The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, & c.
Middle Class Virtues Vs. Early Wanderlust
Robinson opens the story with a brief history of his upbringing; he's part-German, we learn, although his last name is fully British. It was changed from Kreutznauer, he tells us, when his father left Bremen for Hull, the English town where Robinson grew up. Robinson has two brothers, one killed in battle by the Spanish, and the other gone missing. Although the middle classes in eighteenth-century England traditionally taught their sons trades so that they could earn a living, Robinson is uninterested in pursuing the law -- the trade for which he had been prepared. He is much more strongly inclined towards a life of adventure and travel, and he lets us know even on the first page that this tendency will end in great unhappiness.
When Robinson informs his parents about his wanderlust, they attempt to dissuade him. Robinson's father explains to him that travel is only for the desperately poor, who have nothing to lose, or for the fabulously wealthy, who can afford to risk their fortunes on adventure. Middle class boys, he tells Robinson, must be content with a life of work. Furthermore, this is the most satisfying life, he argues, claiming that rich and poor alike are jealous of those who earn their living by their own merit, and whose pleasures -- like quiet and sociability -- are domestic ones. Robinson's father pleads with him so earnestly, even sobbing openly, that Robinson decides to try to put his desires aside and continue to live at home. A year later, however, he can bear it no longer and one day while he is down at the docks, mingling amongst sailors, Robinson meets up with a friend of his who is bound for London. Without so much as a second thought, Robinson tells us, he joins him.
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