Daniel Defoe operates at his best in measured spaces and concrete details. In his novels, money clinks and time beats. And nowhere can you experience the slow, steady beat of time than in Robinson Crusoe
. What Defoe lacks in the ability to portray his characters psychologically, he makes up for by using details that allow us to deduce his characters' emotions.
The word time
appears on nearly every page of Robinson Crusoe
; we get painstaking descriptions of Crusoe's use of time and his infinite attempts to keep track of time despite his disorienting circumstances. Crusoe's crushing loneliness is less apparent from what he says than from the understated descriptions of large amounts of time passing, underlining the blankness of his existence despite his furious industry: "I cannot say that after this, for five years, any extraordinary thing happened to me, but I liv'd on in the same Course, in the same Posture and Place...planting my Barley and Rice."
It is only after fifteen years on the island that Crusoe finds Friday's footprints, the first sign of another human life. Another eight years pass before they meet. Crusoe has spent twenty-three years without companionship. He will spend another twelve years on the island--measuring out his time in useful projects--before he finds the means to escape.