The adventure novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe tells the story of the sailor Robinson Crusoe, who is stranded on a desert island where he lives for 28 years. The book is still a global success to this day and is often used as popular school reading. It was first published anonymously in 1719 by the almost sixty-year-old English merchant, adventurer, and journalist Daniel Defoe. Readers were supposed to believe that the account was genuine: the ageing adventurer was telling his life story himself. This could increase the suspense, especially because he described in the text how he himself had seen and killed cannibals and saved his servant from them.
The main inspiration for the novel seems to be the authentic account of the Scottish seafarer Alexander Selkirk, who after an argument had himself voluntarily marooned on an uninhabited island by his captain and spent four years there. After describing the origin of the work, we will elaborate on five topics relevant to the plot: cannibalism, piracy, slavery and the slave trade, colonialism in the 17th and 18th centuries, and racism.
The story is set in the 17th century and reflects the values and behaviors of its time. Robinson is first enslaved and then becomes a slave trader in the highly organised so-called Atlantic Triangular Trade. The slave trade was justified with the help of racist statements: The colonists were intellectually superior, and the natives were savage cannibals who should be civilized and converted to the Christian faith.
Finally, we examine the literary background. We have a look at the characteristics of the adventure novel in the work as well as the reception of the novel. Although the novel immediately became a bestseller, the author died in poverty.