Robinson Crusoe is considered to be the first writer to bring realist themes to the English novel. In fact, Bunyan did not give the appearance of reality that is evident in the works of Defoe. This is especially evident in his novel Robinson Crusoe. Richard Church rightly observes that in this regard:
Here was the first flower of Realism, the earth-clinging plant that was to over-run the field of European fiction, to climb the trees and sometimes choke them.
Defoe tried to portray what life is like, and he managed to do it in a way that the reader is convinced to accept his imagined facts. He’s adamantly factual. He doesn’t introduce the wildness of poetry or the realm of fantasies.
Robinson crusoe as a realistic novel
Robinson Crusoe marks a new time in the realm of realistic writing. His imagination even moves in the direction of the real because he is awash in it. He has learned its deepest habits and its rules. The drawings he makes are all a solid representation of reality. His eyes always take in the essence of what he is seeing. He can absorb and recreate reality.
As Sir Ifor Evans says, he keeps the realism that is close to pseudo-fact. The strength of his books is in detail, in the appearance of being authentic. The author made his fiction appear like truth and made truth appear like fiction. We can find in his works the fabrication of factual information. His books are pseudo-history.
These are fictional stories. He goes to great lengths to convince readers of the truthfulness of his stories. “It is for this reason that we may best describe them in the phrase used, as ‘fictitious biographies or, in Sir Leslie Stephen’s words, as ‘history minus the facts.” Thus, there is an extraordinary level of realism that is recognized as a unique feature in his works of fiction. In its finest and as seen in the best sections in Robinson Crusoe, his writing offers a realistic style not often embraced by even the most passionate of readers today.’
He has studied and used various kinds of information derived from a variety of sources. He has experienced that everything was real, not just what he thought he could have imagined. It is a matter of how he can accomplish this daunting task. He does it through:
His power of imagination is real.
His skill is in the accumulation of tiny details.
His straightforward and factual informal style.
Power of Realistic Imagination
We call Robinson Crusoe realism, or the illusion of reality or verisimilitude, simply his imagination. It’s all flimsy, but the fakery appears to be accurate. Defoe was never on any island. And had never hunted and had not even been on a boat. However, when you read Robinson Crusoe, we never question the authenticity of his being on an island and hunt.
The story is as if we had observed all this in our own eyes. How did Defoe accomplish such an impressive feat? He indeed does it through the strength of his imagination. In this regard, W. H. Hudson says that he was an artist of genius. It is that “sheer power of imagination” through which he achieves substantial reliability even when handling events or scenes that are not within the scope of his experiences and observations.
There is not much fault in Robinson Crusoe on account of the inaccuracy in particulars. In the sense of carrying conviction, this novel is at the top of fictional stories. However, it should not be forgotten that the writer who wrote it only never been on a deserted island, but he had also never been to the ocean.” This is the way Defoe makes the stunning look plausible and his stunning style real. The actor believes in the likely impossible rather than the impossible possibility of improbabilities.
Skilful Accumulation of Minute Details
Nearly every critic believes that in the book Robinson Crusoe evidences that Defoe convincingly demonstrates the reality of his fictional stories by layering small details on tiny details. Through this clever technique that he grants to the airy-nothing a place of residence and even a name. In this way that he can make fiction appear authentic. Sampson believes that Defoe demonstrates the ability to make a narrative real and convincing through skillful use of circumstantial details.
He uses dullness in a magical way. It is an eerie accumulation of ordinary that creates the illusion of reality. E.A. Baker has noted that Defoe records the tiniest of incidents and the minor details that are insignificant and unnecessary. They’re the signature of his story. They are the trademark of his narrative. He has never done it as extreme as he did in Robinson Crusoe.
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The principle of his approach is not to simply state the fact that something has been done, but also to explain what was done. The method of circumstantial evidence is justified by the arduousness Defoe puts into it. It is taken by the weight and extent of detail that it has no questions and is convinced of that there is no doubt. The components are so hefty together that the entire thing is accepted as a fact without question. The most interesting thing is that our attention is drawn to his creation of sieves, similar to if he were recounting the sinking of a ship or escape from Cannibals.
Walter Allen endorses the view of Baker. Allen says the story of Robinson Crusoe he has persuaded us that the impossible isn’t just possible but actually occurs. Robinson was there for a total of 28 years, two months, and 19 days.
The exactness of the description provides a clue to the Defoe method. It is his mastery of literal. The illusion of totality is derived from his use of an enormous amount of detail of circumstantial evidence. He describes in minute detail even the smallest details that no one else can explain. What happens to Crusoe and what he is doing, he recounts in detail, making it seem impossible to believe he’s speaking about what he hasn’t witnessed first-hand.
Defoe creates the illusion of reality with the clever combination of details that cannot be imagined. They are often too simple to be invented by anyone. They can only be explained through the lens of experience. This technique of gathering information convinces the reader of the authenticity of his imagined images. To convince viewers of the real world, Defoe aims to create the impression of absoluteness. He achieves this accuracy through diary, journal, and dates.
In chapter 8 of The Journal, Defoe reiterates the events that occurred to Robinson Crusoe. Robinson has written in his journal a date-wise record of what has been happening to him. He writes as if it was actually happening to him and is not an invention. The diary is unlikely to be fabricated or false. This journal, this diary, is so authentic that it deceives the imagination out of its wings. Here’s one of the records.
December 24. Much rain all night and all day; no stirring out.
Chapter 12, “I Make Myself a Canoe,” relies on realist beliefs. While it’s all fiction and we can’t even in our dreams think it’s real. The reality is so objective. Robinson performs a number of the things we serve in our daily lives. He is an artisan or tailor, carpenter, and many others. He even builds an actual boat, initially an enormous one that can’t take out to the ocean, and later one that is a Canoe that he can manage. There is no way to convince anyone that this description isn’t pure realism and is close to naturalism, even though it’s only a fantasy.
Defoe creates the illusion of reality through the description of small details. In this essay, he lists the people who comprise the Robinson army. He is able to achieve his desired effect of verisimilitude through preciseness and precision not only in dates, numbers but also in the names of geographical places. He has used thirty-nine geographic locations from Robinson Crusoe, and they are every one of them confirmed to be correct.
Daniel defoe writing style
Finally, it’s his simple, racy informal, business-like straightforward, and quick style that is perfectly suited to his mission of creating the illusion of reality. The story is told in such a rapid manner that the reader has no time to contemplate whether the story he’s telling is actually real or just a fantasy.
W. H. Hudson says in this regard: His stories are told as if they were real-life stories and told in an unpretentious and straightforward manner that is appropriate to the stories of real-life, with an unassuming aversion to anything that could be interpreted as the artifice. This is why the stories have a remarkable small-scale realism, which is recognized as an exceptional characteristic of his writing. His straightforward, homely, and casual style worked well for the task.