6. Crusoes Journal, September 30 through June 27Crusoes Journal: September 30 through June 27 (pp. 52-67)
Crusoe begins his journal by recounting his narrative from the point of his shipwreck on September 30. On December 10, just when Crusoe believes he has finished building his “Cave,” an earthquake strikes, obliging him to do much of his work over again. After the turn of the year, however, his fortunes take a sudden and seemingly miraculous turn for the better as he notices “perfect green Barley” growing near his shelter. He regards this sudden new growth as an act of God-until he remembers that he had earlier thrown out grain in that place. A second quake strikes, causing a convulsion of the sea and a storm. Crusoe, despondent, takes an uneasy shelter in his cave, fearing that it will collapse on him. Although it does not, Crusoe is concerned enough to spend April 19-20 preparing to move his dwelling. He is distracted from this plan, however, when the tide on May 1 brings in a cask of gunpowder from the shipwreck. The wreckage has been moved closer to shore, and so Crusoe proceeds to remove more provisions from it. Throughout May and June he goes to the wreck and recovers much timber and iron. In late June, Crusoe falls sick with an “Ague very violent” (that is, “febrile condition in which there are alternating periods of chills, fever, and sweating,” often associated with malaria [American Heritage Dictionary]). During his illness, he has a nightmare in which he sees a brilliantly illuminated man descend from a cloud amidst flashing fire. The earth shakes when this man steps upon it. The strange visitor makes as if to kill Crusoe with a spear-like weapon, pronouncing judgment as he does: “Seeing all these Things have not brought thee to Repentance, now thou shalt die.” Frightened, Crusoe awakens. For the first time, he considers that not only his current shipwreck but also the misfortunes previous to it may be divine punishment visited upon him for his sins of abandoning his father and, headstrong, pursuing his desire to travel and seek adventure. Feeling alone and helpless, Crusoe prays, “Lord be my help, for I am in great Distress.” He notes that it was the first prayer he had prayed in many years. AnalysisAlthough some of this section could be regarded as redundant, repeating as it does information the reader has already received, recalling the story thus far in a different narrative format-that of a journal-makes new aspects of the story more readily apparent, as though we are viewing the story through a different lens or as the turning of a kaleidoscope. For example, Crusoes journal makes more apparent the fact that the elements of “civilization” are slowly falling, or being stripped, away-as well as Crusoes attempts to continue to cling to them. Note, as just one instance, how Crusoe comments on the way in which he started losing track of Sundays (the entry for November 7). Contrast that with his repeated returns to the shipwreck for wood and iron.On the other hand, the journal also further develops previously established themes. For example, we continue to see Crusoe learning from his experiences as he begins to breed tame animals, and as he unloads more goods from the shipwreck: “.I had learnd not to despair of any Thing.”Crusoes journal continues to explore the theme of providence. The incident with the “miraculous” growth of grain, as Crusoe himself acknowledges, raises the question of how providence works in human affairs. Although Crusoe, at the time, no longer regarded the grains appearance as a miracle, perhaps he should have, “for it was really the Work of Providence. that 10 or 12 Grains of Corn should remain unspoild” for him to have discarded in the first place. The incident can be taken as a suggestion that providential arrangements and “miracles” surround us, if we have eyes to see them. (This suggestion corresponds with the purpose of the narrative as stated in the Preface: “to justify and honour the Wisdom of Providence in all the Variety of our Circumstances.”)This section of the text also raises the question of divine justice. Crusoes nightmare relies heavily on biblical images of apocalyptic judgment (compare, for example, Crusoes description of the man who descends from heaven with John of Patmos description of the risen and exalted Christ who comes in judgment against the churches in Revelation 1, or who rides into battle to judge in Revelation 19). It is, at least to Crusoes mind, unambiguous in its meaning: for his repeated rejection of providence, most manifest in his determination to leave his fathers home and “good Instruction” (perhaps another biblical allusion, with Crusoe casting himself in the role of the prodigal of Luke 15), Crusoe has been and is now being punished: for the first time, Crusoe considers the events “already past. all the Variety of Miseries that had to this Day befallen me. [as] the Hand of God.” This newfound conviction of guilt leads Crusoe to make his penitential prayer, a prayer familiar to readers of Scripture (e.g., Psalm 107 passim: “Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses”). Thus, this section of the text implicitly invites readers to again ponder the “Hand of God”: is it benevolent or malevolent-or both, or neither?