Monday, 21 December 2009

Get out of losing situations (Part 1 of 3)

Fifty-nine years is a long time in the life of a man. Days go by without trace, leaving nothing behind, turned to dust by the daily grind. During such a long period, most men choose to ply their trade quietly. Few are those who prefer to go on a crusade. For writer Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), fifty-nine years was the time it took him to get out of a losing situation and find his own way.

In his immortal novel Robinson Crusoe, Defoe wrote that “it was then when I began to feel how much happier my current life was, despite its miserable circumstances, than the wicked, cursed, abominable life that I had led in the past.”

The book was published in 1719, just when Defoe had turned fifty-nine. During the initial forty years of his life, he had been repeatedly prosecuted and imprisoned for speaking out his mind. In financial desperation, he had then wasted the following decade writing propaganda for different employers, a truly losing situation.

It was only in his late fifties that Defoe felt secure enough to write a major work of fiction. Robinson Crusoe was the result, the story of a man stranded on a solitary island with no company other than his thoughts.

When we consider Defoe's personal background, it is not surprising that he wrote a novel about a man who breaks free of society's constrains. The narration, written in the first person, continues to appeal modern generations due to its profound philosophical style, which reflects Defoe's desire for truth and independence.

In the novel, Crusoe laments in retrospect that “now I look back upon my desolate solitary island as the most pleasant place in the world and all the happiness my heart could wish for is to be there again.”

To be continued in Part 2


[Image by David Paul Ohmer under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]


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