Told in four parts, Foe tells the story of Susan Barton, a woman stranded, then rescued, from a desert island and taken back to England where she attempts to contact Daniel Foe, a writer, and have her story documented for the world to read. A re-appropriation of The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Coetzee’s Foe is a work of psychological fiction with a thematic focus on the act of writing much like his novel Master of Petersburg, which features Fyodor Dostoyevsky as a central character.
The first three parts of Foe are narrated by Susan Barton, the first two through letters she writes to Mr. Foe (these sections appear in entirely quotation marks) and the last directly narrated. In her writing, Susan Barton tells the story of her time on the island where she lived with Cruso and Friday, two men shipwrecked and also stranded on the island.
Cruso, a taciturn Englishman, has been living for years on the island with an African servant whose past is a mystery with a single clue: his tongue has been cut out. The two survive easily on the island, if not comfortably, until the arrival of Susan Barton, who joins them for months until a ship comes ashore and rescues them.
In the next section of the book, Barton’s story is told through a series of letters written to Mr. Foe, a writer in England. In poverty and distress, Barton hopes to have her story written by Mr. Foe so that she may escape her reduced circumstances and live a normal life. Friday remains with Barton as Cruso has died en route to England.
Taking a turn toward meta-fiction, Susan Barton’s letters offer an examination of the craft of storytelling as she questions the nature of Friday’s silence, the nature of Foe’s role as author of her story and Cruso’s reticence to render his experiences as a narrative. The action of the plot...
(The entire section is 504 words.)