Robinson, the protagonist of Defoe's novel, is a headstrong young man when we meet him in 1651 in his home town of Hull, England. His parents are German and his father's original last name was Kreutznaer, before he came to England from the German town of Bremen. In 1652, against the will of his parents, Robinson begins a life of sea-faring adventure. On only his second trip, however, he is captured by a pirate ship and spends the next two years as a slave to the pirate king. After he escapes with another young slave, Xury, he is taken in by a Portuguese trading ship. He makes friends with the Captain and is taken to Brazil where he sets up a plantation. His next trading venture is ill-fated, however, and he is shipwrecked off a deserted island. Robinson is the only survivor of the voyage and must learn how to make his way alone and stranded. He spends 28 years making the island his home. Among other things, he grows corn and barley, herds goats, gathers wild fruits, hunts, and builds an elaborate fort. Late in his stay, he begins to notice cannibals landing on his island to make human sacrifices. He befriends one of the victims, who had escaped before being eaten. He names the man Friday, and the two live together for several years, debating vigorously one of Robinson's favorite topics: the virtues of Protestantism. Friday's father is also taken to the island. Together, the men plan to build a large canoe and escape. But when a British ship finally lands on the island, its sailors in mutiny, Robinson sees his chance and forms and alliance with the captain. Together, they fight off the mutinous sailors and return to Europe. Robinson gives up his plantation, but with the profits that have gone uncollected for 28 years, settles a rich man in England. The story ends with Robinson's wanderlust flaring up again, and he determines to travel once more.
Friday is the name that Robinson gives to his companion for his last years on the island. He is a cannibal, and was in the process of being sacrificed by his countrymen when he escapes and is found by Robinson. Instead of killing him, Robinson makes a big show of sparing Friday's life. This gesture indebts Friday to Robinson and the two live together until they leave the island. Friday even allows himself to be weaned off human flesh by Robinson, as well as to be schooled in Protestantism. Robinson estimates Friday's age to be about 26 when they meet.
Xury is the young boy that had been enslaved with Robinson when he lives with the pirates. The two escape together one morning when they are ostensibly on a fishing journey. When they are rescued by the Portuguese ship, Robinson reluctantly "sells" Xury to the Portuguese Captain, who agrees to set Xury free in ten years if he accepts a Christian God. Xury agrees to the deal, even though Robinson voices concern over the buying and selling of human beings.
The Portuguese Captain
The Captain of the ship that rescues Robinson becomes Robinson's friend until the end of the novel, and he becomes the person that Robinson trusts most in the world. He helps Robinson set up camp in Brazil, and when Robinson returns after 28 years on the island, the Captain -- who had been receiving a portion of the profit from Robinson's plantation while Robinson was away -- calculates how much money he owes Robinson and pays him back.
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