Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)






Robinson Crusoe bears signs of an uneasy reconciliation of two contradictory notions of language. The first of these is the idea, current in Defoe's day, that language has retained something of the divinely-granted power it had for Adam in the Garden of Eden and that, between names and things, there a relationship guaranteed by God. The second not ion is to be found in John LocKe's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. There, LocKe argues that the relationship between words and things is arbitrary and purely a matter of convention.

This thesis seeks to demonstrate how in Robinson Crysoe Defoe attempts to reclaim for language the sacred power it had possessed for Adam by subsuming the desacralized conception of language we find in LocKe within a larger, essentially Adamic In the f irE.t chapter, it is argued that, to date, the criticism of Robinson Crusoe haehas failed to acKnowledge fully the depth of anxiety the novel displays towards language. The possible sources of this tension are traced in the second chapter and, in the third, I examine how the Adamic and LocKean theories manifest themselves in the novel.

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