3 min read
Looking at the Date and Time lists proved to be the most interesting aspect of Robinson Crusoe. Assuming that the NER processed and extracted data through the linear progression of the text, the pattern of Dates and the fluctuation of meticulous recording of dates and more approximate, less specific time frames speak volumes about Robinson Crusoe's psychological state and perhaps even the concept of time. The shift from a narrative form to a journal form occurs in Chapter VII, after what many would consider traumatic series of events in which he is shipwrecked, marks a notable shift in his psychological process. He erects a cross in which the date of his isolation begins: September 30th 1656. Since he is now without country, without society, without any relative markers of his identity through societal position, nationality, the succeeding obsession with ticking marks on the cross to keep track of dates and times, as well as the shift into meticulously tracking his days and the specificity of his lists, indicate a psychological process that acts as some sort of defense mechanism for an unmooring of his identity. When he goes back to the ship many times despite realizing the useless of money and material objects (as evinced in the NER's list of money, which is literally only one mention of a specific sum of money of 100 pounds), I would argue that despite the seeming contradiction of his acknowledgement that material and monetary possessions are arbitrary societal creations and his action of taking the money regardless, it is an attempt to help him reconcile with his unmooring. The obsession with tracking and recording becomes a way to cope with displacement of his being. Psychologically, when trauma occurs and one's being is fragmented and seriously questioned, materiality and obsession becomes a way in which one can remind oneself of their physicality, their realness. If Crusoe's identity cannot be defined by relative social position, by others, and by common societal norms that typically define one's place and identity (like organizations or institutions, given NER's seemingly nonsensical list of organizations that include things like "*" and "NW"), then his material possessions (hence the unrealistically meticulous accounting of his possessions) become what he is defined by. His obsession with journaling, which is especially highlighted by the NER date list, reflects that as well. Even though the novel is Crusoe's recollection of his adventures, at the time of the journal he probably would not think that it would be read by others or there was a use for it other than keeping his physicality grounded and real. I'd be really interested in going back and tracking the pattern of meticulous record keeping and then the loss of interest, as evinced by certain chunks picked up by the NER that begin to be more looser and approximate measures of time, such as "spring", "the half of April", and "this second captivity the same" to see what triggers his obsession with almost daily date keeping.
The NER is really interesting in that it compacts and highlights certain aspects of the novel that, when reading the text itself, may not be as thematically overt. Listing "Heaven" as an organization is incredibly interesting, as Crusoe turns to religion once he has nothing real left. Seeing the pattern and the trajectory of date keeping in a compact list highlights a trend that may not have been as prominent to keep in mind when I read the narrative text.