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Autor: anton 21 May 2011
Words: 1278 | Pages: 6
Robinson Crusoe's experiences with trading both commodities and slaves reflect the contemporary British economics model that existed in the eighteenth century Europe. To illustrate this situation I would like talk about the Atlantic system which was significant for exchanging goods, the English colonies in South America, and the relationship of society to the slaves in context of Robinson Crusoe written by Daniel Defoe.
The Atlantic system also called the "triangular" trade was made by trans-Atlantic routes. It emerged as a result of high demand of British society for commodities that were not available in their region, and were considered luxuries. These desired goods were: sugar, tea, coffee, tobacco, and chocolate. They could not be grown in Europe, so merchants started to trade British produced goods for these which were preferred in England. The ships sailed from Europe to the West coast of Africa, where rum, hardware, weapons, and clothes were exchanged for slaves. When cargo was sold and slaves tightly packed on board, the ship would sail to the Americas. There the slaves were traded for molasses or sugar and then from the seacoasts of the Americas, ships returned to England. Trading was a popular lifestyle because it gave merchants an opportunity to become wealthy as well as the possibility of traveling to far away places.
Robinson Crusoe, a young man from England, had dreams to see the world. He wanted to travel, to experience adventures, and to live a plentiful life. Despite his conflict with his father, Robinson, driven by curiosity and willingness to become a wealthy man, decided to go on board of a ship. Thanks to good circumstances he sailed to Guinea, and traded goods such as toys and trifles. Crusoe was a fast learner and he found that trading with local people was easy, and he was able to buy slaves and gold for things like knives or scissors. After this voyage, he was not quite satisfied with a few ounces of gold that he earned. It was not enough for him, still motivated by gaining a profit; Robinson decided to become one of the traders.
Defoe also showed in his book the dismissive attitude of the British people towards slaves. Slaves were treated as objects which could be sold or exchanged any time, and who were supposed to be obedient to their masters. Slaves also had an impact on one's prosperity because they were an essential source of cheap labor; therefore owning slaves could bring you a lot of profit, and were valuable for trading. Most of the slaves came from Africa and through "triangular" trade they landed either in one of the Americas or in the Caribbean islands. In the eighteenth century, the slave trade flourished and almost six million people were enslaved. They were transported harshly and they worked in inhumane conditions that caused high mortality among them.
To represent the people's approach to slaves, Defoe uses Robinson's attitude towards Xury. Robinson, after being in captivity for two years, not only escaped and regained his freedom, but also possessed a slave, Xury. Xury was a young boy that Robinson kept as a servant after his escape. Robinson, who was treated as an equal person with Xury during captivity, right after the escape he proved his authority to the young boy. What is more, Xury's life depended on his obedience to Robinson. Crusoe knew that Xury will provide a good source of labor, protection, as well as he will be a valuable "subject" for trading. Crusoe was aware about his trumps and as soon as the chance appeared at the horizon he did not hesitate to sell his slave for money that gave him a good start in Brazil. He did not have any regrets when he traded his slave because his vision of profit was stronger then human feelings.
Traded commodities from European colonies had a great impact on the British economy. In the eighteenth century Europe, the population increased significantly in comparison to the centuries before. The more people settled the bigger the demand was for goods, especially for those commodities which were luxuries, for example: tea, coffee, tobacco, chocolate, sugar, newspapers, and books. These products were not produced locally; they came from European colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, which made them expensive and highly desired. Trading these goods was a lucrative transaction. Many Europeans, motivated by profit, settled on a new land and to maximize their usage from natural resources, they established cities, plantations, and mines. In order to cultivate their plantations and gain revenue, new settlers started to exploit local people, and to bring slaves from Africa.
After Robinson's arrival in Brazil, he managed to found a sugar plantation which gave him a profit in a short period of time. Crusoe was able to increase his plantation and to grow tobacco, which with sugar, were very valuable to the Europeans. Crusoe was an entrepreneurial man who tried to use every available occasion to multiply his profit. He started to import some commodities from England to Brazil. He imported and supplied local markets with things like: clothes, stuffs, and bays that contributed to Robinson's prosperity. As his business grew, he needed more then one slave who would provide labor for his plantation. This was the main reason for the next of Crouse's voyages, which was especially devoted to purchasing slaves for him, and the other merchants.
Defoe, numerous times in his book, demonstrates the superiority of white men over the savages. In Crusoe's view, European traders were convinced that savages belonged to the second category of people, and whom you can either slaughter or make them your slaves. He also realized that slaves could be dangerous and that is why he always carried guns and spent extra time to secure his property on the island. After many years spent in solitude, Robinson Crusoe desired to enslave local people so they could work on his plantation. He always waited for the right moment to get "a servant, and perhaps a companion or an assistant" (Defoe, p146). Finally after a long wait, regardless of the danger, he decided to save his future servant's life from the savages' hands.
His slave, Friday, knew immediately that he will have to pay his debt as a servant and showed unquestionable restitution to his savior. Friday was aware of who was "the absolute lord and lawgiver" (Defoe, p177), and the first word that Friday was able to speak was "master." Despite the fact that Crusoe appreciated Friday's company, he admitted that it was "my business to teach him every thing that was proper" (Defoe, p154), and made him helpful and useful. Robinson taught Friday how to speak, made him stop being a cannibal, and showed him a new religion. Being thankful for saving his life, Friday was an obedient and a faithful slave to Crusoe.
I think Robinson Crusoe's experiences reflect the British economics in the eighteenth century. Crusoe, motivated by his vision of a wealthy life, started trading both commodities and slaves. He was selling and buying products which were desired either in England or Brazil. It made him a prosperous man. Even during his stay at the deserted island, Crusoe was able to turn an uninhabited land into a thriving plantation. Crusoe also seized slaves, Xury and Friday; on whose example Defoe illustrates the attitude toward and treatment of slaves in the eighteenth century.
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