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L.DAronco - Notes. Chapter IV
[author: Lorenzo D'Aronco - postdate: 2007-10-08]

Text: "Foe" by J. Coetzee
Task: Analysing Chapter IV




In "Foe" the first chapter already contains the complete storyline differently from the classical novel by Defoe.

This implies that storyline has been restricted and reduced to the very first chapter. This makes us understand that Foe does not limit its interest to telling the adventures of the shipwreck. It rather means to consider further aspects.


The first chapter keeps the first person narration. What changes is only the gender of the narrator in comparison to Robinson Crusoe. But the results are different for the reader because Susan Barton being a woman expresses a different emotional level. She uses both the technique of showing and the technique of telling in narration and Susan's language reminds poetical language.


The considerations drawn so far make it explicit that Coetzee adopts a Postmodernist style that is he makes use of the classical version of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe to make something different suitable to the time and space he lives in.


Characters are given a different level of importance. Friday acquires a central position just because he can not speak; Susan Barton is worried because she is not sure she will be able to tell the truth about the adventure she is living.

Therefore Foe  expresses frequent doubts as for fiction being able to tell reality.


The same character of Cruso turns out very different from the one of Defoe's novel: he is not interested in leaving the island.


The protagonist is looking for a novelist, a ghost novelist, symbolically a "foe", as the writer who, despite his efforts,  is unable to return reality as it was really lived by Susan.

The reader is no longer involved simply in storyline because most of the book speaks of something else: Susan's efforts to create a communication with Friday, to integrate him in a new life and context and, last but not least, to try and understand from him what really happened.