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An Ecocritical Interpretation of Robinson Crusoe

Author ZhouZuo
Tutor HuZhiHong
School Sichuan Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Daniel Defoe Robinson Crusoe ecocriticism ecologicalcolonization cultural colonization
CLC I561.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2013
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Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) is the first realistic novelist in18th century England. Regarded as the father of the English novel, he is famous for the realistic writing style. He publishes many works, which win universal praise. His first novel, Robinson Crusoe, published in1791, is a great success and becomes widely-read book after Bible. Therefore, it is warmly welcomed by millions of Chinese and Western readers from generation to generation. This work not only shows the braveness of the protagonist, but also reveals the spirit of enterprise of the bourgeoisie and consciousness of Enlightenment. The main character Robinson Crusoe is considered to be the first positive example of the capitalist class. Because of this, Defoe is also considered as the spokesman of the newly rising bourgeois. However, the postcolonial critics and ecocritics have different ideas towards this world classic. They argue when Crusoe conquers the nature and the people to build a colony himself, he is not merely a hardworking laborer, but more a greedy bourgeois and a colonizer who is not satisfied with what he has gained and eager for more wealth and higher power. This goes against the basic doctrine of ecocriticism that every entity in the biosphere enjoys the equal rights. Therefore, the writer of this thesis tries to use ecocriticism to analyze Crusoe’s colonization actions from the aspects of nature, gender and race.No longer appears as a national hero, Crusoe now stands for the western conquering spirit. First of all, Crusoe’s exploitation and occupation of the land, the animals and the plants reveal his anti-nature nature. His greedy and utilitarian personality is also exposed. Then this work still reflects Crusoe’s sexist discrimination against women. Being male’s stooge, these female characters only enjoy their instrumental values like animals and lost their own identities. Finally, thought to be inferior because of their race, these natives are deprived of the basic rights and cultural colonized by Crusoe. All these actions embody Crusoe’s colonial thought.Crusoe not only imposes his will on nature, but also uses the modern tools to manipulate and exploit the animals, the women and the natives, which has presented a new image of Crusoe. This outlook will indeed exert profound influence on later readers and writers, because this new unconventional image gives them a fresh understanding about this classic. Meanwhile, it makes people have a further and more complete understanding about the historical and cultural root of ecological crises, with the purpose of searching for a more complete and practical cultural way which can guide people walk out the environmental crises.

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