Characters

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Last Updated on June 19, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 147

Friday, or The Other Island is a 1967 novel by Michel Tournier which reimagines the story of Robinson Crusoe. The characters are as follows:

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Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe's protagonist is here seen as a twenty-two year old Quaker who leaves his family for a new life in America. He is shipwrecked on an island off the South American coast where he meets Friday.

Friday

An Araucanian (South American Indian) brought to the island as a sacrifice. Although he agrees to serve Robinson, his skills and knowledge make him an increasingly dominant partner in the relationship. Unlike Robinson, he chooses to leave the island.

Jaan Neljapäev

A galley boy on the Whitebird, a ship that discovers Robinson and Friday. When Friday decides to leave with the ship, Jaan takes his place on the island and Robinson renames him Sunday.

Captain Pieter Van Deyssel

Captain of the Virginia who accurately predicts Robinson's fate.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 667

Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe, a Quaker mariner from York, England. At the age of twenty-two, as a tall, red-haired, slender young man, he leaves his family to seek a fortune in the New World, but this ambition is thwarted by a shipwreck off an island on the South American coast. Robinson is the only human survivor. At first, he rails against his fate and his haven. He names the island “Desolation,” and he builds a ship, the Escape, but cannot launch it. Robinson then experiences the first in a series of rebirths of personality and philosophy that occur during his twenty-eight-year ordeal. He rechristens the island “Speranza,” and his pious, obsessive nature comes to the fore. He cultivates more crops than he could possibly need, and he legislates and codifies his existence. Robinson believes that he can even stop time when he chooses to shut off his water clock. He is, during this phase, a dry and avaricious man, yet he is ethical, successful, and moral by societal standards. After discovering a cavern on the island, Robinson adopts a more Earth-oriented, nonconventional outlook, and he develops a sensual nature. The island literally becomes his mistress; he copulates in the cave, in a tree, and in the soil itself. When this period of emotional and physical awareness is interrupted by the arrival of Friday, Robinson returns to the psyche that loves order, until Friday inadvertently blows up the island’s buildings. Then, Robinson adopts a persona inspired by his Araucanian (South American Indian) companion. He lives in the present and enjoys nature but does not exploit it, he allows his hair to grow and his skin to darken, and he appears to be years younger. At this point, Robinson achieves a happiness based on harmony with his environment, particularly with the sun. When Friday leaves and Jaan appears, Robinson is on the threshold of a new life that will allow him to blend the multiple facets of the self he has developed.

Friday

Friday, an Araucanian native. A slender, extremely dark, and lithe young man, Friday is brought to the island for sacrifice by his fellow tribesmen. By accident, Robinson saves him; then, he is named by and becomes a companion to Robinson. Friday has an insouciant manner; he is equally content to follow Robinson’s orders, nature’s will, or his own whims. He feels at ease with animals, even those (such as vultures) that society abhors, but he is not averse to torturing or even killing them for his own ends. After he accidentally destroys Speranza’s civilized ambience, Friday in many ways becomes the master of Robinson. Rather than take advantage of this situation, he shares his knowledge and cultural myths in a matter-of-fact way. Friday consistently possesses a dual nature. He is skilled in the ways of the island, enjoys the fairness of one-to-one combat with nature, such as in a battle with the goat Andaor, and is seemingly content. He has a simple inquisitiveness that can be callous. He is capable of being companionable, but his allegiance is easily seduced. Perhaps this is a result of his naïveté, which in the end proves dangerous. He abandons Robinson to go on board the Whitebird, a ship that discovers them. Although it is clear to Robinson, Friday does not understand that his fascinating new friends have destined him for the slave trade.

Jaan Neljapäev

Jaan Neljapäev, a galley boy on theWhitebird. The twelve-year-old, fair-haired, and blue-eyed youth, born in Estonia, is an often-whipped and ill-rewarded servant of the ship’s cook. When he serves Robinson’s dinner, he senses his kindness. Later that night, when he sees Friday board the ship, he takes Friday’s canoe and literally takes his place. Robinson renames him “Sunday.”

Captain Pieter Van Deyssel

Captain Pieter Van Deyssel, the skipper of the brig Virginia. A bulky, sardonic, Epicurean man, this Dutch commander accurately prophesies Robinson’s future via the tarot cards during the fateful storm of September, 1759.

The Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 510

Tournier’s published commentary and the novel’s title would argue that Friday is the primary character, but this conclusion is not supported by the novel itself. There is quantitatively less material devoted to Friday. Friday does not have his own narrative voice and is seen only in Robinson’s terms; Robinson keeps the logbook; Friday’s identity is constructed in counterpoint to that of Robinson; Friday’s longest episode with Andoar the he-goat is designed to kill the old Robinson and empower the new; and finally, Friday was replaced. Nevertheless, Friday’s role is massively greater than it was in Defoe’s work, and it is not unfair to think of Friday as the “hero” of the novel, since it is he who wins the internal battle under way within Robinson.

Robinson is a red-haired, light-skinned English Quaker, twenty-two years old at the beginning of the story and fifty at the end. At first, his morals are the sum of his Puritan virtues, and his functions are programmed by societal stereotypes. Production is good, consumption is bad, and nonprocreative sex is punished. He can play supply clerk, census taker, cartographer, and stenographer with equal ease. Very early in the novel, however, another person begins gestating inside Robinson. This other expresses itself through behavioral leakages: Robinson’s first nudity on the island is joyful; his first journal entry replaces Christian virtue with male virility; he mocks John Bunyan’s Slough of Despond by wallowing in a slime bog; he has sex with plants. His psyche is composed of a few childhood images: the taboo on wearing (ocean) blue, his longing to be a baker, the sensual sight of his mother kneading dough, his father impotently praying while the house burns, his desire to be the bean baked inside his mother’s Epiphany cake. Friday’s arrival merely actualizes a strong potential for subversion that was already implicit in Robinson.

Friday is fifteen years old when rescued, a half-caste (or “twin blood”), named for the day he was found, for the day of Venus, and for the day of the death of Christ. As seen by Robinson on first encounter, Friday is “the most rudimentary form of companion, midway between person and object.” He is as loyal a subject of Robinson as Robinson is of civilization. Nevertheless, Friday also shows early signs of breakaway originality: He uses a red-ant nest for garbage disposal, is adept at the bola, and makes a shield by cooking a turtle alive. Friday is a wonderful clown and satirist: He dresses flowers in Robinson’s clothes, smokes Robinson’s pipe, and enrages Robinson by sleeping in the latter’s conjugal flower bed. In the end, Robinson comes to appreciate and emulate Friday’s own brand of culture and integration with the animal world and sees in him a condenser of possible embodiments of otherness: father, son, neighbor, and brother. As a paired unit, Friday and Robinson reflect Cain and Abel, Castor and Pollux, and Tournier’s own Jean and Paul from the novel Les Meteores (1975; Gemini, 1981).

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 44

Cloonan, William. “Vendredi: Ou, Les Limbes du Pacifique,” in Michel Tournier, 1985.

Koster, Serge. Michel Tournier, 1986.

Shattuck, Roger. “Locating Michel Tournier,” in The Innocent Eye: On Modern Literature and the Arts, 1984.

Stirn, Francois. Vendredi: Ou, Les Limbes du Pacifique, Tournier, 1984.

Sud. January, 1986. Special Tournier issue.

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