Written in the early 18th century, Robinson Crusoe was published about one hundred years after The Tempest, yet despite this great gap of time, the two still share many common values and themes. In both, the main characters exhibit a great deal of patience in confronting their situation, and are excellent examples of the human will to survive, of hope. Yet both novels also carry an unconscious sense of superiority for “civilized” – European – culture, and a disregard or disdain for the “savage” indigenous.
In The Tempest, Caliban, considered a native of the isle (though indeed he was not), was looked down upon as uncouth and wanting in a proper education. Though Prospero did teach him, he thought little of enslaving Caliban when he attempts to rape his daughter, an extreme he probably would not have taken had Caliban been European, because to him, Caliban was never really equal in the first place.
In Robinson Crusoe, Crusoe also maintains this sense of condescension towards the “barbaric” natives. Crusoe always looked upon Friday as his subordinate, not his equal. This is even evident in the name he gives him: Friday, not a more usual “Christian name”, but simply the day of the week that he rescued him. He also teaches Friday to call him “Master”, assuming such a role before he is even sure of the man’s undying loyalty toward him. Crusoe’s prejudice towards Friday’s people is perhaps most evident in his discussions on religion with Friday: he is convinced of the “rightness” of his beliefs, and so decides to “instruct him in the knowledge of the true God” (Defoe 158). In doing so, he does not acknowledge any possibility of a validity of other belief systems, and instead persuades Friday that what he believes is wrong – terming it “fraud”, “pretense” and “cheat” (Defoe 159) – and that Christianity is the Truth, “opening his eyes”. Here during this discussion, he also refers to Friday’s people as “the most blinded ignorant pagans” and seems somewhat incredulous that there is even a priest system amoung them, that they could possibly be so advanced.
Both novels demonstrate the attitudes of the time, attitudes that took far more than a single century to change. For readers of today, these attitudes are generally regarded as wrong, yet they are reflective of the society that produced them, and so should always be regarded in that light.