2 min read
I was really fascinated with the use of dates in the novel, especially from Crusoe's point of view. Later in the novel, after his religious awakening, he starts to become interested in the specific dates that catastrophes or deliverances happened to him, seeing a pattern of major events falling on the same day, including his birthday. And keeping track of what day it is seems important to him not just from a farming perspective (when is it dry season or wet, etc.) but from a perspective of trying to maintain some agency over his experience. At the very least, he can tell how many days he has survived and what day of the month the rest of the world is experiencing somewhere far away. It seems distressing to him when he sleeps through a day in a fever and messes up his count - this seems like a dilemma of his physical condition causing him to lose even more contact with the world/his own autonomy. As he sleeps, the world continues but he is not conscious of it. If a tree falls...
Since I thought Crusoe was keeping track of his days in order to stay in the world, in some sense, it surprised me when daily loggings began to morph into months and then years, and suddenly we were 18 years in. Maybe's Crusoe's fascination with the significance of certain dates is an attempt to pull something out of the blur of his labor, to make his very life significant, predetermined, and in some ways, predictable.
All Crusoe has is time, so much of it that it doesn't really matter if he spends months on a project or hours. Perhaps marking time is a way of limiting his life, which seems to be terrifyingly surrounded by infinities (of ocean, death, and hours).
Looking at the lists of dates, some cut large swaths (summer, spring) while others pinpoint. I wonder which is pleasanter to a man: to labor with the anxiety of our modern age (time is money), or to labor with no end in sight, and no objective but his own comfort. Whether time is measured or irrelevant, Crusoe continues to work, and the only time he feels true loss is when he must stand still, ill, and watch time pass him by.