Defoe and the Whig Novel: A Reading of the Major Fiction by Leon Guilhamet

By Leon Guilhamet

His research locations Defoe's significant fiction squarely within the rising Whig tradition of the early eighteenth century. It bargains a substitute for the view that Defoe is basically a author of felony or experience fiction and to the Marxist judgment that he extols individualism or derives his maximum thought from renowned print tradition. This learn reads the novels as reflections of mainstream Whig social and political issues, an analogous issues Defoe published in his verse and expository writings ahead of and after his significant interval of fiction writing, 1719-24.

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Sample text

From the very first, Friday becomes Robinson's protector. Friday's attractive qualities: he had all the Sweetnessand Softnessof an European in his Countenance too, especiallywhen he smil'd. His Hair was long and black ... ; his Forehead very high, and large, and a great Vivacity and sparkling Sharpnessin his Eyes. emore and more every Day, and I began really to love the Creature; and on his Side, I believehe lov'd me more than it was possible for him ever to love any Thing before. (213) . Friday's love seems to go far beyond gratitude.

Though rebellion against a father's wishes is never to be praised, it is possible that good things can come from it. Despite the long years of captivity that Robinson will be forced to endure, benefits will emerge. 22 This outcome is much closer to the Whig myth of success than the choice of life commended by the elder Crusoe. · After signing on to a voyage and experiencing a severe storm at sea, Robinson is ready to return home and obey his father, but his resolution fails once the danger has passed: This is good psychology on Defoe's part, but it is also connected to Robinson's conscience.

13 A narrative of a North American captivity, which Defoe could have read, since it was published in Londori in 1682, is Mary Rowlandson's Sovereignty and Goodness of God, a classic of early American literature. Surviving a kidnapping by Native Americans, Rowlandson presents her narrative in terms that Defoe would have understood. She sees her deliverance as owing to "the awful dispensation of the Lord" . and interprets her affliction as the will of God. remedy for captivity. The principal action of Robinson Crusoe traces a progress from captivity to deliverance, a journey that is also a spiritual version of the more secular Whig myth of success.

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