Robinson Crusoe Criticism Essays


      Of all the attachments set forth in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, perhaps none is stronger than that of the heroine to her writing implements. She takes great care to possess these, partly because she has to--she knows her parents may at any time seek to obstruct her by taking them away--and part!y because she is just that kind of person; she will always have pen and ink with her because she is always writing.

      Near the beginning of the story she describes the measures she takes to persist in this, her vocation; on April 5 she relates to Miss Howe:

I must write as I have opportunity; making use of my concealed stores: for my pens and ink (all of each that they could find) are taken from me; as I shall tell you more particularly by and by (1).

Further in the same letter she reports Betty, the maid, as saying, "I must carry down your pen and ink"; this is followed by her cousin Dolly's regretfully insisting, "...You must--indeed you must--deliver to Betty--or to me--your pen and ink" (2). Thus it is established early on that Clarissa's writing tools are not only, in her parents' eyes, instruments of her insubordination, but, in the eyes of the reader, they become symbols of her dedication to writing. Nothing can separate her from them, nor will she ever allow herself, except in moments of utmost duress, to be without the means, and the will, to use them.

      For Clarissa's captors (first her parents, and later Lovelace), her writing becomes a focus of their inability to control her completely. Shortly after her pens and ink are confiscated, her aunt tells her that the family is convinced that "you still find means to write out of the house."(3) Later, Lovelace determines that she will not be fully in his power without his being able to monitor her correspondence; of the letters between Clarissa and Anna Howe he writes (on May 8, to Belford):

     I must, I must come at them. This difficulty augments my curiosity. Strange, so much as she writes, and at all hours, that not one sleepy or forgetful moment has offered in our favour (4).

Clarissa, ever vigilant of her most prized activity, of course suspects and even anticipates Lovelace's designs. On April 26 she warns Miss Howe:

      Mr. Lovelace is so full of his contrivances and expedients, that I think it may not be amiss to desire you to look carefully to the seals of my letters, as I shall to those of yours (5).

Her wariness here does not prevent Lovelace from successfully interfering, but it does demonstrate her determination to protect her writing.

      Her primary determination, to be engaged in the act of writing itself, is manifest in numerous passages. On April 20, she observes to Miss Howe, "Indeed, my dear, I know not how to forbear writing. I have now no other employment or diversion" (6). To Mrs. Judith Norton she avers, "I will write. But to whom is my doubt" (7). When it is suggested that she should share a bed with Miss Partington, who will wait up with Dorcas until Clarissa is done writing, she replies that "...Miss Partington should be welcome to my whole bed, and I would retire into the dining-room, and there, locking myself in, write all the night" (8).

      This last statement reminds us that essential to the writer's vocation is the condition of solitude, for which Clarissa displays a like determination. "The single life," she observes on July 23 to Miss Howe, "...has offered to me, as the life, the only life, to be chosen" (9). The next day Lovelace reports to Belford:

The lady shut herself up at six o'clock yesterday afternoon, and intends not to see company till seven or eight this; not even her nurse--imposing upon herself a severe fast. And why? It is her BIRTHDAY! (10).

Thus there is no greater present that Clarissa can give to herself than solitude--and the opportunity to write.

      When Mrs. Howe forbids her daughter to receive further letters, Miss Howe over-rules her mother, saying, "But be assured that I will not dispense with your writing to me. My heart, my conscience, my honour, will not permit it" (11). Clarissa, in response, declares:

I forego every other engagement, I suspend every wish, I banish every other fear, to take up my pen, to beg of you that you will not think of being guilty of such an act of Love as I can never thank you for; but must for ever regret. If I must continue to write to you, I must (12).

It appears that the regret expressed here is simply for defying the parental authority of Mrs. Howe; Clarissa regrets not at all Miss Howe's insistence on continuing to receive her letters. And, incidentally, Mrs. Howe seems to have ambivalent feelings about cutting off Clarissa's correspondence. Near the end Anna writes:

You are, it seems (and that too much for your health), employed in writing. I hope it is in penning down the particulars of your tragical story. And my mother has put me in mind to press you to it, with a view that one day, if it might be published under feigned names, it would be of as much use as honour to the sex. My mother says [...] she would be extremely glad to have her advice of penning your sad story complied with (13).

Evidently, whatever apprehensions Mrs. Howe has about the corrupting influence of Clarissa upon her daughter are overcome by an eagerness not to miss out on what Clarissa will write. Clarissa's reputation as a writer is widespread. Lord M. comments to Lovelace, "... for I am told that she writes well, and that all her letters are full of sentence" (14). After she escapes Lovelace, he complains to Belford, "I have no doubt, wherever she has refuged, but her first work was to write to her vixen friend" (15). Even Arabella jealously admits the power of her sister's prose, beginning a letter (just a month before Clarissa's death) as follows:

Sister Clary,--I wish you would not trouble me within any more of your letters. You had always a knack at writing; and depended upon making every one do what you would when you wrote (16).

      Clarissa maintains her output until the very end, despite the difficulty it gives her. Belford reports on August 28 to Lovelace, "Mrs. Lovick told me that she had fainted away on Saturday, while she was writing, as she had done likewise the day before" (17). The day before she dies, Clarissa is too weak to hold a pen, but she dictates to Mrs. Lovick what will be her last letter, for Miss Howe: "Although I cannot obey you, and write with my pen, yet my heart writes by hers" (18).

      It is tempting if not entirely justifiable to see Clarissa as representing somewhat the writer's condition. Besieged by the interfering forces of family, suitors, and society, hailed as a paragon and regarded as an oddity, abused, exploited, and made to suffer numerous hardships, she nevertheless manages to demonstrate stamina and perseverance in her chosen form of expression, her art.

      It is doubtful, however, that this was Richardson's intention. He wanted Clarissa to represent moral, not literary, virtue. Her prolific letter-writing is simply a by-product of circumstance--what the situation demands--as well as an expedient for telling the story in epistolary form.

      This is too bad, for otherwise her writing might have saved her. Richardson must have had a grudge with the world, and decided to show that Clarissa was too good for it. He let death stop her; he had her, in effect, choose to die. But if Clarissa was what she seems, if she was as attached to her vocation as she shows herself to be, would she have done this? Could her troubles have killed her? No matter how ill and dispirited she was, might she not have endured simply to avoid relinquishing her pen and ink?


 
(1) Page 110. This and the following page references are from Samuel Richardson, Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady, abridged and edited by George Sherburn, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Riverside Editions, 1962).
(2) Page 111.
(3) Page 124.
(4) Page 215.
(5) Page 197.
(6) Page 181.
(7) Page 345, from letter of July 6.
(8) Page 206, from letter or May 1.
(9) Page 393.
(10) Page 397.
(11) Page 207, from letter of May 3.
(12) Page 208, May 4.
(13) Page 407, letter of July 28.
(14) Page 247, letter of May 23.
(15) Page 277, letter of June 8.
(16) Page 420, August 3.
(17) Page 440.
(18) Page 467, September 6.


by Ann-Marie Henry-Stephens


      In naming her novel A Sicilian Romance, Ann Radcliffe may have attempted to deliberately deceive her readers by disguising the artistic complexities of this novel with its simple title. This novel is full of intrigue, suspense, tyranny, drama and villainy. It allows the reader to experience emotions ranging from fear and disgust to love and sympathy. Like the many characters who get lost in the recesses of the castle, the forests, the monastery, the ruined buildings, and the Sicilian landscape, so too do the readers get lost to the outside world when engaged in the plots and sub-plots of this novel. The Gothic elements( the haunted castle, the possible supernatural presence, the decay, and the dark gloomy environs) used in the novel help to enhance its richness and mysteriousness. The characters themselves are the most intriguing, for they embody the deceitfulness and the disguises which force the readers to want to discover all that lies behind the walls of the Mazzini castle.
      Ferdinand, fifth marquis of Mazzini, a ruthless, tyrannical leader, heartless father, and cruel husband (to his first wife Louisa Bernini) was the personification of deceit. He had power, and he used it mercilessly and arrogantly. He ruled by overpowering, threatening, lying to, and manipulating others. When he met and fell in love with Maria de Vellerno, he sought to get rid of the woman he was already married to, without care for her or for her children. He imprisoned the ailing Louisa in the southern wing of the castle and then told everyone that she was dead. The marquis further compounded his deception by holding a funeral for Louisa "with all the pomp" due to her rank. He enlisted the help of a servant, Vincent, who was totally dependent on and in awe of him, to carry out his plans. In relating the story of her imprisonment Louisa said of him, "My prayers, my supplications, were ineffectual; the hardness of his heart repelled my sorrows back upon myself; and as no entreaties could prevail upon him to inform me where I was, or his reasons for placing me here, I remained for many years ignorant of my vicinity to the castle, and of the motive of my confinement" (177). In fact, the marquis never told the marchioness why she was being held, and she only gained this information through the 'softening' of Vincent's heart.

      The marquis' deceitfulness knew no boundaries, for he went on to commit further acts that would allow him to go undetected. He shut up the southern section of the castle, left his daughters in the care of Madame de Menon, a dear friend of his first wife, and went to live in Naples with his son and new wife for many years. After the death of Vincent and his subsequent return to the castle, he still tried to cover his tracks. When Madame, the girls and the servants saw lights appear in and heard sounds emitting from the southern section of the castle, he dismissed their claims as, "the weak and ridiculous fancies of women and servants..."(14). Later on, when his son Ferdinand went to him with similar claims, he chose to attack his mind and manhood. When Ferdinand persisted in his claims, his father added to the mountain of lies, by telling him that the building was haunted by the ghost of Henry della Campo, a rival of his (the marquis') grandfather, who had been killed there many years ago. Ferdinand was deceived, for he believed his father's story, especially since the marquis claimed that he himself had witnessed the horror of seeing the ghost. The marquis also sought to deceive his superstitious and fearful servants, by taking them to the southern section and showing them fallen stones, which he claimed to be the cause of the sounds coming from that part of the castle. He made sure to stop short of where his wife was hidden. They, however, were not placated by his explanation.

      The marquis was an ambitious man and did not hesitate to use whatever or whoever he could to achieve his ambitions. When the Duke de Luovo asked for his daughter Julia's hand in marriage, the marquis saw an opportunity for himself there and consented to the marriage solely on selfish grounds. He saw this marriage as a chance to gain more "wealth, honor and distinction" (56). He also saw a chance, at Julia's expense and through the duke's means, to "involve himself in the interests of the state" (188). The marquis sought to deceive the Duke also, for after Julia succeeded in running away from the castle and her nuptials, the marquis "carefully concealed from him her prior attempt at elopement, and her consequent confinement," thereby enraging the duke whose pride was wounded by the insult. They quarreled, but subsequently made up, allowing the marquis to gain a strong ally in his endeavors.

      The Duke de Luovo was very much like the marquis in character. He loved power, and he exercised it at the expense of everyone. He had a violent temper and a very high opinion of himself and his authority. He pretended to care deeply for Julia, when he was really only interested in acquiring her because of her beauty. Once she revealed her true feelings to him, he was humiliated and inflamed so, with her father's consent, sought to have her anyway. After her flight he pursued her mercilessly, simply because his passion for her "was heightened by the difficulty which opposed it." Julia was just an object of his desire and his pride.

      The duke had another thing in common with the marquis; he too had a child who had run away from him. His son, Riccardo, had run away from him many years before, and he had never been able to find him. When he finally did encounter him, he was surprised to find him disguised as a banditti. Ricardo, after running away from his father, "had placed himself at the head of a party of banditti, and, pleased with the liberty which till then he had never tasted, and with the power which his new situation afforded him," was a contented young man (88). He knew that as a member of the nobility, if at any time he chose to shed this disguise and resume his rank, it could be accomplished with minimal explanations and scrutiny. His father's pride was devastated, and so he wished his son dead.

      The true characters of "the men of the cloth" in this novel were curiously hidden from the world outside their monasteries. On his journey to find Julia, the duke encountered a monastery full of rowdy friars and a drunken Superior, whom he was initially told were "engaged in prayer," when he sought refuge at their gate. The Abate, at the abbey of St. Augustin, was another disguised individual. He used his position and authority to control those around him, and to seek revenge on those who opposed him. He was not the benevolent character that one would expect to find in his position. He used his power to defy Julia's father and he reveled in it. He accused Julia of using "the disguise of virtue" to gain his protection, but he instead tried to use her fear, her naivete, and her desperate situation to force her to become a nun.

      The "fairer sex" was equally deceptive, but their reasons, for the most part, were based on love and self-preservation. Julia deceived her father not out of malice, but because of fear for the life she would have to live and because of her love for Hippolitus. She also deceived her sister Emilia, because of her love for her and her need to protect her from the marquis. Julia's deceptiveness was not only in her actions, but in her character, for she appeared to be a fragile girl who fainted or cried at every unbearable thought or deed, but she was in fact a very strong woman. She openly defied her father, fully aware of the consequences of her actions. She spent a very long time on the run, never really giving up hope, and never returning to her father. She was determined never to give in. A weaker woman might have returned home or committed suicide, rather than live through her experiences, but Julia never entertained those thoughts. She, however, found a woman like herself, who had made certain choices in her life, but this woman was not able to live with her choices.

      Cordelia, Hippolitus' sister, was in many ways disguising herself as a nun. She had decided to "take the veil," but her heart was not in her vows. She was still very much in love with an earthly presence, Angelo. She may have succeeded in deceiving those around her, but she could not deceive herself, hence her early demise.

      The supreme mask was worn by Maria de Mazzini, the wife of the marquis. This woman was able to blind her shrewd and devoted husband. She was a beautiful woman, with an explosive temper, a mean, jealous spirit, and the capacity to manipulate. Her strong desire to have Hippolitus, and her intense jealousy of Julia, drove her to encourage the marriage of Julia and the Duke de Luovo. She also succeeded in having Madame de Menon leave in order to save her reputation with her husband. She wrongfully assumed that the Madame possessed the same spiteful quality that she had. If anything, the marchioness was the marquis' one weakness. She did not really love him, for a woman like that could only truly love herself. She was able to convince him of her devotion to him, even though she had had numerous affairs while being married to him. She carried on these affairs right under his very nose, but was never suspected by him. When he finally discovered her treachery, via a servant, being so blinded by his feelings for her, he was not able to carry out his initial plan of killing her. He, instead, chose to reprimand her and this she used against him. She committed suicide, left a note blaming him for her act, and informed him of his own impending death by her hand. She had been able to deceive him one last time, when she poisoned his drink during their dinner the evening before.

      The author's biggest deceptive device though was the Mazzini castle, the focal point of the mystery. This building served as perfect cover for the characters, their actions, and the secrets within it. The walls were able to hide much of what went on within them. The castle hid information from the characters and from the readers. Madame de Menon, Julia, Emilia, Ferdinand, and the servants did not know what was responsible for the noises and lights in the southern section. The children did not know that their mother was alive and living so close to them. Ferdinand was not aware that as he was languishing in the dungeon, his mother was within a stone's throw. Maria de Mazzini did not know about the first marchioness. The marquis did not know that Maria was having affairs right there in the castle. He was not aware of her deceptiveness and her true character, which enabled him to be killed by her. He was not able to prevent Julia's escape from the castle and he was not aware of her return to it. This castle was the ultimate mask, for the readers never really see all of it and so cannot fully perceive all of its secrets, and so it retains its air of mystery till the very end of the story.


      Radcliffe, Ann. A Sicilian Romance. New York: Oxford, 1993.

Huck Finn's Hero Journey

by Janet House

      In his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell sets forth his theory that there is a monomyth which underlies all folk tales, myths, legends and even dreams.* Reflected in the tales of all cultures, including Chinese, Hindu, American Indian, Irish and Eskimo, this monomyth takes the form of a physical journey which the protagonist (or hero) must undergo in order to get to a new emotional, spiritual and psychological place. The monomyth is a guide which integrates all of the forces of life and provides a map for living.
      Campbell breaks down the cycle into three main stages: departure, initiation and return. Within these three stages are five to six steps through which the hero moves. First, the hero must leave his world and undertake a journey into an unknown world, in effect losing himself and descending into death. Next, he undergoes a series of tests, assisted by various helpers, which can be very dangerous and threatening. These tests serve as guideposts in his journey, and from each the hero learns something which helps to move him along. Finally, the hero reaches the apex of his journey, where there*is an apotheosis or transcendence. The hero, having evolved and emerged into his best possible self, must return home carrying with him his new found knowledge or boon to restore the world.
      First, Huck as the hero is not of noble birth whereas most of Campbell's protagonists are princes, princesses or divinely chosen in some way. While Huck Finn is special, he is, nevertheless, an ordinary American boy which other American boys can identify with. Secondly, magic and the supernatural play an important role in the tales Campbell uses to illustrate the hero cycle. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, however, there is no magic. There is luck, coincidence (at times highly unlikely coincidence), but there is no magic or supernatural. This again brings the story to a level that Americans can identify with. Finally, Huck's return is of a different nature than the traditional journey which reflects a particularly American ideal.
      Huck Finn's adventure begins when he sees his father's footprint in the snow. Up to this point, Huck describes his daily, routine life, but the footprint signals a change. Huck's father functions, therefore, as the herald signaling the call to adventure by "the crisis of his appearance" (Campbell, 51). As Campbell states:

The herald or announcer of the adventure is often dark, loathly, or terrifying, judged evil by the world; yet if one could follow, the way would be opened through the walls of day into the dark where the jewels glow (Campbell, 53).

Huck's father is portrayed as dark (morally, not physically), loathly, terrifying and he is indeed judged evil by the world, but it also he who precipitates Huck's journey.
      When Huck's father moves him into the woods, Huck is in the first stages of his journey. He is away from all that is familiar to him and the longer Huck remains in the woods, the more he adjusts to the ways of life there. He cannot imagine going back to civilization, wearing stiff clothes, minding his manners and all the other ways he has acquired living with the Widow Douglas. According to Campbell, this alienation from his previous life is part of the cycle:
The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals, and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand (Campbell, 51).

      Huck's next step in his journey is what Campbell calls "The Belly of the Whale": "The hero . . . is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died" (Campbell, 90 ). In order to proceed, the hero must leave his world totally and die into himself in order to be reborn again. He must relinquish his ties with this world in order to attain a higher level of existence, which is the purpose of his journey.
      Because Huck fears for his safety, he realizes that he must leave the woods. Yet he does not want to return to his previous life. Therefore, he elaborately stages his own death, planning every detail carefully so that everyone will think he is dead and will not, therefore, look for him and bring him back to the existence he has outgrown. This "self-annihilation" is absolutely crucial for the journey.
      After his "death," Huck floats down to Jackson's Island and spends three days and three nights by himself (reinforcing the theme of death and rebirth) before the next stage of his journey. Here, Huck meets up with Jim who is what Campbell refers to as "Supernatural Aid":
The first encounter of the hero-journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass (Campbell, 69).

      The fact that the aid often comes from a little old crone or an old man suggests that it comes from someone whom society does not value. To have someone whom society does not value provide essential elements to the journey is ironic. As the provider of "supernatural aid" to Huck, Jim, a 19th century black man, is not valued in human terms by his society. Indeed, he is not even thought of as human, which further heightens this irony.
      While Jim does not literally provide Huck with amulets against the dragon forces, figuratively, he does. As Campbell states: "what such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny" (Campbell, 71). Jim cares for and protects Huck, nurtures him and loves him, both mothers and fathers him, calling him "honey" and watching out for his safety. Most importantly, however, Jim provides Huck with a belief in humanity, where all along the river Huck sees evidence of man's corruption and cruelty. This belief is the amulet with which with Huck will fight off the "dragon forces," those forces being man's inhumanity to man.
      The Crossing of the First Threshold comes after Huck has learned that two men are on their way to the island. Up to this point, Jim and Huck exist in a kind of limbo, both having escaped their previous lives, but not going forward. At this point, they must move. Jim risks being captured and sold; Huck risks a return to the life he has outgrown. They must cross the threshold into the region of the unknown. Although this crossing is dangerous, the hero must move beyond it in order to enter a "new zone of experience" (Campbell, 82).
      At this point Huck, as the hero, moves into the second stage of his journeyþinitiation. It is here where he encounters the Road of Trials:
Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials . . . . The hero is covertly aided by the advice, amulets, and secret agents of the supernatural helper whom he met before his entrance into this region2illustrate (Campbell, 97).

These trials are tests for the hero which he must overcome in order to move forward in his journey. They serve as guideposts along the way, reflecting his progress and growth. By surviving these trials, the hero moves to a point of transcendence. The purpose of the trials is to gain some kind of knowledge or insight which the hero needs in order to complete his journey. This leads to the question: what is the purpose of Huck's journey? Every episode along the river in some way illustrates man's inhumanity to man. Meeting every walk of life, Huck's confrontation with this world illustrates cruelty and corruption of some kind. While some characters are obviously corrupt (the king and the duke, for example), all characters are tainted somehow. Even the most charitable characters--the woman Huck meets while dressed as a girl, the Grangerfords, the Phelps, Mary Jane--are tainted by their attitudes toward blacks or towards other people in general. However, Huck's exposure to society's corruption is balanced by the kindness he receives from certain people and by the humanity he learns from Jim.
      As a product of his society, Huck believes in slavery and also believes he is doing wrong by protecting Jim. But Huck comes to see Jim's own humanity through their friendship. Jim tells Huck that he is the best and only friend he has, the only white man who has kept his promise to him. Jim's belief in Huck's goodness is essential to Huck's physical as well as psychological journey. This relationship teaches Huck about caring for another human being in the face of ubiquitous cruelty. This is the more elevated purpose of Huck's journey. Huck learns the techniques for humane survival--how to exist in the cruel world and not be corrupted by it.
      Huck's trials finally come to a crisis when the king and the duke are attempting to swindle the Wilks girls out of their inheritance. Up until this point, Huck has remained rather passive with regard to their antics. Disgusted by their behavior, however, Huck exclaims: "It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race" (Twain, 285). He decides that he must take some action and his dilemma is over how to help the girls. Previously, Huck has lied to survive but here he realizes that his best option may be to tell the truth. This is a moment of transcendence for Huck as he rises above his experience of the past and takes a chance in telling the truth: "here's a case where I'm blest if it don't look to me like the truth is better, and actually safer, than a lie" (Twain, 299).
      This test also melds with what Campbell calls "The meeting With the Goddess." Because Huck is only a boy, there will be no "mystical marriage" with the "Universal Mother," the "incarnation of the promise of perfection." This is not to be a part of Huck's journey. Yet Mary Jane does inspire Huck. He finds her beautiful and it is because of her that he risks telling the truth and, consequently, he reaches a new level. It is obvious that she has a positive effect on him which propels him in his journey. Huck's description as he flees the cemetery and passes her house reveals this:
[M]y heart swelled up sudden, like to bust; and the same second the house and all was behind me in the dark, and wasn't ever going to be before me no more in this world. She was the best girl I ever see and had the most sand (Twain, 309).

      For Campbell, the Apotheosis occurs when the hero is raised to the level of the gods. It is a divine state which the hero attains after proving himself through his trials. Because this story is not about gods or mythic figures, Huck's apotheosis is reflected through his transcendence over his dilemma about Jim. Huck really believes he is doing wrong by helping Jim because of what he has learned in society. He even writes a letter to Miss Watson, revealing Jim's location. But Huck begins to think about Jim and his kindness, loyalty and friendship. He must choose between listening to the voice of society or his inner voice, which values Jim. He cannot violate the connection he has with Jim. However, because Huck really believes he is doing wrong by society's standards, it is a true moment of transcendence for him when he declares: "All right, then, I'll go to hell" (Twain, 309). Rising above the conventions and the level of society around him, Huck has attained a higher moral consciousness.
      The next stage in Huck's journey is The Return. After deciding to help Jim, Huck finds himself at the Phelps' farm, where they mistake him for their nephew, Tom Sawyer. This is the beginning of the "Crossing of the Return Threshold" because Huck is now back in a world which directly connects to the world he left behind.
      Tom and Huck's attempt to rescue Jim is "The Magic Flight." This is the last test, one of the purposes of Huck's journey being to free Jim. Campbell states that the Magic Flight can often become a "lively, often comical, pursuit . . . complicated by marvels of magical obstruction and evasion" (Campbell, 197). Again, the story does not involve magic, but the attempt to rescue Jim otherwise fits Campbell's description (even if the obstructions are for the most part created by Tom).
      Something interesting happens with the appearance of Tom. Huck has always looked up to Tom as the standard by which he measures himself. Yet Huck has been on a journey which has raised him above that standard. Curiously, when Tom reappears, Huck recedes, becoming passive. On the first reading, this section comes across as digressive from the normal hero cycle (and somewhat disjointed). It seems out of place with Huck's progression. But it can be reevaluated as a part of Huck's journey in that it serves to heighten the disparity between the two boys and, in doing so, we see Huck's growth.
      Huck still looks up to Tom, but he is not like Tom and does not use Tom as his model. He even calls Tom ridiculous and foolish, which is very different from his attitude towards Tom in the opening pages of the book where Tom is someone admired and respected. In this section, we see by comparison to Huck how conventional, ordinary, unimaginative and even cruel Tom is. All of Tom's ideas come from books; Huck develops his ideas himself. Tom's idea of style is to make his plans as complicated as possible and take as long as possible; Huck's solutions are always straight forward, simple and reveal his common sense. Tom even plays a trick on the slave who serves Jim which is reminiscent of the trick that Huck plays on Jim after the fog episode. However, at this point in his journey, Huck would never do this.
      Sometimes the hero is unable to return on his own. At this point, the "Rescue From Without" occurs:
The hero may have to be brought back from his supernatural adventure by assistance from without. That is to say, the world may have to come and get him (Campbell, 207).

Huck is indeed rescued from without by the Phelps, Tom and Aunt Polly. In an unlikely coincidence, they all appear as a deus ex machina whose appearance isn't logical but serves to bring Huck back.
      Huck's return is complete when the Phelps discover his identity and Huck learns that Jim is free. Huck also learns that his father is dead (releasing him from that legacy) and he still has his $6,000. There is a resurrection of his old self. Here, however, Huck's return digresses from the normal cycle. Campbell states: "the returning hero, to complete his adventure, must survive the impact of the world" (Campbell, 226). It is hard to say whether Huck accomplishes this.
      The monomythic hero, after attaining the Ultimate Boon, returns to his community and bestows his wisdom and knowledge for the good the "kingdom of humanity." Huck will not return to the Widow Douglas and he will not stay with the Phelps. He rejects their world and he doesn't want to be civilized. It seems as if he can't survive the impact of the world.
      But rather than a failed hero journey, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reflects a particularly American hero quest, the individualistic man going west, with all the inherent dangers involved, a pioneer taming and settling the land. Rather than returning for his old world, Huck's quest is to explore new territories.

Footnotes

* Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973). All further references to this work appear in parentheses in the text.

** Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in The American Tradition in Literature, ed. George Perkins, et al. (New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1990). All further references to this work appear in parentheses in the text.


The Verlocs at Their Final Encounter


      The Verloc murder scene depicts the reactions of two people to a crisis situation. It is a significant scene in terms of revealing basic personality traits and in terms of highlighting the fragmentation that exists in the Verloc marriage. Conrad makes obvious that the Verlocs perceive their marital roles in fundamentally different ways and that they are really strangers to each other. The black veil covering Winnie's face is merely the outward symbol of the secrecy and mystery pervading the Verloc household. Significantly, when Verloc pulls the veil away, he doesn't succeed in "unmasking a still unreadable face" (p. 211).
      As this scene of betrayal and retribution unfolds, we see a husband and wife who are totally out of tune with each other's emotions and thoughts. Verloc is thoroughly enveloped in domestic considerations at precisely the time that Winnie psychologically disengages herself from any commitment to him. In progressive stages, Winnie perceives herself as being "a free woman" (p. 209), fears that Verloc will "want to keep her for nothing" (p. 211), and finally resolves that "the bargain" is "at an end" (p. 215). Verloc, on the other hand, strives to "make it up with her" (p. 215) and can't begin to imagine "that his wife could give him up" (p. 211). The height of irony is achieved when Verloc seeks to "woo" Winnie as she moves toward him with the carving knife.
      It becomes clear that Winnie has looked upon the marriage as a transaction, and that Stevie's welfare has been the basis for that transaction. In return for Verloc's support of Stevie, Winnie has been a dutiful wife. Verloc, however, genuinely believes that he is and has been "loved for himself" (p. 214). Given his superficial notion of marriage, he just assumes that any woman who married him must love him and that nothing could change that fact. Therefore, although the "bargain" has been brutally terminated for Winnie, Verloc has no conception of this and his main concern remains the maintenance of his domestic tranquility.
      Indeed, Verloc's thorough domesticity is prevalent throughout this scene. His response to what he considers to be Winnie's "sulking in that dreadful overcharged silence" (p. 213) is that she's "a master in that domestic art" (p. 213). Conrad describes Verloc as being "tired" and "resigned in a truly marital spirit" (p. 213) and even refers to his voice as a "domestic voice" (p. 212). Also, it is implicit that Verloc perceives his situation as being comparable to that of "peaceful men in domestic tiffs" (p. 212). His total domesticity leads him to draw simplistic, familiar conclusions and colors his reading of Winnie's response. Beyond that, however, his preoccupation with his domestic self-image is so strongly stressed here, that we have to assume that it has colored much of his activity in general and that it is very central to his personality structure. (Thus, it is a final irony that he should be murdered by his wife and with a domestic knife.)
      Verloc is so totally preoccupied with his own concerns and is so shallow and insensitive, that he doesn't begin to comprehend the horror of his action or the shattering effect it has had on Winnie. Verloc is portrayed as being emotionally flat in this scene. He undergoes no inner or outer turmoil and there's no sense of vitality about him. Here is a man who faces his wife after causing her brother to be blown to bits, and we get no sense of any intensity of feeling from him. He manifests no remorse--just regret that things didn't work out according to plan--and instead concentrates on self-justifications. His main sensation seems to be fatigue and we get a sense of his indolence as his lies sprawled across the couch. Conrad adds his usual ironic touch by having Verloc meet his death lying motionlessly: he dies, as he has lived, in a state of inertia.
      Winnie, on the other hand, is described as one "whose moral nature had been subjected to a shock of which, in the physical order, the most violent earthquake of history could only be a faint and languid rendering" (p. 210). That analogy describes the magnitude of her emotional upheaval, and lies in sharp contrast to Verloc's unfeeling and inert state. A dichotomy exists, however, between Winnie's internal turmoil and her quiet exterior. The two are fragmented and out of tune with each other. She doesn't scream or get hysterical. All the activity is internal. Outwardly she remains inscrutable and uncommunicative and she retains tight control on any show of emotion. We get a picture here of a woman who has a very intense emotional capacity, but who, characteristically, keeps her feelings locked tightly within her.
      For a short while, Winnie does attain a harmonious state. A change comes over her appearance as she moves toward Verloc with the carving knife in her hand. She takes on Stevie's facial expressions and Conrad writes that "the resemblance of her face with that of her brother grew at every step, even to the droop of the lower lip, even to the slight divergence of the eyes" (p. 215). This may reflect the strong hold that Stevie still has over his sister. But more significantly, I think, it unmasks the cold, dispassionate facade that Winnie has learned to present. As she commits the murder, Winnie becomes a total creature of passion and the fragmentation between her interior and exterior states disappears. She becomes like Stevie who has an instinctive emotional reaction to an injustice and who must move to correct it. For a few moments, her veil of restraint falls away.

 

Humanity: A Look at Robinson Crusoe

“Daniel Defoe achieved literary immortality when, in April 1719, he published Robinson Crusoe” (Stockton 2321). It dared to challenge the political, social, and economic status quo of his time. By depicting the utopian environment in which was created in the absence of society, Defoe criticizes the political and economic aspect of England’s society, but is also able to show the narrator’s relationship with nature in a vivid account of the personal growth and development that took place while stranded in solitude. Crusoe becomes “the universal representative, the person, for whom every reader could substitute himself” (Coleridge 2318). “Thus, Defoe persuades us to see remote islands and the solitude of the human soul. By believing fixedly in the solidity of the plot and its earthiness, he has subdued every other element to his design and has roped a whole universe into harmony” (Woolf 2303).

A common theme often portrayed in literature is the individual vs. society. In the beginning of Robinson Crusoe , the narrator deals with, not society, but his family’s views on how he was bound to fail in life if his parents’ expectations of him taking the family business were not met. However, Defoe’s novel was somewhat autobiographical. “What Defoe wrote was intimately connected with the sort of life he led, with the friends and enemies he made, and with the interests of natural to a merchant and a Dissenter” (Sutherland 2). These similarities are seen throughout the novel. “My father...gave me serious and excellent counsel against what he foresaw was my design,” says Crusoe (Defoe 8-9) . Like Crusoe, Defoe also rebelled against his parents. Unlike Crusoe, however, Defoe printed many essays and papers that rebelled against the government and society, just as Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, did in England by depicting society languishing in social malaise (Marowski 231). It were these writings that eventually got Defoe charged with libel and imprisoned (DIScovering Authors). In Defoe’s life it was the ministry that his father wanted him to pursue (Sutherland 2), but, instead, Defoe chose to become a tradesman (DIScovering Biography). The depth of the relationship between Crusoe and his parents in the book was specifically not elaborated upon because his parent’s become symbolic not only of all parents, but of society. In keeping this ambiguous relationship, Defoe is able to make Crusoe’s abrupt exodus much more believable and, thus, more humane. The reader, in turn, supports Crusoe’s decisions even though “his social relationships were shipwrecked by the rising tide of individualism” (Watt 59). Defoe, too, “shipwrecked financially” in the economic boom in England in 1962 in what he would go on to say shaped Robinson Crusoe (Sutherland xi).

In Robinson Crusoe, Defoe uses the tale of a shipwrecked soldier to criticize society. Mainly, the story of Robinson Crusoe is based on a Scottish sailor named Alexander Selkirk who lived alone of the island of Juan Fernandez for over four years until he was rescued (Sutherland 7). In the island setting, Defoe was able to show what is necessary for the formation of a utopian society. This depiction, however, differentiated from later writers such as Huxley who’s vision is “regarded as a classic examination of modern values and utopian thinking” (Bloom 232). “(Crusoe) takes a piece of paradise and makes it a sovereign state. He is king of vale, lord of the country, squire of the manor” (Seidel 10). While politicians argue about the best way to create a “perfect” society, Defoe says that the only way that it happens in the presence of everything except people, creating “Catch-22” irony. This was a very controversial topic in England at the time. Many citizens and people of certain religions were being persecuted because of their political beliefs (DIScovering Biography). Defoe, however, believed that religious freedom and political freedom was a right that every member of society should have, so “his entry into the world of politics was perhaps inevitable. Defoe was never content to remain for long in the realm of impersonal thought; he had a dangerous way of applying his mind to persons and parties” (Sutherland 2).

In his isolation from the rest of the world, Crusoe is able to create a utopian society that not only he depends on for survival, but it is also dependent on him (Defoe 58). This “Marx-like” economic system which was created proved that a utopian environment is possible to create, though easier having only one “citizen”. There are no other people to corrupt or destroy the harmony in which Crusoe is living in with nature. “It was now that I began sensibly to feel how much more happy this life I now led was than the wicked, cursed, abominable life I led all the past part of my days”(Defoe 113). As Defoe depicts it, the narrator’s solitary confinement, even though it was an event that Crusoe viewed as being a punishment from God for his sins in the beginning, has really caused the narrator to become “enlightened” and has also made him realize that his new life was by far better than that in England. “The state of nature which Crusoe has lived, a solitary life on the island, possessed a purity that cannot be duplicated” (Peck 99), even making Crusoe say, “I cared not if I was never to remove from the place where I lived” (Defoe 207) and “I lived there..perfectly and completely happy, if any such thing as complete happiness can be formed in a sublunary state” (Defoe 217).

“In Robinson Crusoe, Defoe has hit upon a situation that asks to be worked out. The episodes will arise naturally from the situation and the situation is such that it can lead naturally to a complete change in a hero’s outlook, and ultimately to a solution of all his problems” (Sutherland 11). The island had an effect on Crusoe that went deeper than it becoming solely a tool for his survival. It caused Crusoe to development mentally, physically, and spiritually. “Crusoe begins as a wanderer, aimless on the sea he does not understand; he ends as a pilgrim crossing a final mountain to enter the promised land” (Hunter 103). It is the confinement of the island that finally makes Crusoe stop running away from his problems and face both his fears and reality (Rousseau 2317). Crusoe learns that by working with his surroundings, rather than loathing in his misfortune, he is able to find and use everything he needs in order to carry out life (Defoe 106). Thus, the island is symbolic of his growth and could be considered the “healing” that ultimately brought him to both God and the realization that he could keep himself alive becoming the epitome of “man’s contest with, and final victory over nature” (Hawthorne 2320).

Along with the criticism of society, Defoe is able to give symbolism to the objects around Crusoe that support the idea of the creation a utopian environment. The new-grown barley and corn on the island, which Crusoe calls a “prodigy of Nature” (Defoe 80), is really symbolic of the spiritual and emotional growth that is taking place within himself (Peck 96). These grains, however, were also a main source of food for Crusoe. The idea of the island and Crusoe living with each other and giving to one another in harmony fully supports the idea of a utopian society. It is at this time in the book that Crusoe realizes that he can be dependent upon himself in order to survive. This is also the time in which he realizes that his “misfortune” of becoming stranded on an island is really a blessing for all of his party was dead (Defoe 66).

The island itself has symbolic significance because it is the physical means which changed Crusoe to stop wandering (Butler 99). The confinement found on the island is what is mostly responsible for the growth in which took place within Crusoe. “By acquiring a sense of place, (he) also established a sense of self” (Butler 99). This, again, illustrates the dramatic change in character that has taken place within Crusoe over the course of his “adventure”. Some see this “solitude as the universal state of man” (Watt 55) and in the case of Robinson Crusoe, it was this solitude that essentially changed his whole psyche and made him less of a wanderer, both spiritually and physically, for he found faith in God and no longer was able to aimlessly stray due to the confinement on the island.

Though Crusoe has developed throughout the novel to except what has become of him, near the end, the reader sees that loneliness has started to take its toll. This is where Crusoe becomes the “human representative” (Coleridge 2318). He is able to sustain life by himself, but also misses the contact that he had in society. It was Aristotle who said the man “who is unable to live in society, or has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god” (Watt 53). Though Crusoe found his island sanctuary to Although Crusoe has created this flawless home, humans are social beings, and need the contact that does not come with living in solitude. The change that took place on the island, essentially, made Crusoe realize that even the utopian experience while isolated is not comparable to that of sharing human emotion and the riddance of loneliness and makes him appreciate it that much more (Novak 77). The utopia suddenly seems more life-like.

Robinson Crusoe is a “story told with modesty, seriousness, and with religious application of events”(Defoe 7) written as a first person narrative. It is this writing that has caused its unrivaled popularity..... “no single book in the history of Western literature has spawned more editions, translations, imitations, continuations, and sequels than Crusoe” (Seidel 8). The tone and point of view in which Defoe uses enables the reader to experience first-hand the changes that take place within Crusoe while he is on the island. This gives validity to every word and quote in the novel because it is actually the narrator’s words. This point of view clearly shows criticism and feeling without being altered by interpretation. It also has the effect of “making the narrative itself seem to claim possession of qualities that we associate with concrete matter rather than with fiction, or the abstract effect in our minds of a certain arrangement of words” (Butler 185).

In Robinson Crusoe, the narrator develops to form an optimistic outlook towards an unfortunate situation, and, thus, creates a utopia for himself both mentally and physically. By doing this, he, essentially, broke through the mold in which both British society and his parents had set for him when becoming stranded with only his thoughts and fears. “Crusoe finds the power to overcome a hostile world of hunger and sickness, animal and human brutality, even the power to overcome his most dangerous adversary, himself”(Hunter 102-103). In doing so, Defoe is really criticizing the society in which he lived saying that the only truly peaceful and loving society is that which contains one person, though, as in Robinson Crusoe, maybe this is not the society in which humans are capable of living in. Just as Crusoe eventually saw his situation more optimistically, Defoe is saying that a society which is less critical of itself is one that is closer to utopia.
 
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