The book Robinson Crusoe1 written by Daniel Defoe is about a young man who learns about the real world by "traveling the seas," in doing so he skips the "middle station" of his life and away from the safety nets of his parents. Jean-Jacques Rousseau author of, The First and Second Discourses2, describes the savage man as he perceives him to be. In "Robinson Crusoe," Robinson in one of his travels leaves him stranded on a deserted island. This is the setting where some may consider that Robinson Crusoe becomes a model of Rousseau's savage man. Both of these books were published in the Eighteenth Century, with less than thirty years between them. The time period of which these books were written coincide with each other. The basis, which Robinson Crusoe was written, was the idea of capitalism and discovering the New World. The First and Second Discourses was written with the idea of the New World's people, for example the "Caribs" of Venezuela.
Rousseau refers to the savage man as having desires for food, physical needs, to be at ease, and not to be in pain. When Robinson owned his own plantation he only produced the quantity he needed to survive. That fact coincides with Rousseau's idea of the savage man, but after two years Robinson produces a larger quantity to sell for profit. This course of action can be associated with capitalism and being prepared for the future. This is not what the "savage man" in Rousseau's discourses is associated with. Instead he is concerned with what is necessary for survival and repose at his present state of being. As with the plantation, Robinson makes preparations for the future, when he is stranded on an island. Robinson does this by first gathering all the supplies that he could from the remains of the ship onto a raft he made. Then he stores them in caves. When the caves were filling up he used his ingenuity to create tunnels in the caves to create more space. The items that he took off the ship were not all crucial at the moment to have. Those items that were not crucial were taken so in case he needed them he would have them. This is another example how he plans for the future. Some of the items that were extracted from the ship included biscuits, rum, cheeses, corn, ammunition, and guns. Robinson also found money in the form of gold and silver. Even though he was stranded on an island he took the money. The reason for doing so is because mentally he still values gold and silver. Robinson's concern with food also works in the same way. Once he discovered that goats inhabit the island, he killed one for food. Later, he constructed a hedge for enclosing herd of goats. This action supports Rousseau's statement on the savage man's realization that he surpasses animal more in skill than they do in strength and he does not have to fear animals any longer. The killing and trapping of the goats are a result of the savage man's realization. The fashion for Robinson to raise crops on the island is done almost in the same way it was done on his plantation, except instead of selling for profit he stores excess crops in the cave.
Rousseau stated, "The savage man's body being the only implement he know, he employs it for various uses." This certainly is not the case for Robinson Crusoe. He uses his mind and body to accomplish certain tasks. While stranded on the island he creates and builds many things. Robinson built a tent for protection instead of only relying on the cave. Robinson built his fence and fortification in such a way that cannot be noticed by someone who was not aware of its existence. This was done to prevent any intruders from noticing that someone was living on the island. Building the enclosure that way Robinson tried to also deter anyone from entering his property. Rousseau conveys to us how someone could own property and how this was a quality only civilized people could have. Robinson still civilized considers a certain portion of the island his property. He built a table and chair to be more comfortable, which civilized people would only think. Making and doing certain things probably helped him to remain sane, by trying to make his home seem as civilized as he can make it. Robinson used his craft skills to weave baskets that he used to store his crops, this was done to make storage and collecting crops more efficient. Trying to leave the island, he carved a boat, but could not pull it to the shore. Thinking of how to move the boat to the shore, he dug a series of trenches to transport the boat. Even though this idea was not successful, creativity in his mind tried to use other means to transport the boat, rather than only relying on Robinson's physical strength. Robinson used his pottery skills to create pots, dishes, pitchers, and a mortar. This mortar was the beginning of a successful project. And that project was to bake bread. Constructing an oven that would was to bake bread took Robinson a long time. This took him almost his entire third year on the island. Using his ingenuity Robinson substituted the use of gunpowder to kill his prey with traps to capture them. This was done in order to keep the remaining supply of gunpowder, for any future need of it.
Robinson Crusoe is not a model of Rousseau's "savage man." Robinson remains sane and keeps planning for the future. Even though Robinson is stranded on an island, he keeps certain qualities and ideas fresh in his mind. His way of life on the island could be used to identify these certain qualities and ideas which only someone who was civilized could have. He sat in a chair, wore clothing, raised other animals, had pets, and he even made an inventory of everything he had in his possession on the island. This list included goods, food, animals, and whatever else he had control over. Making an inventory is not something a "savage man" would do. Robinson also kept planning ahead for the future. Considering that he was alone and turning to the Bible and praying to God for answers are something that is only done by civilize people. It is difficult for someone to go back to the state of nature and mind to which Rousseau's savage man is in. Even though Robinson might have been without human contact for a long period of time, he remained civilized.