Defoe's Serious Refections during the Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1720) has enjoyed none of the universal popular success of the first part of the Crusoe trilogy. Walter Scott considered that it contained "few observations that might not have been made by any shop-keeper living at Charing Cross," and it is only the search by modem critics for clues to Defoe's intent in writing Robinson Crusoe that has rescued the text from total neglect. The attention that a relatively small number of critics have given to the Serious Refections has yielded some fascinating clues as to the way in which Defoe viewed his fictional craft. The most complete attempt to define Defoe's approach to fiction from his own writings remains Maximillian Novak's; but, as Robert Merrett has pointed out, Defoe's critical views are so heavily subject to their rhetorical and didactic purpose that contradictions and inconsistencies make it almost impossible to weld them into a coherent theory.' Within the rhetorical and didactic parameters of the Serious Reflections, however, we can see Defoe, if not defining a theory, at least grappling with the moral and epistemological issues raised by his own creation. It is of crucial importance that Defoe addressed these problems after rather than before writing the Crusoe narrative. The light thrown on Robinson Crusoe depends on the status we accord the Serious Reflections; we need to understand what Defoe was attempting to do there if we are to explore its relationship and relevance to the narrative of Crusoe's adventures.
"Real and Imaginary Stories: Robinson Crusoe and the Serious Reflections,"
3, Article 4.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/ecf/vol8/iss3/4