Eva Brann writes in her article “The Unexpurgated Robinson Crusoe” that Robinson Crusoe is the archetype, a model of a new man, soon to be predominant breed – a modern man. Crusoe is a rational man, with extraordinary capabilities, a lone individual and an individual that makes a culture of one. He is every man in one: a businessman, laborer, and accountant. He is the ultimate individualist. He does everything by himself, for himself. Nevertheless, what can be said about Robinson Crusoe’s modernity if while reading the novel he continued reminding me to an ancient Greek hero Jason? In this paper, I will explore a proposal that Robinson Crusoe is an adaptation of an ancient hero into a modern one. To accomplish that, I will first compare and contrast noticeable commonalities of these two heroes, then I will review the dispute between scholars regarding a superiority of classical authors over contemporary writers, and finally, I will review Bruno Latour’s essay We were never been modern to understand what it means to be modern according to a contemporary author.
As soon as I started reading Daniel Defoe’s novel The Life and Strange and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner I noticed something familiar. The story looked so similar to a story about Jason and his voyages with the Argonauts; however there was something different, there was only one Argonaut in Defoe’s novel, only Robinson Crusoe. To explore my proposal that the Robinson Crusoe is an adaptation of the ancient hero to the modern one I will first explain what is understood by the term the ancient hero, then I will present short summaries of the Defoe’s novel and the Greek myth about Jason, and finally, I will compare similarities and differences of these two characters.
“The ancient Greek hero was a religious figure, a dead person who received cult honors and was expected in return to bring prosperity, especially in the form of fertility of plants (crops) and animals, to the community. A key part to the narrative of the hero's life is that s/he undergoes some sort of ordeal. The hero, either man or woman, who are mortals not immortal like the gods must suffer during his or her lifetime, and, significantly, must die. The hero must struggle against the fear of death, in order to achieve the most perfect death.”
Defoe’s novel is a story about a young man that decided to disobey his father and his good advice to stay in England and have peaceful and happy life. Instead, young Robinson Crusoe wants to go to sail the sea. His father predicts to him that this kind of choice will lead to hardship and misery, but regardless he disobeys him and he is off to the sea. On his first voyage he experiences hardship but fear doesn’t divert him from his next venture. His misfortunes are multiplying, but he is still “driven by his impulses,” until he is a sole survivor of a shipwreck on a deserted island, where he was changed to the “person guided by reason” in the period of...