I first read Robinson Crusoe when I was about twelve. I found it a bit boring, but I liked the part he spent on the island. Now, reading it again I can actually appreciate the beginning of the book—the part that forms the character. Defoe wrote the book very well and developed the character into someone we can relate to. His struggles and joys make the story.
The book begins with Crusoe living with his parents. He feels a great desire to go out and have an adventure. He doesn’t want to live the mundane life that his parents want him to lead. They give him advice against leaving and throwing away a secure life. He runs away, in effect, and gains passage aboard a ship. After a few mishaps and several mini-adventures aboard different ships, he finds himself a household slave. He manages to gain his freedom with a young boy. They sail south along the African coast, until a Portuguese ship rescues them. All along this time, Crusoe regrets, repents and reaffirms his resolve for adventure in turn. He regrets disobeying his parents, yet he never quite goes back. Finally, on one voyage the ship capsizes in a storm and he finds himself the sole survivor on an island. And there the story really “begins.”
During his many voyages, particularly the last one, which resulted in his life being changed forever, Crusoe goes through many, many dangerous storms at sea. The impression the author gives about Crusoe dealing with the storms is that Robinson is a bit of a chicken. He learns to deal with storms at sea, but is forever frightened and never quite sure of himself (which all changes after his life on the island). It is understandable, of course, that you are scared-stiff in a storm which threatens to drown you at any minute, but the way Defoe portrays Crusoe leads you to think that he was almost a coward.
Would the book have been the same without the descriptions of the storms? I think that not only are the vivid storm descriptions vital to the books success, but all the descriptions in general paint a picture that carries you through the nitty-gritty details, and sometimes boring parts of the book. You almost feel Crusoe’s terror in the last storm. You can feel his desperation to live during his first days on the island. You sympathize with his growing loneliness as time passes. Without the descriptions in the book, Robinson Crusoe would never have become the success it is today.