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The young Robinson Crusoe has a great desire to go to sea. His desire is so strong that it overrides all his other feelings. Neither his father's refusal nor the disapproval of friends influences him against a life on the sea. At his first opportunity, Crusoe runs away to pursue a life of adventure. He joins with a friend whose father owns a ship and soon sets sail. The trip proves to be a disaster.
The young Crusoe displays a vacillating nature. When danger or disaster is near, he is repentant for his rebelliousness, but the minute the situation improves, he goes back to his old ways. He is given repeated chances to live his life differently, but he is not yet spiritually strong enough to resist temptation. His first profitable trading voyage makes him into a greedy man. As punishment for his greed, he is captured and made a slave in Sallee. When he escapes, he goes to Brazil, where he settles down and prospers; Crusoe, however, is still not satisfied. He seizes he first opportunity he gets to make more money, even though it is through the immoral occupation of slave trading. As punishment for this greed, he becomes the lone survivor of a shipwreck and is marooned on a deserted island.
On the island, Crusoe is transformed. At first, he constantly wavers between despair and hope and then settles down to an everyday existence on the island. He tries to make up for his past sins with hard work and enterprise. However, industry and productivity can never take the place of genuine repentance. Finally, during his illness, when he is totally helpless for the first time in his life, he reaches out to God and begs for help and forgiveness. As always, God hears his prayer and will, in His own time, save Crusoe.
After recovering from his illness, Crusoe begins to progress morally. He begins to depend on God and read the Bible. His life on the island becomes the triumph of the human spirit. Often, when disaster strikes, his old nature temporarily surfaces, but the change in him is too profound for his old self to pose a real threat. When he saves Friday, his life on the island changes dramatically. He welcomes a companion, even a savage, and quickly converts this native culturally -- dressing him in proper clothes, feeding him cooked meat, naming him with a British name, and teaching him English. He also converts him to Christianity, and in the process strengthens his own faith.
Crusoe further shows he is a changed man when he refuses to judge the savages, acknowledging that only God can judge. Crusoe also deals justly with the Englishmen he later encounters on the island, sparing the lives of all that he can. When he realizes his deliverance is at hand, he gives the credit of his survival and rescue to God, humbly refusing to take credit for himself. When he returns to England and learns how rich he is, he shares with both family and friends. Crusoe has truly matured into a wise, humble, kind, and generous man.
Previously a savage himself, Friday comes to the island as a prisoner of a group of cannibals. Knowing he is soon to be eaten by the savages, he takes his chances and runs away from his captors; he is miraculously saved by Crusoe. In appreciation, Friday lays his head on the ground and puts Crusoe's foot on top of it. It is the native's way of saying that he accepts Crusoe as the master and pledge to be his submissive servant.
Friday proves to be a delightful companion for Crusoe. He is a very energetic young man and extremely intelligent; he is quick to grasp things and readily adjusts to new situations. He accepts being dressed in the Englishman's style and learning the English language. Although Crusoe is at first unsure of Friday and fears that he may revert to his old ways and capture him, the fear is unfounded, for he is a loyal and faithful servant.
Friday cheerfully executes every task that Crusoe assigns him. He also listens to his teachings on Christianity and accepts the religion as his own. Crusoe admits that Friday becomes a better Christian than he is. When the cannibals return with prisoners, Friday proves his loyalty to Crusoe, fighting against the natives. When he discovers that one of the prisoners is his father, he is overjoyed. In the battle against the mutineers, Friday also proves his skill in fighting and handling a gun. When Crusoe is finally able to return to England, he takes the faithful Friday with him. Although he is a companion to Crusoe, Friday also accepts his role as servant. Ironically, in the course of the novel, Friday shows more and faster moral and spiritual progress than does his master.