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Section 12

Befriending the Enemy

One morning, a year and a half later, Robinson notices five canoes landing onshore. He sees two captives waiting to be slaughtered, and then sees that one escapes and runs up the shore, towards Robinson's encampment. The escapee is pursued by three cannibals, who run a course near Robinson, but without perceiving him. He surprises them and inserts himself between the cannibals and their victim. He knocks one down with his gun, but doesn't shoot him because he is afraid the others will hear the noise. He finds he has to shoot the next one, however, for he is off at a distance, preparing to fire an arrow at Robinson. He spares the victim -- a gesture which the man recognizes as merciful. He kneels to Robinson and puts Robinson's foot on his head to symbolize his bondage to him. Robinson now begins referring to this man as "my Savage."

Robinson gives the man bread and raisins and fresh water. He also furnishes him with a mat to sleep on. He observes the man while he sleeps, deciding that he is very handsome, and about 26 years old. His hair is black and straight. His skin is lighter than black. He is, as Robinson describes him, a savage with European qualities. Robinson is careful to distinguish the man from what he calls "Negroes." Please refer to the Historical Context and Summary Questions for more on this. (Young, how is this sort of thing normally handled? When one comes to a part of the story that obviously needs commentary? Does one make it within the body of the text summary? I'm not sure what to do. . .).

The next day, Robinson names the man "Friday," and teaches him to call Robinson "Master." He also teaches him "Yes" and "No." Robinson clothes Friday the following day, since he had been up until this point entirely naked. Friday suggests that they dig up his aggressors and eat them. Robinson lets him know just how unacceptable this is to him, making vomiting gestures and angry faces. The two of them go together to the cannibals' bonfire, where they find the bones and skulls of the other three victims -- all of whom were in a struggle with their King, including Friday. Robinson has Friday gather up all the bones and burn them into ash.

Robinson makes a tent for Friday between his two encampments. He doesn't have Friday sleep with him in his own tent, but this isn't, he tells us, because he fears him. Rather, he finds Friday to be the most gentle and loving man he can imagine. He believes Friday to regard him as a kind of father.

Robinson decides to try to wean Friday off the hunger for human flesh by letting him taste other kinds of meat. They set out together to kill a goat, and when Robinson shoots it, Friday panics and thinks himself to be shot, stripping off his clothes and searching for a bullet hole. He doesn't yet know how guns work, and assumes that because Robinson used one to kill his pursuer, using it at all will inevitably end in his own death. Robinson tries to demonstrate the principles of shooting to Friday by pointing at animals, and then at the gun, demonstrating that the latter will affect the former. Friday is so overwhelmed by the gun's mechanisms that Robinson fears he will start worshipping him and his gun.

When they arrive home, Robinson makes a stew for Friday, who reacts well to the meat, but not at all to the salt that Robinson puts on the food. He spits it out dramatically. When Robinson prepares some roast lamb for Friday, he likes it so much he indicates to Robinson that he will never eat human flesh again.

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Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 13
Section 14
Section 15
Section 16
Section 17


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