Shadows, or Lovers?
Everyone has a shadow. In art, a shadow typically symbolizes the dark side of human nature. In dreams, a shadow can symbolize a sign of luck or gain. In Foe, does a shadow symbolize Friday?
“‘Do you love me, Friday? I called softly. Friday did not so much as raise his head. ‘We have lived too close for love, Mr Foe. Friday has grown to be my shadow. Do our shadows love us, for all they are never parted from us?’”
From the day Susan Barton was cast away on Crusoe’s island to the day she escaped, she has been alongside Friday. After escaping, the two took residence in Foe’s home and lived in silence as Friday is mute. Friday cannot speak because he has no tongue, no language, no words. A shadow cannot speak because it has no tongue, no pulse, no breath.
Merriam Webster defines a shadow as a “partial darkness or obscurity within a part of space from which rays from a source of light are cut off by an interposed opaque body.” Every person on earth can be classified as an “interposed opaque body,” therefore, does Friday stand out as a unique individual that can be classified as a “partial darkness or obscurity within a part of space?” Absolutely.
Friday is an enigma, never to be understood because he has no method of explaining. He occupies the space he is given, or more specifically, the space he is forced into. When Susan Barton was first castaway on the island, she encountered Friday before she met Crusoe. She recalls that a “dark figure fell upon me, not of a cloud but of a man” and that “he was black: A Negro . . . the skin not black but a dark grey, dry as if coated with dust.” Friday is a dark figure that Susan cannot understand, he is a partial obscure darkness within a part of space.
A shadow cannot love, like Friday does not love Susan. Susan feels as though she is the Sinbad of Persia and Friday is the tyrant riding on her shoulders. She cannot free herself from Friday any easier than a person can free themselves from their shadow. “Friday is no more in subjection than my shadow is for following me around. He is not free, but he is not in subjection.” Susan does not force her shadow to accompany her and cling to her body, as she does not force Friday to follow her and rely on her words.
Had Friday been given a voice, had he kept his ability of self-expression, he would not be a shadow. His fate would not rely on Susan’s words, it would be created by his own. A shadow does not love the person it follows because it has no other life to live, no other purpose to complete but to follow who its attached to. Friday was at first his own being, then shadow of his slave master, shadow of Crusoe, shadow of Susan, and now forever the shadow of the written word.