Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is a relatively straightforward novel not full of symbolism. Nonetheless, those few symbols are significant, multifaceted, and can be interpreted differently. Robinson’s discovery of “the print of a man’s naked foot on the shore” is one of the most noteworthy episodes of the work (Defoe, 2003, p. 122). This part of the novel may be considered a turning point, and the footprint itself is a symbol full of meanings and interpretations, both evident and hidden.
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The most profound and significant but non-obvious sense of the footprint is hidden in Crusoe’s reaction. He felt shocked, confused, and “terrified to the last degree” (Defoe, 2003, p. 122). His imagination drew “various shapes”, “wild ideas,” and “unaccountable whimsies,” but all of them were tied with fear (Defoe, 2003, p. 122). Crusoe could consider the footprint as hope for salvation and a positive sign but being by himself for many years resulted in crucial anxiety at the thought of a possible encounter with people. Crusoe was weaned from the human community and was not psychologically ready to return to society. He loved being alone and liked the island and the things he created, whereas the potential presence of people presupposed the destruction of his own little world.
Another implication of the footprint’s discovery is obvious and expected: Crusoe is not the only person on the island. The footprint is literally evidence of another human presence. As the turning point, this symbol prepares the reader for the appearance of other characters, a setting strikingly different from the first half of the novel. Thus, the footprint symbolizes changes and may even correlate with human populations’ invasions of wild nature, untouched parts and following alterations. Back to apparent meaning, this symbol foreshadows Crusoe’s meeting with savages and inspires him to be highly cautious and make some preparations and protection plans.
Defoe, D. (2003). Robinson Crusoe. (J. Richetti, Ed.). Penguin Books.