Separation/Isolation causes a need for order

When there is no civilization, when there is no government, then order is in deficiency. William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe greatly parallel, in that both stories center around separation, and the dismantling of order that ensues. The characters’ isolation on their islands means there is no longer a proper government for them; they are now without law for protection. This loss causes the characters to no longer harbor their innate sense of order, allowing a constant fear of the unknown to surface. Upon Robinson’s arrival to Trinidad, following his sudden gratitude for his survival, Robinson’s mind begins to fret over the possibility what he may encounter, so much so that he “saw nothing but death” with the constant fear that he should “be devour’d by wild beasts, muther’d by savages, or starved to death” (Defoe 51). Robinson’s fear from his unfamiliar surroundings begins to engross him, such as the instance where he finds a man’s footprint in the sand, to which he tirelessly spends days trying to fortify his adapted defenses, even with years of no other signs of savages (Defoe 112). Alonso’s crew develops a sense of fear, not so much of savages, but of the spirits and their machinations. The fear that these characters harbor are conducive to the lack of order that arises from separation. Separation has forced Robinson and Alonso’s crew into an existence that is unfamiliar, they are no longer under the provisions and safety of civilization and government, and their reactions to their similar tribulations are exemplary of man’s natural need for order.

The protagonists of the two stories react to their isolation in a correlative manner. Both Prospero and Robinson harness the supernatural for their needs, although, these needs greatly differ. Defoe writes that Robinson was never a very religious person, as he claims that he “rejected the voice of Providence”, and his actions preceding his isolation indicate that Robinson was a rather callow, stubborn young man (Defoe 66). In the midst of his afflictions, however, Robinson begins to read the Bible for his need of emotional solace: “I daily read the word of God, and apply’d all the comforts of it to my present state” (Defoe 82). Robinson’s isolation has left him lonely, hopeless, and disquieted, leading him to find order in a being that he cannot see and cannot hear, yet manages to instill a sense of reason and protection in him. Prospero’s exploitation of the supernatural is less amiable. His needs comes from his insatiable need for power and revenge, leading Prospero to acquire magic. Prospero’s manipulates his magic to enslave spirits and the uncivilized to do his bidding. The sense of order Propsero seeks from his separation is not that of being governed, like with Robinson, but being that who governs.

Robinson’s affliction renews his faith in Jesus Christ, and he adopts a new set of ethics. Prospero’s separation also gives rise to a new order for him, for in the end he leaves the island humble with a newly acquired capability for forgiveness. The island not only serves as a plot device for the two stories, but also establishes an realm for examination of separation and isolation’s effect on the human existence, in that, it can dismantle the man’s sense of order, and how this privation however, this destruction can lead to rebirth of order.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Separation/Isolation causes a need for order

  1. aeernst

    While I completely agree that these texts are similar in the fact that separation causes a dismantling of order, I would compare Robinson Crusoe’s fear of the unknown to the attempted power shifts in The Tempest. Constant power struggles and attempted usurpations are the result of the isolation and the removal of government of the people marooned on the island, and their fear of their power being taken away is greater at many points than their fear of spirits and machinations because at many points they are not aware of the spirits influences on the progression of events.

  2. autumncassidy

    I thought it was interesting that that you mentioned that both Crusoe and Prospero harness the supernatural through which to channel their needs. I just wanted to explore the idea that perhaps Prospero and Crusoe as characters are so driven by their egos that the merit of even their own slaves must be so high that their servants characteristics must somehow reflect the qualities of their master. This is clearly displayed in the choosing of Friday to be Crusoe’s slave, as physically he is portrayed to be the “best” of the cannibals through his striking resemblance to a European and his overall lack of all characteristics that would be considered “foreign” or “unsettling” to Crusoe.

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