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Home  » Learning Paths » Postmodern and Postcolonial Fiction. J. Coetzee's Foe
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FBernardini - Foe Chapter IV
[author: Francesco Bernardini - postdate: 2007-10-03]

Text: Coetzee's Foe.
Task: Practicing textual analysis

Cultural: reflecting on post-modern writing
Linguistic:finding connections with other texts



Right from the start the reader can notice that chapter IV is very short in comparison to the first three chapters of the novel; it is only four pages long. This probably means that it is richer in information than the other ones, following the postmodern praxis. It is divided into two parts. In the first one the narrator goes through Foe's room finding every character of the corpse of the story (except Friday that is still alive), while in the second one (that is strictly detatched from the first) he/she almost solves the mystery of Friday's lack of tongue but the novel ends.

The two parts could also be interpreted as two possible endings of the novel, probably hinting at  the problem of writing that does not involve  only one "history", but every writer may write and rewrite the same story.

By reading the chapter the reader immediately notices that it is made up of short and simple sentences, as if someone were telling a dream. In fact the situations presented are quite strange and could seem the reporting of some particular dream or an hallucinatory trip. The atmosphere recalls the dark and the gothic.

There are some allitterations: "disturbance, dust, decay" and "Something soft obstructs me, perhaps a shark".

The semantic fields that prove particularly relevant concern either objects that are mainly used in homes like textiles and furniture or connected to water, the sea and its environment: cliffs, fishes, krakens and streams. There are also a lot of words recalling the human bodies and its component  parts (feet, mouth, teeth, lips, leg, knees, arm, hands, hair: this may recall an atmosphere of mixture between death and sex thus recalling the gothic effect.

The sense of the chapter is not clear: the most likely hypothesis might be the narrator of the chapter is the ideal reader, who may understands that the only person who knows the truth is the one who cannot really speak (Friday);and to tell the truth, he is the only character alive. So Friday is the most important character in the novel:  but this may also mean that the only "reality" worth being considered is the one that cannot be told.