Posts Tagged ‘Robinson Crusoe’

Why Our Kids Need Great Literature

July 19, 2010

Surprise!  I am alive, but I’ve been playing hookey from regular blogging here since Pascha.  That’s not to say I haven’t been busy, but I’m a little obsessive about my interests.  Orthodox blogging has taken a backseat to my birding, birdwatching, blogging about birds, feeding birds and planning field trips to see more birds.  

My other great passion is reading and I’ve had the pleasure of immersing myself in books for the last 6 months or so.   I tend towards classics, natural history, hard sci-fi and anything food or food culture, but I’ve also recently gotten hooked on Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.   In the past few weeks I’ve finished To Kill a Mockingbird, The Remains of the Day, Julia Child’s My Life in France, Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antonin Carême, the First Celebrity Chef, Robinson Crusoe, and I’m slowly slogging my way through Don Quixote (though why it takes 900 pages to convey idiocy and self-delusion is beyond me; I have a feeling the deep metaphysical meaning of the story is going to be completely lost on me.)

Surprisingly, of all these books,  the one that has been the most overtly Christian, I’d even say Orthodox in its message of human sinfulness, spiritual awakening, and redemption through a monastic or hermit-like isolation, is Robinson Crusoe.  It’s an early 18th century Protestant Christian morality story through and through, but why should we look at these kinds of literary works as peculiar to their time with no modern message.  If any age needed some lessons in morality mixed with a good dose of Christianity, it’s our present 21st century.   Is a work with this strong a Christian message still taught in high schools?   Daily Bible study, fasting, prayer, scripture quotations, all things alien and forbidden in public schools.  I’m sure it’d be a much more PC curricula if Crusoe explored his frustrated sexual longings in this book, rather than his thankfulness to God for isolating him from those temptations.  (If you need a more substantial literary reason for including this book on a list of required reading for kids, consider that it is first truly English novel, setting the stage for all subsequent English literature.)

Could there be any kind of literature more appropriate for teenagers to read than the account of someone lost and alone, and trying to understand their place in the world?  After suffering a nearly fatal illness that finally shakes his conscience free, Crusoe has a sincere conversion of heart, and begins a life of repentance and spritual revelation.

…reading the Scripture, I came to these Words, He is exalted a Prince and a Saviour, to give Repentance and to give Remission”.   I threw down the Book, and with my Heart as well as my Hands lifted up to Heaven, in a kind of Extasy (sic) of Joy, I cry’d out aloud, ‘Jesus, thou Son of David, Jesus, thou exalted Prince and Saviour, give me Repentance’!