Defoe in his preface to the novel Robinson Crusoe described the book as “a just history of fact “ , . However, one thing can’t be denied : Robinson Crusoe was based upon the actual experiences of a real man called Alexander Selkirk who had spent four years alone , on the uninhabited island of Juan Fernandez. But , we shall keep in mind that Defoe’s story of Crusoe’s experiences and doings is largely factious and fantastic ; yet, while we are going through it we never pause to question the narrator’s credentials .
Defoe’s technique of telling the story is such that we fall completely under its spell and go on reading it eagerly, and even breathlessly, without doubting its veracity. In short, Defoe is a realistic novelist. In Robison Crusoe , he gave his readers all kinds of minute details. Such details to be seen in Crusoe’s digging the cave, building the fence, collecting his crops of barely and wheat, hunting the animals , fighting the cannibals and the like.
Defoe, on the other hand, has used different techniques to bring realism into the novel. In the first place , he has used the circumstantial method : One of Crusoe’s most successful projects is the raising of the crops of barely and rice on the island. Another circumstantial method is that the presence of the wrecked ship near the sea shore which enabled Crusoe to bring the equipment and the material he needed to survive. On the other hand , there is realism in character –portrayal. Friday’s gratitude to Crusoe is perfectly natural.
Friday becomes a devoted servant of Crusoe who has saved his life from the clutches of cannibals and many other characters in the novel seem to be real such as the English captain , the Portuguese Captain and the black boy Xury who has helped Crusoe to escape from the Turkish pirates. Yet, another device which adds to the realistic effect of the novel is a liberal of dates and geographical place- names. Crusoe was born in the year 1632, in the city of York. He got stranded on the desolate island on the 30th September 1659.
He left the island on the 19th December 1686, after a stay of 28 years, two months, and nineteen days and the like. Finally, the psychological truth of the story helps in bringing realism into the novel. Crusoe’s feelings after he has been swept ashore on an uninhabited island have been described so minutely and convincingly that we get the feeling of it. During his illness he draws comfort from prayer. However, Defoe claimed the novel was historical in a deeper sense than was generally understood by the term “historical” , and said that the book was an allegory of his own life.