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The Double Standard in Robinson Crusoe

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As I read the excerpts from Robinson Crusoe I was quite affected by the double standard that was evident on the part of our "hero." This theme of the double standard is one that is realized in most antiquated texts. In explanation, whatever action the white European male performs is exceptionable behavior, but if another character, like a woman or a non-European does the same thing it becomes unexceptionable. An obvious example is Mr. Crusoe whose chosen profession was slave trader turned slave, a condition that was not an attractive lifestyle for him, but was fine for those who did not fit into his racial grouping. He formulates an escape for himself, an action that would have infuriated him if a slave had tried to escape from him when he was in his role of slave merchant. Additionally, I was agog, as was Allison, that he threw the Moor overboard and threatened him death if he did not return to shore, and a certain existence in the role of slave. That Crusoe did not offer the Moor the same stab at freedom he was giving himself was unforgivable.

Directing my discussion to the excerpt involving Friday, again the double standard was evident, though it was realized in a different variation. Here Crusoe the issue of slavery was still present, but also the discourse on the appearance of Friday. He was quite vociferous in remarking upon Friday's countenance and how that countenance matched or varied with the appearance of other ethnic groups. I found this to be much in keeping with the precedent set by the writings of the first explorers from Columbus onward. These men would make descriptions of the people they encountered on their journeys and made comparisons with everything from beasts to animals to mythical beings.

Last semester in my history seminar my final paper was the historical context of William Shakespeare's Tempest, and I found many parallels with the writings of the primary texts I used to that of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Among those similarities were the ones mentioned above: the double standard of slavery, the lackadaisacal attitude toward those of a different skin hue, and the need for emphasizing the appearance of natives. I found it very interesting that over three hundred years (as I studied readings originating from the fifteenth century) that the attitude of the European male had not graduated to a higher plane, but had stayed hovering in the same place.



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