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Home  » Learning Paths » Postmodern and Postcolonial Fiction. J. Coetzee's Foe
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Cancellieri Lorenzo's analysis on the 4th chapter of Foe
[author: Lorenzo Cancellieri - postdate: 2008-01-06]

Text: J.M.Coetzee's Foe

Task: Analysis of chapter 4

Cultural: reflecting on postmodern writing
Intertextual: finding connections with other texts and media
Linguistic: improving writing skills


Foe: Analysis of Chapter 4

"Foe", J.M. Coetzee’s novel, is made up with four chapters.

We analyse here the fourth chapter which obviously starts in medias res. The narrator finds a female body with the face wrapped in a woollen scarf. He tries unwrapping it, but he couldn’t, he gave up trying and enters another room where he finds two other corpses lying on a bed and Man Friday, who has fainted. Opening Friday's mouth and trying to listen to what is inside it, he hears the sounds of the island.

Here two asterisks standing in the middle of the line and the page divide the chapter in two blocks.

The second block starts with the narrator who sees some writings in the house saying "Daniel Defoe, Author". Lighting a candle he recognizes Man Friday near a bed who has a scar like a necklace. In a box he finds a script. Reading the first line he slips overboard, in the sea, where the petals cast by Friday can be seen. After breaking a wall of water, the narrator enters a cabin, and finds Susan, her dead captain and Friday. The narrator tries to speak to Friday, but he doesn't manage. So, he opens his mouth and is completely surrounded by a flow, that invests the whole world.

The narrator is a first person narrator but his identity is hidden and changes from time to time.

The chapter takes the shape of a dream where borderlines are unfocused and particulars mix with very summed up stories, the narrator is confused and wonders about everything surrounding him. Gothic elements like the darkness and the candle, the corpses and the rat contribute to create that atmosphere. Differently from the first three chapters where all the characters live while Friday seems dead because he can’t speak, here the situation is turned upside down.

The face of the girl is wrapped in the scarf like to symbolize a mysterious identity which has not to be revealed (the narrator is unable to unwrap it).

The description of the two bodies is gruesome, they have some typical details of the dead: "the skin, dry as paper, is stretched tight over their bones. Their lips have receded, uncovering their teeth, so that they seem to be smiling”.

This novel is a strange mix of gothic and classic (Robinson Crusoe) in postmodern style.

Periods are short and there is a large use of alliterations.