Coetzee´s Foe and Defoe´s Robinson Crusoe Contrasting Stories of Friday
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Both the verbal and nonverbal voice play a huge part in making us who we are by establishing our character, our personality, and allowing us to express our thoughts to those around us. The voice is such an important part of our person that without one our very being would be vulnerable and mold to the wants and desires of others. J.M. Coetzee’s Foe and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe tell two contrasting stories about the life of a savage manservant named Friday. Foe’s Friday is incapable of speech due to a horrific mutilation done to his mouth. Defoe’s Friday is capable of speech and is taught to understand and speak the English language. No matter what version you believe, it is impossible to know which author tells the true story. Although Friday’s past will forever remain in the shadows, Coetzee’s focus in his novel is to critique the flaws in Defoe’s Friday by giving his more realistic interpretation of the character in order to show the reader the true fictitious nature of the castaway genre.
Since Coetzee’s Foe can be considered a post-colonial critique of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, the novels share very few similarities between the two Friday characters: Friday is a “cannibal” and he is the slave in the master-slave relationship he has with Robinson Cruso(e). But while there are only two significant similarities, the differences between the two Fridays are to such an extent that they seem like two entirely separate individuals. Everything from their physical appearance down to their behavior and interactions with other characters are all unique to each Friday. When Friday is first observed and described, it is clearly obvious that one was purposefully meant to contrast the other. In Defoe’s novel, Friday was described as “a...
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...re involved in a master-slave relationship, but that is the sole similarity. The novel Robinson Crusoe is an idealized castaway story created to captivate the mind of young boys and teach them what it takes to be a man. Coetzee’s Foe is a critique of Defoe’s novel and the castaway genre in general. Throughout his novel Coetzee enforces his argument that the castaway story is a myth because no one can ever truly know what happens unless that are there to witness the unfolding of events for themselves. For this reason, Coetzee is accusing Defoe of altering the truth in order to make a more enjoyable story for his audience. And as a consequence, Friday becomes a victim of alteration in order to fit a role. Friday becomes a victim of the castaway genre.
Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. 1719. Ed. Evan R. Davis. Peterborough: Broadview, 2010. Print.