess’ are occulted. I would add that the very act of acquisition is also: the money, which will be his ‘passport’ back into a market society, is virtually a gift, for which he does nothing other than bring it to shore; an “act of God” gives it to him, not an act of Crusoe. Indeed, not only was it perfectly useless to him at the time of the gift, but he did not even obtain all he might have done.
The culmination of this discursive passivity comes at the end of the novel, when on inquiry in Portugal he finds himself a very wealthy man—again, not through any activity of his own but because the value of his Brazilian plantation has increased all by itself. He has become a “Master” of property “all on a Sudden” without having acted as one and, indeed, without doing so now: “And in a Word, I was in a Condition which I scarce knew how to understand, or how to compose my self, for the Enjoyment of it” (p. 285).
Monetary possession, he insists, then, comes to him “by accident.” He is not responsible for it. The same is true of power and authority of a political kind. We saw in earlier chapters that such political power and authority are inscribed in the very order of analytico-referential discourse, at the outset overtly so. What is clear is that that very same order, as the basis of the story of Robinson Crusoe, is now far less overt as to this inscription. Indeed, had we not seen that it is the same order, it would be possible to argue that they are not present at all, and certainly not as the ‘attributes’ of an individual subject of enunciation. That, of course, is the point: the discourse has become general, though at the outset it marked the imposition of a ‘particular’ subject of enunciation.
If the individual is to reinscribe himself in that discourse it must be surreptitiously and by ruse, in such a way that the order is not threatened. Power, authority, willful possession, and acquisition are the result, not the ‘origin,’ of discourse now. The several occultations to which I have referred are the means of reconciling this discourse as it composes the episteme of an entire society with that ‘same’ discourse as the expression of an individual within that society. The general and the particular are then no longer in conflict. The ‘ideal’ social contract has been forged in discourse some time before it is formally expressed by a Rousseau.
It goes without saying that I am not claiming Robinson Crusoe to be unique in reconciling social and individual discourse, simply that it is exemplary of the way that reconciliation occurs in its time. It is apparent that any and all discourse, in order to function, must find a way to reconcile enunciation and communication. The point is that those activities are not necessarily the same in all times and places. A Plato, a St. Augustine, a Rabelais, or a Dante (to recall some of those mentioned earlier) a Mallarmé, a Joyce, a Proust, or a Musil in our own times may also be exemplary of such an achievement: but their ways of doing it are incomparable—so far apart indeed that the kind of reconciliation we might be talking about seems quite different. There are worlds between that achievement as it might occur, for example, in a discourse of patterning, in a discourse of analysis and referentiality, and in one of mediation. As there are worlds between the use to which the ‘material of myth’ is put in the Somnium and what happens to it in the Voyages à la lune et au soleil. Or between the operator anima of medieval discursivity and the individualized possessive self of a later discursive class. The entire mode of conceptualization is different, and with it all relations, all social or other practices, the very conception of action in the world or of human intercourse.
What I have been trying to show in Robinson Crusoe is not simply the consolidation of analytico-referentiality (already achieved, by and large, from the time of Bacon and his contemporaries), but what makes it so powerful an instrument not only for scientific knowledge and technique, but as a class of social praxis and as a means of giving meaning to all human activities (not merely some). I suggest that its fundamental efficacy is the reconciliation of enunciation and communication, achieved by a series of ‘discursive discoveries’ and their accompanying occultations. In Robinson Crusoe, political power and its growth go the same way as monetary acquisition and possession, as ownership of whatever kind. Obviously these diverse aspects are closely allied with one another. At the beginning of his stay on the island, Crusoe tells of his isolation in a rather ironic tone. The irony is composed nonetheless in terms of power, and it is this ironic authority that little by little gives way to a real authority. And it will indeed be real, however much the reference to power may have begun in irony:
it was a great Pleasure to me to see all my Goods in such Order, and especially to find my Stock of all Necessaries so great. [P. 69]
I descended a little on the Side of that delicious Vale, surveying it with a secret Kind of Pleasure, (tho’ mixt with my other afflicting Thoughts) to think that this was all my own, that I was King and Lord of all this Country indefeasibly, and had a Right of Possession; and if I could convey it, I might have it in Inheritance, as compleatly as any Lord of a Mannor in England. [P. 100]
I fancy’d now I had my Country-House, and my Sea-Coast-House. [P. 102]
In this Season I was much surpriz’d with the Increase of my Family [his cats]. [P. 102]
I was Lord of the whole Mannor; or if I pleas’d, I might call my self King, or Emperor over the whole Country which I had Possession of. There were no Rivals. I had no Competitor, none to dispute Sovereignty or Command with me. [P. 128]
in the sixth Year of my Reign, or my Captivity, which you please. [P. 137]
It would have made a Stoick smile to have seen, me and my little Family sit down to Dinner; there was my Majesty the Prince and Lord of the whole Island; I had the Lives of all my Subjects at my absolute Command. I could hang, draw, give Liberty, and take it away, and no Rebels among all my Subjects.
Then to see how like a King I din’d too all alone, attended by my Servants, Poll, as if he had been my Favourite, was the only Person permitted to talk to me. My Dog ... sat always at my Right Hand, and two Cats. [P. 148]
This irony, which is in any case scarcely an irony at all on some occasions (in the second quotation, for example), begins to disappear as the island gradually becomes populated by humans: of Friday Crusoe is soon remarking that “his very Affections were ty’d to me, like those of a Child to a Father” (p. 209), and increasingly his authority comes to resemble that very authority he started out by repudiating:
My Island was now peopled, and I thought my self very rich in Subjects; and it was a merry Reflection which I frequently made, How like a King I look’d. First of all, the whole Country was my own meer Property; so that I had an undoubted Right of Dominion. 2dly, My People were perfectly subjected: I was absolute Lord and Law-giver; they all owed their Lives to me, and were ready to lay down their Lives, if there had been Occasion of it, for me. [P. 241]
By the time Crusoe has arrived at the temporary conclusion of his story, there is no longer any question of irony: “I visited my new Collony in the Island. ... I shar’d the Island into Parts with ’em, reserv’d to my self the Property of the whole, . . . and engaged them not to leave the Place. . . . The Fellows prov’d very honest and diligent after they were master’d, and had their Properties [as “tenants”] set apart for them” (pp. 305–6).
These last remarks lead directly into the matter Crusoe will relate in The Farther Adventures. I am not really concerned with that text here, although I might note that two further occultations are suggested there: that of authority itself (“they told me I was a father to them . . . and they all voluntarily engag’d not to leave the place without my consent,” FA, 298—my italics), and that of the achievement of possession (the young man and the maid ask “to be enter’d among my family, as they call’d it,” FA, 299—my italics). Toward the end of the second novel, Crusoe will boast of his authority in just these terms.
Before this last boast there occurs a rather remarkable passage, to which I referred earlier. In it Crusoe achieves two objectives: in the first place it is a further occultation of his use and ordering of power and authority by means of a self-criticism that seeks to put himself in the wrong (and which the later boast contradicts, in the order of our reading of the novel); in the second, this very self-criticism permits him to repeat the activity that began the first book. Crusoe repudiates his own authority as he had there repudiated his father’s—and implies at the same time a condemnation of those who accept such authority, since they do so “at will.” For if we read the novel from the point of view of the narrator’s writing of it, the self-criticism follows the aforementioned boast and coincides rather with Robinson’s talk of a further and longer journey: it coincides not with the moment when Crusoe actually leaves the island but rather with the moment when he relates the event, with its writing down. The self-criticism offers a kind of ‘release’ from the position of authority at which he has arrived; it permits the ‘experimental’ process to continue. But it is, too, a denial of authority, and so a further ‘righting’ of his story:
I was possest with a wandring spirit, scorned all advantages; I pleased my self with being the patron of those people I placed there, and doing for them in a kind of haughty majestick way, like an old patriarchal monarch; providing for them as if I had been father of the whole family, as well as of the plantation. But I never so much as pretended to plant in the name of any government or nation, or to acknowledge any prince, or to call my people subjects to any one nation more than another; nay, I never so much as gave the place a name; but left it as I found it, belonging to no man, and the people under no discipline or government but my own; who, tho’ I had influence over them as father and benefactor, had no authority or power to act or command one way or other, farther than voluntary consent mov’d them to comply. [FA, 341–42]
No doubt this also forms a kind of mea culpa akin, at one level, to his clamors of misery: an admission that the status of his discourse has not been legalized. In that case, his authority is in conflict with no one’s, because it is not a ‘real’ authority. This self-criticism, that is to say, most ‘legitimizes’ his authority because it ‘effaces’ it. At the same time, I affirm, it opens up process once again. We return then to that ‘ideal’ social contract we saw before: the individual composes his place within the discourse of society without threatening that discourse.
As far as the story of Robinson Crusoe itself is concerned, power is most ‘legitimized’ by referring it, as I have suggested several times, away from ‘self’ to divine authority, or societal authority. This is truly where Crusoe rights his story. He does so first of all as a commentary upon his journal.
Like the naming of Friday, the recounting of events presented in the journey is a way for Crusoe to make a factual story. Friday was inserted into a discursive order immediately upon his rescue. By means of his journal Crusoe is able to relate one part of his story three times: first, we are reading a history of his life beginning with his birth and ending with his second return to England, as a part of which he tells of the shipwreck and events on the island during the time he was writing the journal. Second, the journal itself retells the story of his landing and initial activities upon the island—up to the time when he starts running out of ink. Third, he comments upon what is said in the journal. He has, in a way, three opportunities to write his story, two chances to rewrite it. It is in the commentary, which, like his later self-criticism, coincides with the actual writing of the ‘history,’ that he first undertakes to recount a religious ‘conversion,’ that he justifies his present authority and possession (that is, at the time of writing) in terms of the Divinity. God is named as Friday is named, and He is named as part of the discursive order.
Crusoe tells us that he first thought the growth of the barley to be a miracle, but then he realizes it was due to his having shaken out the “Husks and Dust” from a seed bag (p. 77) and notes that his “religious Thankfulness . . . began to abate” (p. 78). He then adds, in his commentary, that he “ought” to have continued thankful, since growth from so unpromising material was no less a miracle than if cereal had sprung up from nothing, especially considering it could have landed anywhere at all. This “ought” continues to be his comment on his behavior in the earthquake and at other times. And we might note that this “ought” (among other indications) marks the commentary as occurring afterward: at the time of writing, in fact.18 Finally, Crusoe falls sick and has a delirious dream of divine punishment (p. 87).
At this point he tells us that he underwent a conversion, though he “had alas! no divine Knowledge” (p. 88). Now here, it is worth noting, he is no longer writing as if it were his journal but rather his later commentary upon it: that is to say, the full weight of the Divinity presses not upon the journal written at the time but upon the history Crusoe writes later: “No-one that shall ever read this Account” (p. 88) becomes “In the relating of what is already past of my Story” (p. 88), and this in turn becomes “Even when I was afterwards” (p. 89), and finally, “The growing up of the Corn, as is hinted in my Journal” (p. 89). The whole description of this conversion is concluded with the avowal that we are dealing with a narration far removed from the actual occasion: “This was the first Prayer, if I may call it so, that I had made for many Years: But I return to my Journal” (p. 91).
Now, too, he returns to lamentations of “a dreadful mis-spent Life” (p. 92) and feels that he should have been drowned, and so on (p. 93). All this occurs while he is sick, and he notes: “when I awak’d I found myself exceedingly refresh’d, and my Spirits lively and chearful” (p. 95). He remarks that he continues to think of God during his recovery. The remark occurs as though it were a part of his recounting of the occurrences of a specific day (July 3), but it is quite clear that it is part of the commentary: “I miss’d the Fit for good and all, tho’ I didn’t recover my full Strength for some Weeks after” (p. 95). He could hardly have written such a sentence just a week after the original onslaught of his illness. In the same way he talks, under the date of July 4, of how he now reads the Bible daily—until he brings himself up short in order to write: “But leaving this Part, I return to my Journal” (p. 97). Whether the “conversion” occurred or not is, of course, a pointless and irrelevant consideration. Crusoe says it did, and that is sufficient. My point has to do with the way in which he ‘chooses to tell it within his story, though ‘choose’ may be the wrong word (see note 18).
He is in fact writing down his later reading and interpretation of his journal, and doing so in a way that suggests that the events of the interpretation occurred at the same time as the activities on the island, as carried out and then first written into the journal. From now until he leaves the journal account altogether the two levels are increasingly mingled, until he leaves it by the way—almost as an afterthought: “A little after this my Ink began to fail me, and so I contented my self to use it more sparingly, and to write down only the most remarkable Events of my Life, without continuing a daily Memorandum of other Things” (p. 104). The journal has, however, served the very useful purpose of giving legitimacy to Crusoe’s discourse of authority: it is a mark of divine favor, a reward, even, for a repentant sinner. Nonetheless, the divine word is never allowed fully to replace the secular discourse, and it is constantly put in question.
Thus Crusoe remarks that his conversion made him look “upon the World as a Thing remote” (p. 128), and we may well find ourselves asking what this has to do with piety: since he has now been on the island three years, without a sign, near or far, of humans, he might well consider the world “remote.” It is. And we may find ourselves tempted to remember that all his “repentances” have taken place during sickness and fear. Later, as we saw, he shows some skepticism as to God’s just use of human reason. Again, when he is teaching Friday the rudiments of Christianity Crusoe finds he is unable to answer some of the Indian’s more perspicacious questions concerning the supposed behavior of God, and he reacts as did Cyrano’s narrator to the questions of his host’s son on the same subject, and as did Campanella to Dyrcona. He changes the subject: “I therefore diverted the present Discourse between me and my Man, rising up hastily, as upon some sudden Occasion of going out” (p. 219). Later still, in The Farther Adventures, after his ship’s crew have massacred the majority of the inhabitants of a village in Madagascar, they lose five men “in the Gulph of Persia” and Crusoe maintains that this loss is a divine retribution. But the claim is immediately put in doubt, chiefly because the five men had not been on shore in Madagascar—so God must be either unjust or indifferent (FA, 355).
Other occasions of the same kind of thing are very many. Divine support and reward are thus brought into account but are not allowed to overwhelm Crusoe’s discourse. Indeed, again in The Farther Adventures, Robinson becomes a ‘stand-in’ for God: he names Will Atkins’s soon-to-be wife “Mary,” because he “was her godfather” (FA, 326), and gives her away in marriage “as I was her father at the altar” (FA, 328). The ‘social’ contract holds.
Pierre Macherey considers that Robinson Crusoe relates the rejection of various “manifest and apologetic myths”: myths of Providence, of God (who becomes a parrot calling Crusoe’s name, pp. 142–43), of good and evil (the impossibility of making any more judgment upon the cannibals), and finally of the idea that there might be “a state of nature.”19 What I have been saying will suggest rather that one cannot so much consider these rejected as made use of. The appeal to these “mythologies,” as Roland Barthes might call them, is the means of rendering ‘harmless’ the discourse of analysis and reference.
We have seen that their inclusion in the discourse, or rather the appeal to them, results in the ‘disappearance’ of the enunciating subject, except as the humble user of another’s discourse: this appeal ‘legitimizes’ the individual’s occupation of the particular order of discourse and his constitution of his own ‘piece’ of it by disguising the fact that the occupation and the constitution occur at all. It is accompanied by the signs we have seen of a whole group of occultations: responsibility of enunciation, mastery of discourse, acquisition of knowledge as controlled by discourse, the intention, act, and achievement of possession, power, and authority, and so on. It is as though Crusoe were saying: “I have the authority of my discourse but I am not responsible for that authority and its manifestations because the discourse is actually all of yours.”
That, too, is why it is so important to be able to claim that the discourse is factual and owes nothing whatever to the particular speaker. The factual detail and its accuracy is no doubt a commonplace of Defoe criticism. Peter Earle puts it as well as anyone:
If we concentrate, we can learn an immense variety of things, from the direction of the flow of the rivers of Siberia to the best way to salt penguins in the South Atlantic, from the relative prices of gold and brass in West Africa to the length of the summer night in Nova Zembla. Nothing is more characteristic of Defoe[’s novels] and nothing is more vital in the build-up of his realism than his detail, whether it is the coordinates of a fictional South Sea Island or the bill of lading of a ship seized by one of his pirates. Much of the information supplied is quite accurate.20
Like the other surface manifestations of discourse this factual detail conceals the machinery that makes it function, machinery that corresponds to the Baconian mechanism announced in The New Organon. It is a machinery that is itself hypostatized into a different kind of ‘object,’ in such a way that discourse can now grasp and speak of its own machinery as though it were not discursive at all, as though it were not the result of a particular organization of discourse. It can be treated as though it were itself reducible to an analyzable referent: “The World, I say, is nothing to us, but as it is more or less to our Relish: All Reflection is carry’d Home, and our Dear-self is, in one Respect, the End of Living.”21 This self corresponds to a particular European rationality, and it may be opposed, says Crusoe, to non-European (and non-Christian) “ideas,” which are “most unmanly, inconsistent with Reason.”22 The masculine birth has been fulfilled. We may note that this notion of self—‘individualistic,’ ‘psychological,’ ‘possessive,’ and the willful image of God in man— did not exist before. It has now been born.
Self and reason go together. They are given to us as the origin of all right discourse. We may perhaps be forgiven if after the foregoing discussion we see them as in fact the product of a particular and specifiable discursive organization, a product that has been hyposta-tized as a new object for analysis.
The ‘individual’ now makes a place for ‘himself’ within an order ‘he’ shows and uses as if it had existed from all time and had been established for all time. Crusoe acquires his power and authority— and all his property—‘passively’ because he follows that order (even though he needs must ‘activate’ it). It is the order itself that is important, and Crusoe makes this very clear: the ‘reasons’ for it, its particular ‘aims,’ are whatever interpretation and analysis wish to make them.
1. Daniel Defoe, The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner, ed. J. Donald Crowley (London, 1972), p. 40 (my italics). Though I have used the Everyman edition for The Farther Adventures, I have referred to this Oxford edition for Crusoe because it maintains, by and large, the capitalization, spelling, and punctuation of the first edition of 1719, and these will occasionally be necessary to the discussion.
2. The quotation is from Pierre Macherey, Pour une théorie de la production littéraire (Paris, 1966), p. 267. All the views just mentioned are, of course, linked, and represent in one form or another the main lines of Defoe criticism. From Rousseau to Marx, from Moore to Watt, Tillyard, Novak, Hunter, and so many others, these represent the underlying thematic interpretation, whether made in economic, religious, moral, or sociopolitical terms: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, ou de l’éducation; Karl Marx, Kapital, I; John Robert Moore, Daniel Defoe and Modern Economic Theory (Bloomington, 1934); Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1957); E. M. W. Tillyard, The Epic Strain in the English Novel (London, 1958); Maximillian E. Novak, Economics and the Fiction of Daniel Defoe (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1962), and Defoe and the Nature of Man (Oxford, 1963); J. Paul Hunter, The Reluctant Pilgrim (Baltimore, 1966). Certainly there are disagreements: Tillyard views Crusoe in terms of an allegory of the “fortunate fall” (as do many others); Hunter’s views are similar, though more reliant on specifically Puritan views of the religious progress of the individual; Moore views the book as a praise of laissez faire, while Novak sees in it a violent criticism of the new economic attitudes in favor of mercantilism. Watt is more circumspect: Crusoe, like Defoe’s other heroes, is the very embodiment of “economic individualism,” an attitude which is in their very blood (p. 63), and this is quite apart from Defoe’s own views on the matter. In this sense, though very differently expressed, Watt’s views are akin to my own.
3. See, e.g., Pierre Macherey, Pour une théorie, p. 274.
4. J. Donald Crowley, “Introduction,” ed. cit., p. xxi.
5. Daniel Defoe, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, in Robinson Crusoe, ed. Guy N. Pocock (1945; rpt. London and New York, 1969), p. 238 (cited hereafter in the text as FA).
6. To the Russian nobleman, for example, in The Farther Adventures: “First, I told him, I had the absolute disposal of the lives and fortunes of all my subjects; that notwithstanding my absolute power, I had not one person disaffected to my government or to my person, in all my dominions. ... I told him that all the lands in my kingdom were my own, and all the subjects not only my tenants, but tenants at will: that they would all fight for me to the last drop; and that never tyrant, for such I acknowledged myself to be, was ever so universally beloved, and yet so horribly feared by his subjects” (FA, 415). Of course, there is a certain amount of irony in his retelling of this conversation, for he has already told his readers that things are no longer going quite so well on his island (see note 8, below). This irony seems to correspond to the self-criticism that just precedes his admission of failure.
7. By the outcome of his various “mishaps” he will constantly judge that God is showing him His mercy: in religion, too, the proof is in the eating. For he might equally well lay the satisfactory outcome, when it occurs, at the feet of reason—as on occasion he does and as the praise he often gives to reason suggests is the right place to put it.
8. “Yet even this, had I stay’d there, would have done well enough; but as I rambl’d from them and came there no more, the last letters I had from any of them was by my partner’s means; who afterwards sent another sloop to the place, and who sent me word, tho’ I had not the letter till five years after it was written, that they went on but poorly, were male-content with their long stay there; that Will. Atkins was dead: that five of the Spaniards were come away, and that tho’ they had not been much molested by the savages, yet they had had some skirmishes with them; and that they begg’d of him to write to me, to think of the promise I had made to fetch them away, that they might see their own country again before they dy’d” (FA, 342).
9. Bacon, De augmentis scientiarum, II.2, tr. Spedding, The Works, VIII.415 (my italics).
10. See also Gilles Deleuze, Logique du sens (Paris, 1969), p. 63: “it is clear that Robinson on his desert island can only reconstruct an analogue of society by providing himself all at once with all the rules and laws that mutually imply one another, even when they have as yet no objects.” Deleuze goes on to suggest that there is a lack of commensurability between the existence of such a social structure and what he calls the gradual “conquest of nature.” In Crusoe’s case there is, then, a paradox between the simultaneous and immediate existence of all social rules (“juridical, religious, political, economic, of love and work, of kinship and marriage, of slavery and freedom, of life and death”) and the necessary but progressive winning of knowledge about nature—equally essential to societal existence (pp. 63–64). I do not feel there is any paradox here, and it is ‘ahistorical’ to suppose that the constitution of the laws in question is “instantaneous.” That is part of a fad for ‘rupture.’ That there is change is hardly in question, but the discursive change is itself a gradual “conquest,” as I am seeking to show. As to the paradox, given process it no longer exists: the “conquest of nature” will be made in terms of the gradual imposition of discursive rules and laws. In turn it affects them. This is Bacon’s ‘dialectic of knowing’; it is also a dialectic of acting.
11. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, tr. Barbara Foxley, intro. P. D. Jimack (London, 1974), p. 147; The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, ed. George Otto Trevelyan, 2 vols. (London, 1876), I.408.
12. Ibid., pp. 147–48. Crusoe has already ‘made’ a kind of visionary journey out of the world which will later be recounted in His Vision of the Angelick World. Ostensibly he had had the vision on the island, though it will not be told till after the Serious Reflections (see below, note 21, for full reference).
13. Novak, Economics and the Fiction of Daniel Defoe, p. 48.
14. The presence of this ‘intention’ depends, needless to say, on the presence of the structure of experimentalism which creates it and in which it is embedded. That it is present will be shown at length in a moment.
15. These discursive ruses have their physical counterpart in various of Crusoe’s activities on the island: the way in which his “fortress” and his goat pens are made to look like woods, the covered pits he makes as traps, his disguises while tricking the mutinous sailors, the trick taken from The Tempest by which the sailors are lured off into the island, and so on. The same point is made in a slightly different context by Pierre Macherey, Pour une théorie, pp. 273–74.
16. Charles Gildon, indeed, argues that the case is similar for all of Crusoe’s misfortunes: The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Mr. D——D——, of London, Hosier (London, 1719), pp. 8–9. Peter Earle also remarks on the overwhelmingly common nature of the supposedly special mishaps that befall Crusoe: “People were not shipwrecked or captured quite so often in reality [as they are in all of Defoe’s novels] but these were fairly common hazards of the sea,” and he adds, “never can there have been so many ships at sea whose sole function was to seize or destroy other ships” as there were in the years just before and during those which see all of Defoe’s activity as a writer (The World of Defoe [London, 1976], pp. 65, 59).
17. Earle, The World of Defoe, p. 68.
18. In that sense it occurs after The Farther Adventures and may be said to be contemporary, as to its role with regard to the story, with the Serious Reflections. It is of small matter whether Defoe was himself ‘conscious’ of these various levels or not: that is beside the point, for I am speaking of a discursive order (class) over which, as such, neither Defoe nor any other writer (or speaker) has very much, if any, control.
19. Macherey, Pour une théorie, p. 274.
20. Earle, The World of Defoe, pp. 47–48.
21. Daniel Defoe, Serious Reflections during the Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe: with his Vision of the Angelick World, Written by Himself (London, 1720), p. 2.
22. Ibid., p. 135 (my italics).