The titular character in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe has what would arguably be a natural reaction upon his discovery of being marooned on an island, separated from all other people in the world: “that for a while [he] run about like a Mad-man” (43), but this irrational act lasts for less than a complete sentence. Immediately, Crusoe begins to apply logic to his condition, looking for any resource he can find. Though he must fight back tears at the realization that the crew would have lived had they stayed on the ship, he immediately resolves to raid the wreck and take all the provisions he can from it. He is very methodical, listing every technique he uses and every item he takes. He is able to resolve what to do in his situation by carefully considering what he needs to survive.
In his quest on the ship, Crusoe has “three Encouragements, 1. A smooth calm Sea, 2. The Tide rising and setting in to the Shore, 3. What little Wind there was blew [him] towards the Land” (47). “Encouragement,” according to the OED, means “a fact or circumstance which serves to encourage.” In Crusoe’s case, however, encouragement comes not only from his circumstances but also from the calm demeanor by which he is able to face them. Truly, he is outside of the Hobbesian state of nature despite being completely surrounded by nature itself with no other human in sight. Without anybody else, nature is the only encouragement Crusoe has, meaning that it is not the state of complete cruelty that Hobbes envisions it to be. Crusoe does not live in “continual fear, and danger of violent death,” and though his life may be “solitary,” it is not “poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Hobbes).
Crusoe can thus find encouragement in nature by relying on the intellect within himself to improve his condition. As he continues his quest for goods from the ship, he remarks that “As [he] imagin’d, so it was, there appear’d before [him] a little opening of the Land, and [he] found a strong Current of the Tide to set into” (47). This passage implies that, though scientifically impossible, Crusoe’s own imagination, the power of his mind, has affected his surroundings in such a way as to greatly benefit him. Thus, the language of this text exalts the power of the human mind and its ability to work through nature. Robinson Crusoe stands in direct opposition to Hobbes, proving that if a human can simply apply his/her mind to a task at hand, then s/he can survive in the state of nature.
Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. New York: The Modern Library, 2001. Print.
“encouragement, n.” Oxford English Dictionary. Jun. 2006. Web. 14 Feb. 2010.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Internet Infidels. 1995. Web. 15 Feb. 2010.