Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 454
It's no surprise that Tournier's Friday was published in 1967—a year before 1968, one of the most tumultuous years in recent French history, and the height of a period we associate with radical social change. In this retelling of Defoe's novel, both Friday and Robinson Crusoe come to exemplify the ideals of the laid-back hippie culture of the 1960s.
Robinson Crusoe resembles a hippie deep, deep down. Unlike in the original story, he starts out as a Quaker and carries the uptight, buttoned-down ethos of his creed with him as he copes with being stranded alone on a deserted island. His first idea is to subjugate and control his surroundings, and he produces more food than he needs. However, over time, as the hold of his artificial, driven European culture begins to subside, he starts to discover his inner self who can enjoy life. For instance, he copulates with the nature around him.
The novel also reflects the zany, comic spirit of the radical 1960s, in which nothing was to be taken too seriously. Life is random. We go with the flow, because in the end we don't really control anything and nothing really makes the kind of "rational" sense we try to impose on it to feel the illusion of being in charge. For example, Friday becomes Robinson's companion only by chance. Crusoe initially tries to kill him: it is only the comic mishap of a misdirected arrow that leads to them becoming friends. Further, it is by random chance that Friday throws some lit pipe tobacco that burns down Crusoe's empire, leading the European to adopt a more mellow, carefree lifestyle as a child of nature.
Friday in many ways exemplifies the hippie mentality captured in such mantras as "live and let live" and "if our paths cross it is beautiful." In Tournier's hands, he is not the worshipful subordinate to Crusoe who looks up to him as his innate superior. Instead, this Friday chooses to obey Crusoe on a "why not" basis—it's no skin off his back. When Crusoe's "stuff" burns, Friday ends up in the superior position but freely shares his wisdom. Domination is not his "bag," as they might have said in 1967.
Crusoe too becomes a poster child for a movement advocating getting over your hangouts, dropping out, and enjoying life. He becomes tanned, happy, and youthful as he increasingly goes with the flow.
Yet the novel is not naive: it ends on an ominous note as the "live and let live" Friday goes off with people who can't begin to understand his values or how he could transform their lives. Friday has put himself in the hands of people who know no other way than to enslave him.