Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Growing Up Crusoe

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Growing Up Crusoe

Article excerpt

Every summer since childhood, I try to revisit Robinson Crusoe, novelist Daniel Defoe s classic 1719 tale of the title character's adventures as an island castaway.

Crusoe has been wrongly branded as a book just for boys, a discredit to a work that, like any great piece of literature, can speak to readers of all kinds. The pleasure of rereading it involves the promise of every masterpiece: namely, the possibility that the book will continue to grow with you - or, to put it more accurately, that you will keep growing with the book.

As a grade schooler, I liked best the parts about Crusoe hewing his own house from a cave, shooting game, .growing a garden, building a fort. His handiness enthralled me, since I was a bookish kid who wasn't great with tools or anything else celebrated as a manly art.

In later years, though, I noticed that Crusoe also spent time crafting something that even a bookworm and novice writer might create. With pen and paper salvaged from his shipwreck, Crusoe kept a journal, recording an account of his solitary existence. That might seem like an indulgent act for a man struggling to survive, but Defoe clearly saw that even in the direst of straits, humans need the comforting structure of story to prevail.

That truth is affirmed in the real-life presence of the cave paintings of Lascaux, made some 20,000 years ago in what is now the Dordogne region of southwestern France. You've no doubt seen pictures of the paintings, sublime images that include bulls, felines, equities, and human figures. …

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