Robinson Crusoe and The Tempest: Separation and the Role of Questioning

Personal separation is a prevalent theme in both The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe due to the fact that being alone allows the characters to look deep within themselves and their surroundings for the answer to present questions.

Last week when reading The Tempest, I noticed how separation was a major role in allowing the characters to question their own identity. This week when reading Robinson Crusoe, I noticed much the same ideal in that separation is a rampant theme in the text due to the fact that the story depicts the life of main character, Robinson Crusoe, after being shipwrecked and left to either succeed favorably on the island or face his demise. The latter idea is seen mostly in the beginning of the text, much the same as The Tempest, because of the fact that Robinson feels that he is “divided from mankind -a solitaire; one banished from human society” (Defoe 48). Similarly, the shipwrecked members in The Tempest feel that they are alone and left to survive, yet also blessed that they seemingly survived the horrible storm. Once Crusoe views the current state of seperation as fortunate, he begins to look towards “the invisible Power which alone directs such things” (Defoe 64) as having blessed his life and impacted it for the preferable.

Both texts show how separation on an island is sometimes favorable and also can be seen as an advantage for some that can learn the ways of survival (such as Robinson and Prospero/Miranda). Separation on both islands also serve as an outlet for time to question and think about personal roles in life and what exactly is important. Robinson Crusoe and The Tempest show how separation can be ideal in situations where questioning yourself can lead to the improvement of oneself and personal ideals concerning life.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Robinson Crusoe and The Tempest: Separation and the Role of Questioning

  1. aeernst

    I completely agree that Crusoe used his seclusion and time on the island in a beneficial manner for him, as he constantly stated how miserable his life would be if he had never repented and turned to God. He, for the most part, seemed very appreciative for his time on the island. However, I would also make the point that the members of Alonso’s crew were only marooned for a very short time, and we should therefore analyze how the isolation affected Prospero, Miranda, and even Caliban. Prospero was bitter and vengeful for the twelve years he was on the island, Miranda was ignorant of the world outside of the island, and Caliban was enslaved. Very little personal growth was made with their time on the island, save Prospero’s act of forgiving those who wronged him at the conclusion.

  2. I agree that the separation of the island creates a setting for introspection. Robinson Crusoe’s isolation forces him to seek some emotional outlet. Had he not been so secluded, Robinson may have been too occupied and distracted in his lifetime to adapt to Christianity, which in the end I feel it was beneficial for him. Robinson leaves a wiser man with a strong code of ethics to abide by. For The Tempest, I feel as though the separation for Prospero led to a more complex route for introspection and renewal of character. Prospero’s separation gave him an arena to unleash his magic free of limits, which ultimately led him to gain a greater understanding of the importance of forgiveness.

  3. I completely agree with what you said; the theme of personal separation in both literary sources we have read is quite prevalent.
    Although I think that personal separation means different things for the characters in The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe, it does allow plenty of time for the characters to think about their lives and see what they maybe should be doing differently. For Robinson Crusoe, he was very distraught (mostly in the beginning of the book) as to why he was stranded on the island. After a while he “discovers” God, and is convinced that finding and now truly believing in God is the reason he was brought to the island. In The Tempest, Prospero was on the island for 12 years, holding on to a grudge for a very long time. During this time, he was thinking about how he could get revenge on specific people. In the end, his time secluded on the island helped him really think and discover just how important forgiveness is.
    Again, while these two stories use separation on an island mean different things for the characters involved, I completely agree with your statement.

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