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Section 3

The Seductions of Travel

The two men set out to sea, and drop anchor off an unknown coast. Robinson is deeply apprehensive about the foreignness of this land, and describes passing a night filled with ominous noises coming from wild creatures. Robinson's account of the animals of this land converges with his fear that it also harbors indigenous peoples, and this is one of the novel's first lengthy amalgamations of wild animals with non-Westerners, whom he refers to as "savages." When they land and search for water, however, Robinson and Xury find the coast uninhabited by men. There are plenty of beasts, though, and Robinson shoots a lion, which they skin and take with them, for Robinson is becoming savvy about the possibilities for trade, and believes that the lion skin may come in handy.

The duo can find no people, though, and at this point they want to for their provisions are running low. Robinson is hoping to meet with other European trading ships, and they scan the coastline for inhabitants as they travel. When Robinson spots some Africans, he attempts to strike up an exchange with them, indicating by sign language that he and Xury are looking for food. When the Africans bring the food, Robinson worries initially that he has nothing to trade for it, but just then two leopards appear on the scene, affording Robinson the opportunity to repay the natives by shooting one and scaring the other away. This rescue sets the scene for a more extended trade between Robinson and the Africans, and he receives more food and earthenware vessels.

After eleven more days of travel, Xury spots another ship, one that Robinson identifies as Portuguese, and they set off after it. The two quickly board the friendly ship, and the Captain offers to put Robinson up for nothing in exchange. The Captain, does, however, want to buy Xury off of Robinson, who, incidentally, had not owned Xury to begin with. Robinson is hesitant at first, since he has come to value liberty after his own time as a pirate slave. But the Captain promises to give Xury his liberty in ten years on the condition that he accepts Christianity, so Robinson accedes. The ship heads for Brazil, and on arrival Robinson buys a plantation and sets up home there for two years, eventually becoming a tobacco farmer in conjunction with his neighbor, a British-born Portuguese named Wells. Robinson is not entirely satisfied with this new life, of course, since he realizes that he is now approaching the middle-class status that his father had urged him towards earlier. He is a comfortable landowner, but begins to feel confused. If he's gone through all the hardship at sea just to end up where his father wanted him to be all along, what use was it?

His friend the Portuguese Captain offers Robinson a deal: he will procure Robinson's holdings -- whatever money and possessions he has -- from London on his next visit there. When he receives his things, Robinson immediately sells them, for British goods are more valuable in Brazil. With the money, he buys a slave and a servant. Robinson is becoming very wealthy, and yet he is still drawn to a life of adventure. He begins telling his neighbors about the thrill of trading with indigenous peoples. Robinson emphasizes particularly the opportunities such trade provides to procure gold at an incredibly cheap rate, since non-Westerners do not value gold in the way the Europeans do, and are willing, Robinson explains, to accept trinkets such as shells and beads in exchange for gold. Robinson also mentions the possibility of buying slaves in Guinea. He is careful to explain to the reader that ordinarily slave-buying is only possible through the assent of the Kings of Spain, which makes it a very rare and expensive enterprise. The neighbors are especially interested in this. When they propose to Robinson that he come along and assist them in buying slaves, he hesitates only to ruminate on the fact that to leave his prosperous plantation now would be to court financial disaster. As a born adventurer, however, and as someone who dances dangerously close to self-destruction, he agrees to the trip.

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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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