As a Nonconformist , or Dissenter, Foe could not send his son to the University of Oxford or to Cambridge; he sent him instead to the excellent academy at Newington Green kept by the Reverend Charles Morton. There Defoe received an education in many ways better, and certainly broader, than any he would have had at an English university.
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Although intended for the Presbyterian ministry, Defoe decided against this and by had set up as a merchant. He dealt in many commodities, traveled widely at home and abroad, and became an acute and intelligent economic theorist, in many respects ahead of his time; but misfortune, in one form or another, dogged him continually. He wrote of himself:. It was true enough. He suffered further severe losses in , when his prosperous brick-and-tile works near Tilbury failed during his imprisonment for political offenses, and he did not actively engage in trade after this time.
Soon after setting up in business, in , Defoe married Mary Tuffley, the daughter of a well-to-do Dissenting merchant.
Not much is known about her, and he mentions her little in his writings, but she seems to have been a loyal, capable, and devoted wife. She bore eight children, of whom six lived to maturity, and when Defoe died the couple had been married for 47 years. The first of many political pamphlets by him appeared in When the Roman Catholic James II ascended the throne in , Defoe—as a staunch Dissenter and with characteristic impetuosity—joined the ill-fated rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth , managing to escape after the disastrous Battle of Sedgemoor.
Since the Treaty of Rijswijk , it had become increasingly probable that what would, in effect, be a European war would break out as soon as the childless king of Spain died. In five gentlemen of Kent presented a petition, demanding greater defense preparations, to the House of Commons then Tory-controlled and were illegally imprisoned.
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It had been a courageous gesture and one of which Defoe was ever afterward proud, but it undoubtedly branded him in Tory eyes as a dangerous man who must be brought down. What did bring him down, only a year or so later, and consequently led to a new phase in his career, was a religious question—though it is difficult to separate religion from politics in this period. Pressure on the Dissenters increased when the Tories came to power, and violent attacks were made on them by such rabble-rousing extremists as Dr. Henry Sacheverell. His method was ironic: to discredit the highfliers by writing as if from their viewpoint but reducing their arguments to absurdity.
Defoe was prosecuted for seditious libel and was arrested in May It is likely that the prosecution was primarily political, an attempt to force him into betraying certain Whig leaders; but the attempt was evidently unsuccessful. In An Appeal to Honour and Justice , he gave his own, self-justifying account of these events and of other controversies in his life as a writer. My first episode is taken from the early stages of the book, before Crusoe lands on 'his' famous uninhabited island.
In fact, Crusoe is a serial traveler, and in all these travels he follows a distinct pattern. It begins with an adventurous impulse to leave the middle class English environment, to set sail and look for fortune and adventure. His remorse, however, has a very short life span.
The moment he recuperates from the catastrophe, he starts planning the next round. In one of his first voyages out of England, Crusoe is captured by pirates and sold as a slave to the Moors. After two years in captivity, he succeeds in escaping on a small boat and sails near the African shoreline, accompanied by Xury, a Moorish boy a short prelude to his relationship with Friday. They have to go on shore for water and food, but they are constantly fearful of a twofold danger: wild beasts and savages.
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First, they see "vast great Creatures […] of many sorts […] and they made such hideous Howlings and Yellings, that I never indeed heard the like" The idea of going on shore at night is dismissed because they are afraid of becoming the food of such creatures. The alternative—going on shore in daylight—seems as menacing, "for to have fallen into the Hands of any of the Savages, had been as bad as to have fallen into the Hands of Lyons and Tygers" When they discuss the possibility of going on shore to fetch water, Xury suggests, as a faithful servant, that he, and not Crusoe, would go.
Crusoe asks why he would do that and Xury's answer is— " If wild Mans come, they eat me, you go wey " Finally, after they have exhausted their supplies, the moment of truth of an actual encounter with the savages approaches. But just before this meeting takes place, Crusoe describes a frightening encounter with a lion.
In one of their landings on shore to get some water, they perceive "a dreadful Monster" It is a sleeping lion, and they decide to kill him. Crusoe takes aim, shoots at the lion, but does not kill him immediately. The injured beast "gave the most hideous Roar that ever I heard. When they first perceive the lion, Crusoe suggests that Xury kill him and the latter's first reaction is " Me kill! This encounter with the lion undoubtedly evokes afresh the characters', and our, apprehensions about the coming encounter with the savages. The stage is set for the realization of their worst nightmares.
At this point, both Crusoe and Xury share similar fears. So they keep at a distance and start to communicate with the savages by signs. And here, lo and behold, the savages seem to respond with good will and even bring "Pieces of dry Flesh and some Corn" 23 to the beach.
Now Crusoe and Xury are caught between their deeply entrenched fears and their urgent need to fetch the provisions. And another surprise: Crusoe and Xury are not the only frightened people around: "I was not for venturing on Shore to them, and they were as much afraid of us" And there comes yet another surprise. And, while doing so, the savages even show tact and inventiveness by finding the way to supply the goods without making direct contact. Both the characters and the reader are surprised by the savages' benevolent and virtuous conduct. Well, not necessarily. It does, however, make us aware of such prejudices permeating Western culture.
Note that the surprising effect that the two characters Crusoe and Xury and the reader experience occurs on the outer level of the plot but evokes unexpected questions about racial and cultural prejudices on a deeper, ideological level. The other episode I would like to focus on takes place on Crusoe's uninhabited island, with 'his' man Friday. Crusoe's attitude towards Friday is fundamentally instrumental.
During the dramatic scene of Friday's rescue from the hands and mouths! Note how the word "companion" is hidden between the other two nouns—servant and assistant—and is qualified by the hesitant "perhaps. After Crusoe has been teaching Friday a basic English vocabulary, necessary for communicating to him the Master's needs so that Friday may duly perform his duties, he moves to a different layer of instruction. Crusoe decides to play the role of a missionary and to instruct Friday in "the Knowledge of the true God" First, he explains to him the notion of an almighty God, and Friday seems to be able to grasp this notion, perhaps because there are some striking similarities between Christian practices and beliefs and those of the savages.
The unexpected analogy created between the savages' 'ridiculous' and 'primitive' beliefs and practices and those of 'elevated' and 'true' Christianity, notably the Catholic Church, has clear satirical implications. In both religious systems, for example, there is a cast of priests who are in charge of relations with divinity and use unintelligible prayers to promote their social hegemony.
While Friday is capable of grasping the concept of God, he experiences some difficulties in understanding the concept of the Devil: "I found it was not so easie to imprint right Notions in his Mind about the Devil, as it was about the Being of a God" When describing to Friday the enmity between God and the Devil, and how the latter uses his skill "to defeat the good Designs of Providence, and to ruine the Kingdom of Christ in the World," Crusoe is interrupted by a question from Friday, and the following dialogue ensues:.
So far, Crusoe seems to be perfectly capable of responding to Friday's query by using his received ideas. This simple but troubling question seems to take Crusoe off balance, and he comments that he "was strangely surpriz'd" by it.
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Note how Crusoe echoes here the phrase from the book's title "Strange [and] Surprizing Adventures. First, he tries to find excuses for his inability to come up with a convincing answer: "and after all, tho' I was now an old Man, yet I was but a young Doctor, and ill enough quallified for a Casuist, or a Solver of Difficulties" Then he retreats to the oldest trick in the world for gaining time: 15 "And at first I could not tell what to say, so I pretended not to hear him, and ask'd him what he said?
Crusoe's trick however does not work. Friday "was too earnest for an Answer to forget his Question; so that he repeated it in the very same broken Words, as above" Friday's funny broken language does not conceal the seriousness of his deep theological doubt. Every religion that postulates the existence of an almighty and benevolent God and of a Devil has to struggle with Friday's question as the book of Job has already shown And, to the best of my knowledge, there is still no simple and satisfying answer to that question.
After elaborating a few more important aspects of Christian doctrine—Judgment Day, Repentance and Pardon—Crusoe despairs of conveying to Friday the true faith. Instead of pursuing the dialogue, he simply withdraws, using the excuse of having important errands to do: "I therefore diverted the present Discourse between me and my Man, rising up hastily, as upon some sudden Occasion of going out; then sending him for something a good way off" The amateurish Christian "Doctor" facing some difficult and bewildering questions has opted for the easy way out.
Note that Defoe himself may hold the specific Christian beliefs that Crusoe propounds to Friday. In some ways, such a savage, equipped with reason and an innocent eye, can call into question some of the deepest beliefs of Western civilization. Defoe, unlike Rousseau for instance, does not reject Western civilization as fundamentally corrupt. Before concluding, and in light of the episodes discussed above, I would like to propose another important distinction in the poetics of surprise. In addition to the two general characteristics outlined at the beginning of this article—its relational and graduated nature—the surprising effect may be part of two overall different rhetorical and cognitive schemes.
The footprint episode may illustrate this possibility: the utter surprise evoked by the unexplained phenomenon is later replaced by a satisfactory explanation. This type is also evident in many endings of the older school of detective stories: the specific answer to the question of "Whodunit" may at first startle us; the writer has planted many false clues throughout the story, diverting our attention from the real suspect, so that when the unexpected solution is proposed by the detective in the classic collective scene of potential suspects it creates a momentarily surprising effect.
The first destabilizing, surprising effect is substituted by a sense of stable satisfaction. In that respect, a typical detective or mystery story may be viewed as an elaborated version of the "simple form" of the riddle. There are, however, other cases—both in real life situations and in literary texts—where a surprising effect is not necessarily 'smoothed out' in a larger coherent structure.
A surprising metaphor or simile that juxtaposes totally different semantic fields may be an example of a 'continuing' surprising effect.
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Encountering such novel metaphors, we are, first, surprised; then we start looking for 'explanations' to mitigate the destabilizing effect, but even after we have found some such explanations the sense of puzzlement does not disappear. It keeps on tantalizing us, making us rethink and reshuffle the stable semantic categories we usually work with. Further, sometimes a literary work may be structured as a detective story, unfolding its plot towards the solving of a mystery, and still, the answer to the question "Whodunit" does not leave us sitting comfortably in our armchair.