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The Lives of Crusoe and Gulliver Movie Analysis Essay

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Updated: May 13th, 2020


Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels are ones the most popular books in the world. The directors George T. Miller, Rod Hardy, and Rob Letterman successfully employed different cinematographic effects to make the films based on these books. The two films share several themes. The most outstanding common theme disclosed in both films is the discovery of the unknown – the protagonist in Daniel Dafoe’s Robinson Crusoe undergoes real-life challenges and the protagonist’s in Gulliver’s Travels discoveries come from individual voyages.

This paper is designed to analyze the major spheres of life the films explore – religion, education, and political organization. The paper will present the comparison and contrast of the ways the directors used to show these themes in both films. Crusoe’s behavior in a real-life crisis will be compared to Gulliver’s frustrations and fascinations caused by multiple mysteries he faces in various strange lands. Using putting the characters into various conflicts and situations, the two films show how different aspects of their personalities change in the spheres of religious, political, and educational development.

Robinson Crusoe (Pierce Brosnan) is first presented by George T. Miller and Rod Hardy as a young boy struggling to leave his homeland after receiving threats from his enemies (Robinson Crusoe). He boards a merchant marine which later is shipwrecked, and as a result, the main character finds himself left alone on a deserted island. After the shipwreck, Crusoe encounters many challenges and adventures. Over time he develops socially, religiously and politically in solitude before he finally has a chance to go home.

Lemuel Gulliver, on the other hand, travels to different mysterious places and meets very strange people. His discoveries also start with a shipwreck -at Lilliput – a land of very tiny people. He observes their social and political systems, their court of justice and helps the clan rescue a fleet from Blefuscudians – the neighborhood clan. During his stay in the land, the Lilliput governor charges him with treason, and he escapes to Blefuscu. Gulliver is saved by a passing ship, just like Crusoe (Gulliver’s Travels).

Discoveries of Religion

Religion is a major theme in both films. All the directors – George T. Miller, Rod Hardy, and Rob Letterman – see religion as a state of awakening from a dream. Robinson Crusoe comes to this awakening by necessity. At the beginning of the film, Crusoe is presented as a boy who is rebellious and does not appreciate religious values. On the island Crusoe is lonely and desperate after the shipwreck. His escapade forces him to turn to God in the moments of desperation. He salvages the Bible from the wreck and starts praying. Despite being born in a puritan family, he only practices prayers after the shipwreck. The shock from the trouble that happened to him makes Crusoe re-evaluate religion and develop an appreciation towards it (Robinson Crusoe).

Defoe fails to bring out the realization of religion based on Crusoe’s past. It is not even clear to him that he is a sinner for leaving home without his father’s consent. He says, “…my conscience which was not yet come to the pitch of hardness to which it has been since, reproached me with the contempt of advice and the breach of my duty to God and my Father” (Fausset 5). The respect towards parents in the puritan family would have been expected to play a major role in Crusoe’s lamentation, but he is portrayed as a sinner in the book.

George T. Miller and Rod Hardy reveal some puritan culture in Crusoe. The character views his shipwreck as a result of a curse coming from his father for Robinson’s disobedience. Crusoe starts his prayers by acknowledging the power of God. The directors reveal little inner self of this hero, and for this reason, it is difficult for the audience to understand the whole transformation of the hero.

Rob Letterman’s, Gulliver explores religion, attempting to understand the origin of sin. Rob Letterman introduces his protagonist to several societies with different religious views. Gulliver sees human beings as pessimistic creatures, unpleasant and uncongenial. The director explores the life of aliens with celestial characters. The Houyhnhnms are shown as rational and virtuous people. Rob Letterman develops sinful canal of the imaginative body of the Yahoos when Gulliver encounters them. They are depicted as lumping diseases in both their minds and bodies smitten under their pride (Gulliver’s Travels). The director, however, fails to recognize any form of religion in society (National Council 1).

At one point in the film, Gulliver is shown as a truly religious person and a proper believer offering supplication, but doing it with anti-Catholic satire. He utters meaningless words with no spiritual commitment. Evidently, unlike Crusoe, Gulliver has no religious faith, and the satirical manipulation of the film brings this out.

Discoveries of Education

Educational discoveries of both characters take different and unique dimensions. They both are looking for the truth and sense of living in many various aspects of life. They explore layers of the society, their inner selves, and learn different lessons. Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver have to go through what is termed as educational philosophy closely tied to imaginative literature. Their lives revolve around education through limited adolescent self-autonomy. The two characters are undertaking allegorical journeys of self-education in their discoveries. Crusoe is seen as a rude rebellious character; he enters the world of education through hardship. He avoids all the social and political obligations and has to face his fears, loneliness, desperation, and suffering. The film portrays Crusoe as a person who has received all the necessary education; however, this is all useless since the whole life of Crusoe is unplanned and accidental by nature (Braverman 2).

Crusoe’s desire was to find independence from his parents; he never had a goal to look for some external truth. The perfectness of his education including the taming of the wild animals and his meeting with Friday all remain questionable. Arguably, perfect education is determined by its productiveness in society. Since Crusoe spent the major part of his life in solitude, it is inappropriate to conclude that he developed the necessary societal values rather than survival tactics (Robinson Crusoe).

Gulliver discovers a political ideology based on morals rather than great abilities. The moral of the societies he encountered was to accommodate all people in employment. The film, however, fails to acknowledge the different kinds of jobs that can be handled. The character develops the understanding that all jobs need intellectual output rather than abilities. Gulliver gains knowledge through sensation and reflection that gives him the ability to develop a complex aptitude for understanding complex relationships but only to limited levels (Basil 119). This makes his mode too much doubted since Gulliver is an actual being, a man. His learning capacity hence, should portray human behavior.

Gulliver is first seen as being involved in learning by observation. Through his observations, he concludes that people in society have poor reasoning skills. The observation that Gulliver applies in his learning is seen to be a very useful method of learning even though he was in a strange land. Gulliver and Crusoe’s educational systems are similar since both were captives of strange worlds (Gulliver’s Travels).

Political Discoveries

Politics plays a major role in both films. Robinson Crusoe, who once was a disobedient boy, later went through a tough ordeal before finally managed to form solid governance on a once uninhabited island. He is born in puritan society, and he uses some of this as his advantage to conquer the strange land. The directors of the film managed to show a move from local politics to the more rapid political organization as illustrated by the daily activities performed by the main character. His first work was demarcating his territory around the cave. This was followed by understanding his hunting ground and later capturing and fighting invaders. (Robinson Crusoe).

Although Defoe is not directly addressing politics, it is clear that he is a political enthusiast. For example, to survive on a deserted island, his protagonist seeks policies of settling and develops defense strategies. He finds a cave and turns it into his home. He sets his political boundary from his known defense policies and gets back to the ship for armor. Crusoe is also keen not to stay out late. He finally manages to organize his day to make the most of it, first by hunting and later by taming wild goats. Thus, he has domestic animals, and this allows him to set aside some time from hunting and searching for food and spend it productively. Hunting here is arguably seen as Defoe’s venture into politics from the most primitive standpoint to excellent perfect political strategies.

As opposed to Crusoe, Gulliver is actively involved in social bonds. His travels are set in different societal systems with strong and unique political structures. Rob Letterman brings out the political system of each of the countries Gulliver visits. In the film, it is easy to analyze the political systems, organizations, and leadership tactics of each place the main character goes to (Basil 66). The film’s protagonist becomes a victim of the prevailing political situation in the given society rather than a player in the system. Rob Letterman uses many allusions in his work while presenting political occurrences (Gulliver’s Travels).


The films Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels seem to be very different and exploring different themes. However, even though they were brought to screens at a different time and places, they have a common theme of putting their characters in unknown settings and making them explore different aspects of their own lives and the world around. The characters reveal hidden political, educational, and religious themes, and they learn to adapt to the situations they got into through their adventures and exploration of their inner capacities. Both films show that the survival of the main characters trapped in unfamiliar environments is only possible when the characters demonstrate their strength and flexibility. The films speak about the importance of adjustments and ability of a human to change not only the outer world but also the inner self to cope with the difficulties, as the world around us changes only when we change ourselves.

Works Cited

Basil, Hall. An Inverted Hypocrite: Swift the Churchman’ in the World of Jonathan Swift: Essays for the Tercentenary, ed. Brian Vickers, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1968. Print.

Braverman, Richard. “Locke, Defoe, and the Politics of Childhood.” English Language Notes. Sept. 1986: 36-48.

Fausset, David. “The Strange Surprizing Sources of Robinson Crusoe”. (Reviewed by Geoffrey Sill). Eighteenth-Century Fiction 8.4 (July 1996): 539-40.

Gulliver’s Travels. Dir. Rob Letterman. Perf. Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Jason Segel, Amanda Peet. Twentieth Century Fox, 2010. Film.

Robinson Crusoe. Dir. Rod Hardy and George T. Miller. Perf. Pierce Brosnan, William Takaku, Polly Walker, Ian Hart, James Frain, Damian Lewis and Martin Grace. ABC. 1997. Film.

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