Polly Flint's Retreat to Crusoe

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

One of the most important of the many relations of Robinson Crusoe to Polly Flint appears in the passage that follows her discovery that Theo Zeit has abandoned her for another woman. Without mentioning again her abandonment and new isolation, Polly simply begins this new section with an analysis of her hero's sanity or lack of it:

"It is considered usual that anyone in great solitude of mind for many years will run mad. Alexander Selkirk, after only four years on his island ran mad as a hare, as did most of the historical characters who may or may not have been Daniel Defoe's inspiration for Robinson Crusoe. . . . Perhaps Crusoe himself was insane when he arrived on the island, for his twenty-eight years in residence show only the growth of a most extraordinary and unnatural steadiness.

"This growing, rather frightening sanity proceeded from a very affectionate analysis of himself, his ability to stand apart, to watch and to muse upon his shaggy and unlovely figure walking the great beaches. . . . Monumental, godlike Crusoe. Monumentally and deistically taking control of his emotions. And I, Polly Flint, after the knowledge of my loss, set out to be the same. Theo's face and being and presence at her shoulder, Polly Flint blots out, and lets the noble and unfailing grace and being and presence of Crusoe become her devotion and joy.

"Crusoe is her idol and king.

"Crusoe's mastery of circumstances.

"Crusoe, Polly Flint's father and mother.

"Crusoe, the unchanging, the faithful.

"Crusoe, first met at the cracking of Polly Flint's egg.

"Crusoe, the imprint.. . .

"Will Polly Flint ever attain his wonderful endeavour to bring things to a divine balance? 'Bringing the years to an end as a tale that is told?'" . . .

"Sitting in the yellow house with nothing in the world to do, Polly Flint. Twenty years old. Might there be time?

* * *

"I became very odd. Oh, really quite odd then." [168-169]

This passage, which precedes Polly's decades of immersion in Robinson Crusoe , sees her translating the novel into French and German and writing a long hypertextual study of it as a spiritual autobiography. This period also sees Polly's alcoholism, which begins to blend with her addiction to this literary work. How many other uses of the paradigm (or situation) of the castaway mariner can you find? How many of them enforce this view of Polly's existence?

Imagery United Kingdom