Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Robinson Caruso by William DeFoe

The novel, Robinson Caruso by William DeFoe was inspired by a character called Alexander Selkirk who was born in Lower Fargo, Scotland in1676. He was the son of a craftsman, a tanner and cobbler who did well in life and wanted the same for his wayward son, but that life was not for Alexander. He yearned for adventure and excitement and found it sailing the high seas. He ran away to sea at a very young age, and never looked back.

Over the years, Alexander Selkirk became an able bodied seaman who questioned authority, and the decisions of the captains he served. On one occasion, he quarreled with the captain of the Cinque Ports suggesting the ship was not sea worthy having been damaged after several attempts of “rounding the horn.” Instead of continuing the journey, Selkirk asked to be left alone on a deserted island with few items to survive a short stay. The short stay turned into four years. During this time, Selkirk became accustomed to his isolation talking to the goats and cats that inhabited the island.

In 1709, Selkirk saw the telltale flag of an English ship. The captain sent a rowing boat towards the island and the men were amazed to see the wild man running back and forth along the beach calling to them. Woodes Rodgers, captain of The Duke, a privateer ship, later recalled “...He (Selkirk) ran with wonderful swiftness through the woods and up the rocks and hills…. We had a bull-dog, which we sent with several of our nimblest runners to help him in catching goats; but he distanced and tired both the dog and men…"

Although now a rich man, Selkirk could not assimilate back in society. Instead he lived in a cave in complete seclusion but later returned to sea where he later died from drinking infected water. He was forty-five years old.