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VBallestriero - I Chapter
[author: Veronica Giorgia Ballestriero - postdate: 2007-10-12]

Text: "Foe" by J.M.Coetzee

Task: Analysis of the I Chapter



Cultural: De Foe and Coetzee. A silent dialogue

Intertextual: Finding textual relations

Linguistic: Improving Writing Skills


In Foe's novel the first chapter already contains the complete storyline differently from the classical novel by Daniel Defoe. This implies the storyline has been restricted and reduced to the very first chapter. This makes us understand that "Foe" does not limit its interests to telling the adventure of the shipwreck. It rather means to consider further aspects.


The first chapter keeps the first person narrator. What changes is only the gender of the first person narrator in comparison with "Robinson Crusoe", but the results are different for the reader because Susan Barton, being woman, expresses a different emotional level. She uses both the technique of showing and the technique of telling.


Right from the first page Susan's language reminds poetical language. The considerations drawn so far make it explicies that Coetzee adopts a Postmodernist style: he embodies the classical version of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe to make something different, suitable to the time and space.


Characters are given a different grade of importance.

Friday acquires a central position just because he cannot speak; Susan is worried because she is not sure she will be able to tell the truth about the adventure.


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


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


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 lived by Susan.


The reader is no longer involved simply in storyline because most of the book speaks of something else: Susan 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 for him what really happens.