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Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe Summary


Here you will find a Robinson Crusoe summary (Daniel Defoe's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Robinson Crusoe Summary Overview

An adventurous young Englishman, despite his family's objections, chooses the sea over studying law. His initial voyage proves successful, but his ambitions lead him to a disastrous second journey. He becomes a captive of Moorish pirates but eventually escapes with a fellow slave, and they sail the African coast until rescued by a Portuguese captain. Sold by the protagonist to the captain, the slave boy offers passage to Brazil, where the Englishman becomes a successful plantation owner. Driven by the desire for cheap labor, he ventures to West Africa for slaves, only to be shipwrecked near Trinidad. Surviving alone, he salvages anything useful from the wreck and establishes a life on the island, marking each day to keep track of time. He fortifies his shelter, cultivates food, and even trains a pet parrot and goat. His peaceful solitude is broken by the discovery of a human footprint, which he links to regional cannibals. He lives in fear, further fortifying his home until he witnesses a group of cannibals bringing their victims to the island. One victim escapes and runs towards the Englishman's dwelling, who slays the pursuers and takes in the grateful escapee, naming him Friday. Friday, quick to learn English and the ways of Christianity, reveals that the cannibals are split into nations and only consume their enemies. He also shares that the cannibals had rescued Spaniards from a shipwreck, who are living nearby. As they plan to meet the Spaniards, they thwart a group of cannibals, rescuing a Spaniard and Friday's father. Their tranquil life is disrupted by a mutinying English ship. The islanders manage to turn the tide, capturing the ship and its mutineers. Deeming the island an imperial territory, they offer the men freedom in exchange for their return to England for justice. Overwhelmed, the protagonist faints upon securing the ship. Back in England, he learns of his family's demise but is pleased to discover the profits from his plantation in Brazil, which the Portuguese captain had honestly managed. Despite his apprehension towards sea travel, his restlessness leads him to the East Indies as a trader. He revisits his island, now a thriving colony under the Spaniards' rule.


An unidentified narrator shares his motivations for presenting the forthcoming tale. He refrains from directly referencing Robinson Crusoe or his journey, instead, he characterizes the story as a “private man’s adventures in the world” and praises its authenticity, calling it a “just history of fact.” The narrator declares the story to be humble and solemn, containing valuable lessons that prompt us to appreciate “the wisdom of Providence.” In light of this, he believes that by sharing Crusoe's story, he contributes significantly to society.

chapter 1

Robinson Crusoe, born in 1632 in York, England, pens his life journey. His father, of German descent and originally named Kreutznaer, raises him as the youngest of three brothers. His eldest brother is a soldier, while his other brother's whereabouts remain unknown. As the last born, his inheritance is minimal, prompting his father to push him towards studying law. However, Crusoe yearns for a seafaring life, a desire his family rejects. Despite his father's heartfelt advice on the virtues of a moderate lifestyle, Crusoe gives in to his wanderlust. One of his friends sets sail for London and Crusoe, unable to resist, joins him on September 1, 1651. A devastating storm hits near Yarmouth, filling Crusoe with fear and pushing him to plead with God for salvation. The ship survives the storm, and everyone onboard is safe. Crusoe takes this harrowing experience as a clear sign to abandon his dreams of the sea. His friend's father reinforces this idea, echoing the stern warning given by Crusoe's own father.

chapter 2

Leaving his friend, Crusoe ventures to London on foot. Here, he befriends a ship captain who invites him to join a forthcoming trade journey. Crusoe secures a forty-pound investment from his family for trade goods. The journey proves fruitful, yielding a profit of 300 pounds. Believing this to be a good fortune, Crusoe uses hundred pounds for his next trip, entrusting the remaining 200 to a widow he knows. The subsequent venture sees Crusoe fall victim to Moorish pirates near the Sallee coastline in North Africa. His ship is captured, and Crusoe, the sole Brit in Moorish custody, is forced into slavery. His captors assign him to fishing due to his innate talents. On a foggy day, their fishing boat loses its way, prompting the installation of a compass on board. The master also stashes gunpowder on the boat for an incoming shooting party that never arrives. Meanwhile, Crusoe bides his time.

chapter 3

Robinson embarks on a fishing trip with two fellow slaves, Ismael and a lad named Xury. He takes Ismael by surprise, pushing him overboard. When Ismael pleads to be rescued, Robinson threatens him with a gun and forces him back to shore. He then secures Xury's loyalty, who agrees to accompany him. By dusk, they have navigated 150 miles south from Sallee. They spot lions on land which Robinson successfully hunts and skins with Xury's help. Continuing their journey south, they edge closer to what Robinson suspects are the Cape Verde or Canary Islands. They encounter native Africans who they initially fear, but soon form a friendly rapport with after the natives offer them nourishment. The natives admire Robinson's shooting skills when he kills a leopard, gifting him the animal's hide. Lost, Robinson spots a European vessel on the horizon. The ship rescues the pair, and its friendly Portuguese captain agrees to transport them to Brazil. The captain also purchases Robinson's boat and Xury.

chapter 4

Crusoe's journey to Brazil spans twenty-two days, and he receives numerous parting gifts from the Portuguese captain. He befriends his Anglo-Brazilian neighbor and comes up with the idea of starting a tobacco farm. The initial two years yield only enough for survival, but the third year brings prosperity. He regrets selling his slave, Xury, considering the potential labor loss. The Portuguese captain assists Crusoe by arranging the transfer of half of his 200 pounds left in England to Brazil and sends additional gifts. Feeling relatively affluent, Crusoe is keen to expand his enterprise through slave labor. He consents to a friend's proposal to sail to Guinea in search of Black slaves, promising him a portion of the slaves in return.

chapter 5

Crusoe, having signed a will that leaves half his belongings to the Portuguese captain, embarks on a journey to Guinea on the first of September, 1659. He carries small objects to trade for slaves. His ship sails up the South American coastline and confronts a storm, causing the loss of two crew members. This fills Crusoe with dread for his own safety. Once they reach the Caribbean, another storm hits. The force drives the ship onto the sand, destroys the rudder and leaves the crew no choice but to abandon the ship and head for the shore in small boats. Amidst the chaos, an enormous wave sweeps Crusoe's companions away and he loses sight of them. Crusoe manages to reach the shore, immediately thanking God for his survival. He spots no other surviving crew member. He quenches his thirst with freshwater, finds a tree to rest in, and thus spends his first night on the deserted island.

chapter 6

After a rejuvenating sleep, Crusoe heads to the beach to inspect the ship's wreckage. He swims around it, but climbing aboard proves to be a challenge until he spots a hanging chain he can use. Crusoe then hatches a plan to build a raft from the shattered wood, piling it high with rations like bread, rice, goat meat, cheese, and more. He also discovers clothing, weapons, and fresh water. He navigates his fully-loaded raft to a nearby cove and unloads his trove. He observes wild birds in the area but sees no signs of human life. In the following thirteen days, Crusoe goes back to the ship a dozen times. During one of these visits, he stumbles upon thirty-six pounds, prompting a sorrowful reflection on the currency's insignificance in his situation. A fierce wind blows one night and when he wakes up the following day, the remnants of the ship have disappeared.

chapter 7

Concerned about potential natives, Crusoe deems it necessary to establish a fortified residence. He selects a location overlooking the ocean, shielded from wildlife and sun, and close to a water source. Constructing walls from wooden stakes driven into the ground, he creates a safe and secure space to sleep. On the following day, he moves all his belongings inside, setting up a hammock for sleeping and constructing an underground storage area. During a storm, he worries about his gunpowder, which he subsequently separates and stores safely underground. Noticing wild goats on the island, he kills an adult and its young. Around the twelfth day, Crusoe builds a large cross, engraving the date of his landing, September 30, 1659. He decides to mark each day by carving a notch on the cross. Further, he initiates a journal to track the positive and negative experiences, until he exhausts his ink supply. He constantly keeps an eye out for any passing ships, but to his disappointment, none appear.

chapter 8

In this section, Crusoe introduces us to his diary, starting the entries with the date "September 30, 1659," and detailing his experiences on the "Island of Despair," as he names it. He recounts past incidents, including the shipwreck discovery, the scavenging for supplies, the storm that wipes out the ship, and the building of his shelter among other things. Having lost count of the days, Crusoe no longer knows when Sunday is, impeding his ability to observe the Sabbath. The entries also describe his efforts in crafting various items of furniture and tools, and his success in domesticating his first goat.

chapter 9

Crusoe's diary continues with his unsuccessful efforts to domesticate pigeons and his creation of candles using goat fat. He shares the almost magical discovery of barley after discarding some corn husks in a shaded spot, later unearthing fully-grown barley plants. He conscientiously preserves the crop for future planting, eventually enabling him to make his own bread. On the 16th of April, he narrowly escapes death when an earthquake strikes while he's at the entrance of his cellar. Surviving two subsequent tremors, he is grateful that his life and possessions remain unscathed.

chapter 10

Following the earthquake, a storm strikes. Crusoe seeks refuge in his cave, carving out a drain for his abode and enduring the heavy downpour. The possibility of another earthquake causing the cliff above his residence to collapse sets off his worries and prompts him to consider relocating. However, his attention is diverted upon finding barrels of gunpowder and other wreckage from the ship washed ashore by the storm. Crusoe dedicates several days to gather these valuable remains.

chapter 11

Crusoe is struck down by a serious illness, made worse by the continuous rain. He's so weak that he can barely move, even though he needs water. He begs God for help. In his fever, he imagines a man appearing from a dark cloud in a burst of flame. The phantom figure threatens Crusoe, claiming he hasn't yet repented for his past. Shaken, Crusoe contemplates on his many close brushes with death and is moved to tears by his own ungratefulness. He prays sincerely for the first time, pleading for relief. The following day, he starts to regain some strength, though he is still frail. His mind is consumed by self-pity, which is then replaced by a wave of self-reproach. After consuming some tobacco and rum, his perspective changes. He picks up the Bible and is deeply affected by a verse about seeking God's help in difficult times. He then falls into a deep, day-long sleep, which disrupts his sense of time forever. In the subsequent days, his health greatly improves. He thanks God and avoids eating wild birds while he's still unwell, opting for turtle eggs instead. Crusoe immerses himself in the New Testament and starts to regret his past. He begins to see his solitude on the island as a form of salvation from his previous sins.

chapter 12

In Crusoe's tenth month stranded, he experiences the unhealthy rainy season of July. He decides to explore the island, acknowledging that only Providence has the power to save him. In his exploration, he finds sugarcane and grapes, greatly appreciating the beauty of a particular valley. Filled with joy, Crusoe sees himself as the ruler of this land. He dries grapes to make raisins and gathers a hefty quantity of limes and grapes. He considers making this valley his new home and spends the rest of the month building a shelter there. He observes some cats have taken up residence in his home. To mark his first year on the island, he fasts for a day. Soon after, his journal comes to a halt when he runs out of ink.

chapter 13

Learning from his error of sowing seeds in the dry period, Crusoe successfully develops a calendar to track the climate for better farming. He is pleasantly surprised to find the wooden stakes he used for his rural dwelling, or "bower," have grown over time into a natural canopy offering soothing shade. In addition, Crusoe hones his skills in basket weaving, drawing inspiration from memories of crafters from his past. Despite these accomplishments, he still yearns for tobacco pipes, glass vessels, and a kettle.

chapter 14

Crusoe finally takes up his earlier desire to thoroughly examine his island, venturing to its western end. He spots land far away, speculating it's part of Spanish America. Fear of cannibals holds him back from investigating further. He befriends a parrot, training it to talk, and uncovers a group of penguins. Crusoe takes in a goat kid which almost dies in his bower from neglect until he remembers to feed it. Two years into his stay on the island, Crusoe's periods of contentment are punctuated by bouts of gloom. He finds solace in reading the Bible, particularly a verse reassuring him that God will never abandon him.

chapter 15

Crusoe dedicates a fair amount of time to constructing a shelf in his dwelling. When the rainy season arrives, he sows his rice and grain seeds but soon becomes frustrated when birds start to ruin his crops. By shooting a few birds and using them as scarecrows, he successfully deters them from coming back. Once his crop is ready, Crusoe begins to master the intricate tasks of grinding flour and baking bread. In his pursuit of creating pottery, Crusoe initially struggles to mold the clay into usable shapes. Over time, he gets the hang of forming, firing, and glazing his creations. The thought of journeying to the mainland crosses his mind once again, and he decides to pay a visit to the ship's boat that was overturned in a storm. Despite his effort over several weeks, he is unable to flip the boat back over due to his lack of strength.

chapter 16

Crusoe decides to build a large canoe from a massive cedar tree. It takes him several months to remove the branches, shape the outside, and carve out the inside. However, he overlooks the issue of moving the canoe due to its size. He contemplates digging a canal to bring water to the canoe but dismisses it as it would take too much time. Four years have now lapsed since his shipwreck. He realizes he has all he needs to survive on the island and feels thankful for his situation, considering the alternatives. Crusoe notes that certain key events in his life have fallen on the same calendar dates, which he finds striking. He proceeds to create new clothes from animal hides and makes an umbrella. He also constructs a smaller canoe for an exploratory trip around the island. During the expedition, he narrowly escapes a strong current that could have swept him out to sea. Upon his safe return to the island, he is greeted by his parrot Poll who repeatedly calls his name, asking where he had been.

chapter 17

Crusoe spends a peaceful year in his island home, longing only for companionship. He takes pride in his newly learned crafts of basket weaving and pottery. Concerned about his dwindling gunpowder stock and the possibility of not being able to hunt goats, Crusoe explores animal farming. He manages to trap three young goats and in a span of eighteen months, he raises a herd of twelve. He masters the art of milking them and establishes a dairy that yields cheese and butter. He relishes his complete dominion over his island subjects and takes pleasure in feasting like a monarch, in the company of his parrot, his aged dog, and his two cats. He gives a brief summary of his island assets: two separate living areas - his initial dwelling and his secondary residence, a grape vineyard, cultivated lands, and goat enclosures.

chapter 18

Crusoe stumbles upon a single, bare human footprint in the sand, leaving him shocked and fearful. He rushes back to his "castle," contemplating the possibility of a devilish presence on the island. When he concludes that the footprint belongs to a human, not the devil, his fear doesn't ease. He reflects on the paradox of longing for human touch, then finding a man's presence terrifying. Fear pushes him to reinforce his home, setting up guns and maintaining a vigilant watch. Concern for his goats leads him to construct an underground cavern for their nightly shelter and establish another distant pasture for a secondary herd. For the next two years, Crusoe lives in a state of constant fear.

chapter 19

Stumbling upon a portion of the coast littered with human remains, Crusoe grasps he isn't in peril from the cannibals. Initially, he contemplates killing them as retribution for their heinous acts and consequently rescuing their future victims. He spends days armed and ready on a hill, but eventually, he reconsiders his plan. Crusoe understands he lacks the divine right to pass judgement or take lives. He also recognizes the potential backlash of his actions - a full-blown assault from other tribesmen.

chapter 20

Crusoe takes careful steps to elude the cannibals, hardly ever lighting fires, erasing signs of his presence, and even formulating a method to cook underground. On exploring a newfound large cave, he is startled by glowing eyes looking at him. Overcoming his fear, he revisits the cave with a burning stick, only to find out it's an elderly male goat. Crusoe contemplates making this cave his new home. Later, while at his watch post, he spots nine bare savages on the shore, still around the leftovers of their cannibal meal. He heads towards them, gun ready, but they've retreated back to sea by the time he reaches. Crusoe surveys the grisly scene they've left behind, filled with revulsion.

chapter 21

Whilst engaged in reading the Bible, Crusoe hears a couple of gunshots in quick succession. Believing they might be from a ship, he quickly lights a fire to signal his existence. Come morning, he realizes the shots were from a wrecked ship, now deserted or with deceased crew members. In gratitude for his safety, he thanks Providence. After discovering a dead young man on the shore, Crusoe decides to venture to the ship using his canoe. On board, he finds it to be of Spanish origin, filled with wine, clothes, and a significant amount of gold and doubloons. He manages to transport all these valuables back to his home.

chapter 22

Crusoe contemplates his history of poor decisions, including ignoring his father's advice, which he refers to as his "original sin". He has a dream one night of a man being chased by eleven cannibals on his island. About a year and a half later, the dream almost turns into reality. He comes across thirty cannibals preparing two victims for a feast on his island. One escapee rushes towards Crusoe's hideout, chased by two cannibals. Crusoe intervenes and saves him. The escapee, grateful and scared, pledges loyalty to Crusoe. They bury the bodies of the cannibals Crusoe killed to avoid detection later and return to Crusoe's camp where the native rests.

chapter 23

Crusoe gives the local the moniker Friday, in honor of the day he rescued him. Friday reiterates his loyalty to Crusoe. Crusoe imparts basic English terms to Friday and dresses him. They go back together to the carnage site, where Crusoe instructs Friday to tidy up the remains and tries to impart the atrocity of cannibalism to him. Crusoe is thrilled with Friday, his new sidekick, and introduces him to goat meat as an alternative to human flesh. Crusoe identifies the need to broaden his grain farming, which Friday assists with.

chapter 24

Crusoe warms up to Friday and, through basic dialogue, learns that cannibals often visit the island. He also gathers geographical knowledge to understand his proximity to Trinidad. He learns from Friday about the mainland Spaniards' violent acts. Crusoe tries teaching Friday religious concepts and finds that Friday readily grasps the idea of God, likening him to his own god, Benamuckee. Friday struggles to comprehend the devil and questions why God doesn't eliminate this evil entity. Crusoe struggles to answer and admits his limited religious understanding. Friday informs Crusoe that the cannibals have given refuge to the shipwreck survivors Crusoe had found before freeing Friday. Upon Friday's expression of longing to go back to his homeland, Crusoe becomes afraid of losing him. Moreover, when Crusoe thinks of joining the shipwreck survivors, Friday requests him not to abandon him. Consequently, they decide to build a boat together, intending to sail to Friday's land in late fall or early winter.

chapter 25

Crusoe and Friday find themselves hosting cannibals on their island before they could set off on their planned journey. The unwanted guests, twenty-one in number, arrive in three canoes to carry out a cannibalistic ritual on three hostages. Despite his initial reluctance to commit mass murder, Crusoe justifies the act as a necessity of war since Friday is from a rival tribe. Upon closer inspection, he realizes that one of the hostages is a fellow European. Crusoe and Friday attack the cannibals, defeating them with their advanced weaponry and allowing only a handful to escape. To Friday's delight, he discovers one of the hostages to be his father. They feed and shelter the stunned hostages, setting up a tent for them at Crusoe's home. Crusoe is satisfied with the expansion of his 'kingdom' with faithful subjects.

chapter 26

Following his interaction with Friday’s father and the Spaniard, Crusoe reconsiders his old desire to go back to the mainland. He questions the Spaniard if the men left in the cannibals' domain would back him. The Spaniard affirms, but warns Crusoe that they’d need to amplify their food supply to feed the additional men. Assisted by his fresh workforce, Crusoe expands his farming operations. He equips each newcomer with a firearm.

chapter 27

Friday rushes to Crusoe, announcing an approaching boat. Crusoe discerns it's from England through his telescope. However, he remains wary. At the shore, they find eleven occupants in the boat, three tied as captives. Friday thinks the captors are cannibals. Spotting an opportunity as the eight free men wander, Crusoe talks to the prisoners, who misidentify him as an angel. One captive shares he's the ship's captain and they've suffered a mutiny. Crusoe suggests a deal: freedom for the captives in return for safe passage to England. The captain agrees, and Crusoe arms him with a gun. Crusoe foresees the sailors may notice something amiss and sends more crew. To pre-empt this, they make the boat unusable. As expected, ten sailors from the ship find their boat ruined. With three left to guard the second boat, the other seven venture ashore. Crusoe uses Friday and another to yell at the men from different directions, tiring and disorienting them until they split up. The guards from the boat join their companions but are overcome by Crusoe's tactics. Crusoe's captain then negotiates with the remaining men, promising to spare all but the ringleader if they surrender. The mutineers acquiesce, and the captain concocts a tale about the island being a royal colony with the governor planning the ringleader's execution the next day.

chapter 28

Crusoe, after overpowering the mutineers, aims to retake the ship, a plan which the captain supports. With a fake warning about the island's governor planning to sentence them to death, Crusoe and the captain scare the captive mutineers into compliance. Crusoe takes five of them as hostages for assurance. The scheme is successful: the rebel leader aboard the ship is killed and the vessel is regained. Seeing the ship makes Crusoe almost faint from disbelief. As a token of his gratitude, the captain offers him wine, food, and clothing. The mutineers are given the option to stay on the island to dodge the inevitable death penalty for their crimes in England. They gratefully choose to stay. Crusoe, with his wealth and some belongings, leaves the island on December 19, 1686, sailing for England after living there for twenty-eight years. Upon his return, he learns that his money-keeper, a widow, is alive although not well-off. His family has passed away, save for two sisters and his brother's offspring. Crusoe then decides to travel to Lisbon to inquire about his Brazilian plantations.

chapter 29

Reaching Lisbon, Crusoe reconnects with his Portuguese captain friend who first brought him to Brazil. The captain informs Crusoe that his Brazilian properties, managed in trust, have yielded significant profits. The captain, owing Crusoe a substantial amount, initiates repayment. Touched by this honesty, Crusoe gives back some of the money. With a certified letter, Crusoe manages to regain control over his Brazilian assets, finding himself wealthy. He shares his wealth by sending monetary presents to his friend the widow and his sisters. Despite being tempted to relocate to Brazil, Crusoe chooses not to due to his aversion to converting to Catholicism. He opts to go back to England, yet is wary of sea travel, leading to him withdrawing his luggage from three ships at the last minute. He later discovers that two of these ships either succumbed to pirates or sank. Crusoe opts to travel by land instead, composing a travel party of Europeans and their staff.

chapter 30

Crusoe's crew departs from Lisbon, arriving in the Spanish city of Pamplona during late fall. Crusoe struggles with the freezing temperatures. The heavy snowfall causes them to remain in Pamplona for several weeks. They resume their journey toward France on the 15th of November, despite harsh weather conditions. In the forest, they encounter three wolves and a bear, which Friday manages to scare off after killing one wolf. Friday also provides some entertainment by taunting a bear before he kills it. As the group continues their journey, they come across a terrified horse without a rider, and later, the remnants of two men who have been prey to wolves. A pack of three hundred wolves then engulfs Crusoe's group. They protect themselves by shooting at the wolves and creating an explosion with gunpowder, which eventually forces the wolves to retreat. Once they reach Toulouse in France, Crusoe discovers that their escape from the wolves was nothing short of a miracle.

chapter 31

Arriving in Dover, England, on January 14, Crusoe entrusts his belongings to a caring widow friend. He mulls over a return to Lisbon and Brazil, but faith-based worries hold him back. He opts to stick around in England and instructs the sale of his Brazilian assets, earning him a handsome fortune of 33,000 pieces of eight. With no family ties and accustomed to a nomadic lifestyle, Crusoe considers leaving England, regardless of his widow friend's efforts to stop him. He marries, but upon his wife's passing, he ventures to the East Indies as an independent trader in 1694. On this trip, he pays a visit to his former island. He learns the remaining Spaniards have dominated the mutineers with kindness. Crusoe showers them with presents like livestock, essential supplies, and even female companions. Despite a cannibal attack, the colony thrives.

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