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Gliserman, M. (1990). Robinson Crusoe: The Vicissitudes of Greed—Cannibalism and Capitalism. Am. Imago, 47(3-4):197-231.

(1990). American Imago, 47(3-4):197-231

Robinson Crusoe: The Vicissitudes of Greed—Cannibalism and Capitalism

Martin Gliserman

Displaced Desire: Money, Mother, Eating, and Encirclements

For Robinson Crusoe something seems to be either missing or too present. In Defoe's elaborate fantasy narrative, Crusoe spends his life seeking what has gone, and avoiding what is present, creating distance between himself and others. He is paradoxically as fearful as he is desirous of the other. He must get what he wants and leave what he wants. In the process of searching, he repeatedly leaves others, beginning with his family of origin and ending with his family of creation. Thus he reverses an original, objective situation in which the object both left him and didn't leave him, or repeats the subjectively perceived existential state of the self disappearing in the absence and the presence of the object. A passive state is transformed into an active one.

The sharpest example of this reversal is seen in the family situation in the opening and closing of the novel. Crusoe's initiating action in the novel is to leave his parents; he follows in the footsteps of his two older siblings. In the last pages of the novel Crusoe tells us that after returning from his various adventures he was “settled” in England for seven years, during which time he married and had three children. “But,” he tells us, “my Wife dying,” a nephew “drew me in” and “my Inclination to go Abroad … prevailed …” (Defoe 1972, 305). On the surface, he is active in both instances although there is a shift between his initial and final family position— first as a child, and later as a parent.

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