Father and Son Relationships: Clarissa and Robinson Crusoe, Essay Example

In the novels Clarissa, as well as Robinson Crusoe, there is a large family internal conflict that clearly illustrates the dichotomy between a father and son. Though not especially apparent, Clarissa’s brother is heavily influenced by their father–illustrated by his actions after she leaves. As far as Robinson Crusoe’s father, though he was disobeyed, it is clear throughout the text the hold his fathers’ ideals have on him, generally illustrated by guilt.

In the story Clarissa, her father is scarcely seen but frequently heard from. He is generally an anxious and paranoid character who holds an incredible amount of power over his children. He is frequently cast as a dictator over his children, whom he impresses his will upon frequently. The character of Clarissa is kept in virtual captivity until she runs away to what she believes will be a better life. The major point is that is in very clear that he ran his home as a dictatorship.

When she fled his home against his wishes for a love affair with Lovelace, her entire family essentially disowns her. This is where the father to son relationship is very important. Clarissa’s brother, named James after their father, is a very proud character whose reputation is very important to him. It is clear the author used James and James Senior to clearly illustrate his character as a product of his father.

Though she goes through an incredible amount of hardship after leaving her parents’ house, nothing will sway the opinion of her brother and father to help her. Though the appeal was to the entire family, her father and brother were such overbearing and proud characters that it is clear who was orchestrating the ignorance of her pleas for help–even after being used in a brothel, and subsequently raped. Though her Father is frequently looked at as a bitter man due to his ill health, nonetheless he instilled the same values in his son, gravely changing Clarissa’s situation.

In Robinson Crusoe, there are some of the same elements of the father and son dichotomy, however there is a different layer to the issue. Crusoe, the title character, also has an extremely overbearing father who is adverse to his son taking to the seas. Instead, in the beginning of the novel, he constantly pesters his son to enter the profession of law. This is very important because it is a wonderful juxtaposition against how Clarissa’s brother turned into a man just like her father, whereas Robinson decided to take to the seas regardless of his father’s wishes. It is very safe to say that this was in many ways a revolt the same way Clarissa’s was when she ran away.

The major difference between the two, however, is the guilt Robinson continually felt throughout the story. It is clear that he did not like the idea of subverting his father’s wishes, illustrating the connection between a father and son so centralized in Clarissa. Robinson was willing to disobey his father, however, the connection he felt with him would not go away. In this way, it complements what is seen between James and James Sr in the other text.

Student Response

Although I do agree the characters of Robinson and his father are foils, I also believe they serve to complement each other. It is very likely that Robinson may not have been so fast to embark on his journey if his father was not so vehemently against it. In addition, particularly in the first half, Robinson’s guilt for disobeying his father is a central theme and illustrated.

I think your assessment of the comedic dichotomy between Tristram and Walter is dead-on. It is very clear that these characters were placed next to each other to complement each others’ characterization through humor, and it was very effective.