As is often the case with books I’ve been forced to read for school, I was one of the few people in my class who genuinely enjoyed reading Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. In fact, I wrote my first ever college paper on the conflict between savagery and civilization in Crusoe’s construction of a new identity for himself on the island. However, it wasn’t until I was thinking of classic and contemporary pairings for a Top Ten Tuesday post that I realized how many similarities there are between Robinson Crusoe and Andy Weir’s recent science fiction novel The Martian.
Plot || It’s interesting to think about how remarkably similar these novels are despite their different settings. Robinson Crusoe and Mark Watney are both stranded alone in foreign places while traveling in groups. They make lives for themselves in unfamiliar conditions, keep records of their surroundings, eventually make human contact, and ultimately escape their isolation. The endings are also similar, though I won’t talk about them in great detail.
Narration || Narration plays a significant role in these two books, especially since they are both written using a first person perspective. Even though they are isolated and there is no promise they’ll be able to return home, Crusoe and Watney still go through the trouble of recording their thoughts and experiences as though someone else will surely read their accounts. This record-keeping says something important about humanity: we long to communicate with others, even when someone else may not actually be listening.
Civilization || Even in the middle of nowhere, Crusoe and Watney are able to develop their own sort of civilizations in isolation. They grew food, wore clothing, and planned for the future. I suppose these tasks were also a way of staying sane in such dire circumstances. What I find particularly interesting is their fear of the unknown: for Crusoe this is a fear of savagery and for Watney it is a fear of what lies in the darkness of outer space. Again, their fear of what is unfamiliar suggests an important point about humans: we tend to think the worst about what we don’t know.
Who would have thought that stories set on a deserted island and Mars could have so much in common? I highly recommend both of these fantastic books!
What are your thoughts on Robinson Crusoe and The Martian? Are there books that also share these similarities? Have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments section below!