In Foe by J M Coetzee, regarding Parts 3 and 4, how are the figures themselves transformed? Can one locate part 4 in any particular time?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The original Robinson Crusoe- the character from Daniel Defoe's novel- is something of an enigma to modern readers and the novel itself is a classic piece. The character reveals a colonial-type mindset and Crusoe sets himself up as a man to be revered and respected. Although much of the actual story line of the novel  is ignored or unknown by modern readers, the name Robinson Crusoe immediately conjures up images of an ideal in even non-readers who are without any notion of the contents of the actual novel. This allows J M Coetzee, in Foe, to interpret and claim as his own, his "what if?" version of a story that is entrenched in literature.

The fact that the main conflict in Foe relates to Susan Barton's story and her need to ensure a truthful rendition of events because otherwise, "life begins to lose its particularity," reveals her awareness. By including discussions on the merits of authorship as part of the story-line, Coetzee ensures that this contributes to the transformation of characters.

From the island to real time and within different narrative structures between parts two and three, Barton continues to be conflicted. Barton's own confusion about her place in the structure of storytelling, as confounded by her relationship (or not) to her daughter affects her perspective. There is a need for continuity in an otherwise confusing sequence of events and so, in changing the nature of her relationship with Foe in part three, and handling the issue of language and, more importantly, the ability to communicate (or Friday's lack of communication), the reader considers Susan Barton's point and whether Foe is able to make the best choices in giving individualized versions of a story. Even someone with the ability to communicate does not necessarily use this skill to his best advantage. Upon the introduction of a new narrator, there is, of course, a distinct possibility of this new narrator doing just that with his version of the story bringing a future element to the story. 

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