In the book “Foe”, Susan Barton is an adventurous, independent, strong-minded character who doesn’t take no for an answer. Her willingness to find her daughter, to get Friday home, and get off the island make her apart of a unique group of strong female characters. Throughout the book, she writes letters to the infamous author Defoe as a way to communicate her story. Many of these letters are details similar to Robinson Curose, who she meets on the island. As the story progresses, however, the book starts to creep away from the adventure tail into a mind puzzling mystery filled with psychological twists and turns at every corner. By the end of the book, we have an unreliable narrator, a missing Defoe, a murder, and Friday alone. In the last chapter of the book, Susan Barton’s voice is replaced by an unknown character that describes the beginning of the book. Instead of Susan being alive with the dead captain, she was laying next to the captain and Friday across the deck. Their skin is stretched out tight almost making it look like they are smiling. Their bodies were motionless yet they were still warm, most likely from the sun.
This is not like the rest of the chapters. Instead of continuing the story, it begins again at the ship, but Friday is now aboard. Many scholars believe this to be real life and the entire story was Susan Barton’s dream. I don’t believe this at all.
I think Susan Barton went crazy.
Not just a little crazy, off the deep end. At the end of the book, there are key phrases which Susan speaks about that seem off to her. First, a woman claiming she is Susan’s daughter approaches her multiple times saying her name is Susan Barton and our Susan is her mother (Foe 89). Susan does not believe this for a minute. Later in the chapter, Mr. Foe brings the alleged daughter back to Susan with her caretaker. The woman tries to tell her this is her daughter along with the alleged daughter in the room. Susan then goes to the alleged daughter and kisses her, but instead of this being a happy ending, Susan recoils back and says that she knows better to believe this (Foe 164). While as the reader we do not know if she is the daughter or not, Susan’s violent actions could be a step towards her insanity.
Earlier in the book, Susan speaks about how she isn’t the greatest writer and wants to change aspects of her story. While maybe adding in a couple of details like the scenery isn’t anything, Susan wanted to change key details such as action scenes and Cruso himself. But when Foe wanted to make Friday a cannibal, she refused. As if her changes were ok but his changes were not. This could be hinting that the island itself was fake.
By the end of the fourth chapter, Foe and Susan are getting into a heated argument. Foe screams at her “did you even have a daughter”. Foe could have realized Susan’s digress into insanity as she became more adamant to change the story or was homeless and somehow could not get work after being back. Later, as the story is closing in, Susan comments on how Foe is calling her “sweet Susan” (Foe 162) and how they might have had an intimate relationship. This doesn’t seem odd at first but Susan comments on how no one has called her that since she was a child. While this seems like nonsense, the fact that she has some sketchy details and is retelling this story to someone could mean she’s changing details as she goes. This creates an unreliable narrator who could be using the story to their own benefit to “make it better” in a sense. The last part is the only section of the book where Susan is not the speaker and it is being told, that we know of, in the present day. This is where we see her on the ship, skin pulled back, with Friday the only one reacting. This last section could be the restart of her story as she has officially gone crazy. A story where she is retelling the same story over again in a new perspective so that she might come out with a happier ending.