I first got to know Friday through Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. I was then surprised to find him in another major role in J.M. Coetzee’s Foe. Both stories portray him as a loyal friend, although in a subservient position as shown through some derogatory vocabulary and mannerisms. While both novels use Friday’s character similarly, they are aren’t exactly the same.
The Friday of Foe seems like he may be happier than that of Robinson Crusoe, but maybe it’s just a difference in circumstance. In Foe, Friday can’t stop dancing after he finds Mr. Foe’s robes and wigs. He’s said to be spinning and dancing all around the room. Susan actually describes him as “not himself” and being “beyond human reach” when dancing (page 92). In Robinson Crusoe we only see Friday dance once. This happens when he spots land off the coast of the island he and Crusoe are stuck on. Friday celebrates this discovery with some seemingly awkward dancing. Friday and Crusoe get separated in R.C. so we don’t get to see how he acts from then on out. I think that maybe the reason he dances so much more in Foe is because he has no other way of expressing himself. The dancing Friday has had his tongue cut out and is left with limited ways to express himself. In Robinson Crusoe, Friday is able to learn new words from Crusoe and communicate more clearly.
Another way that Friday is different in Foe and Robinson Crusoe is in his physical appearance. In addition to making him mute, Coetzee also changed the way Friday looks. In Robinson Crusoe, we first see Friday when he’s about to be eaten by other natives. He is described as tall and well-built native islander with long black hair (page 219), and yet displaying the pleasantness of a European. In Foe, it’s actually mentioned that he’s not as tall as Susan. While Friday’s dancing is mentioned several times, him actually smiling and being happy isn’t discussed as much. He’s also African in Foe, not native, and his hair is described as fuzzy “like lambs’ wool”(page 154). Of course, he also has no tongue in Foe, which changes his appearance and almost everything about the way he acts.
Friday is always an important character in his worlds, and I kind of like the mystique Coetzee gives him through his silence. Friday’s loyalty is admirable, and everyone loves a good sidekick relationship. It’s hard to beat the Friday of the original Robinson Crusoe, in my opinion, because of the way they grow fond of each other as Friday learns words and helps his new friend and savior though life on the island.