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Section 2

The Travails of Travel

Immediately, however, Robinson regrets his decision. The ship is wracked by bad weather and he becomes violently ill. He prays to God to let him make it to shore. He pledges to go home. The other sailors mock Robinson for his terror; this is but minor turbulence, they tell him. And by the next day, the storm subsides and Robinson's promises -- made in the midst of miserable nausea -- fade. He begins to enjoy life at sea, watching the sunset and sunrise over the water, and thinking delightedly that it is the most beautiful sight he's ever seen. The following day, however, a strong storm hits and Robinson is shaken once again. He again prays to God to allow him to change his mind and return to Hull. The storm wreaks havoc on the boat, and the sailors fire their guns wildly as a distress signal. Never having heard guns before, Robinson faints dead away on the deck and is kicked aside by his mates. When he wakes, he finds himself forced to abandon ship with his comrades. Rescued by a passing boat, Robinson watches over his shoulder as the ship he vacated only moments earlier plunges to the bottom of the ocean.

One would think that Robinson might turn back now. But he pushes on, obstinately attached to the idea of a wayfarers life. What's more, he is ashamed to think of his neighbors laughing at him, and refuses to return home. He travels to London on foot instead, and stays there for two years, becoming friendly with the master of another ship, who entices Robinson on a voyage to Guinea. This is the trip that settles it for Robinson, provoking an addiction to travel and seducing him by the process of trading with indigenous peoples. Since non-Westerners did not value gold in the way that Western Europeans did at the time (indeed, Western Europe was developing a capitalist economy that depended on the gold standard during this time), traders were able to receive much more for their barter than they would on the continent. Robinson is hooked, and after he returns to London, laden with booty, he wants immediately to head out again. On his next trip, however, Robinson's boat is raided by pirates, who capture him and make him the personal slave of their leader, a position that Robinson maintains for another two years -- enough time to ingratiate himself to the pirate king.

Because his master (who Robinson refers to as his "patroon") trusts Robinson, he eventually slips up. He had asked Robinson to serve himself and some visiting Moors while the group takes a fishing journey. Robinson prepares the boat for the guests, but when it comes time for the trip, his patroon comes on board alone, explaining that the guests are delaying their visit. He suggests that Robinson take the boat out by himself to do some fishing for the pirates, and Robinson, seeing his chance for escape, agrees. Robinson is outfitted with servants of his own -- a Moor named Ismael and a young boy named Xury -- and he convinces Ismael to load lots of supplies onboard the boat -- gunpowder, tools, beeswax (to make candles), and twine. The three set out to sea and Robinson begins fishing as if he had nothing up his sleeve. When Ismael isn't looking, however, he pushes him overboard, and continues out to sea with Xury, who he feels certain he can train to be loyal to him.

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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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