Friday, a Complex and Complete Character

Friday doesn’t need help, in reality, he’s a more complete and complex character in both Robinson Crusoe and Foe than any other character. Even as Daniel DeFoe and J.M. Coetzee create the illusion that they white European heroes in each of the stories know better than Friday and that their stories are more compelling than his, it can be argued, neither stories protagonists know best;  in spite of the rampant white savior complex and promotion of colonization ideology.

In Defoe’s writing, we see how Robinson Crusoe tries to impose his beliefs and views upon Friday. For instance, when he attempts to teach Friday English instead of learning Friday’s language, it never occurs to him, it may have been easier and more efficient to learn Friday’s language. Crusoe relies heavily upon Friday, much more than Friday relies upon him. Due in part to Cursoe having saved Friday, that act puts him in a position, in his mind, that his decisions and beliefs carry more weight than Friday’s. Crusoe has laid claim to the island and is gracious enough to let allow Friday to live under his guidance. Undoubtedly, Cursoe views himself as a benevolent leader who has improved Friday’s existence from the moment he rescued him. Afterall no longer was Friday running for his life about to become the other savages’ meal and Cursoe had fed him, clothed him and taught him English. Comparatively, the British and most other European countries of the period, likely felt the same way about the colonies and the indigenous populations that they assumed control over.

Even Coetzee’s Foe paints an illustration of Friday as a bit character, always in need of shepherding. Friday’s inability to speak prevents him from being an active participant in the story and he’s relegated to being at the mercy of Curso and Susan’s plans/actions. Cruso declares that “perhaps they wanted to prevent him [Friday] from ever telling his story, who he was, where his home lay, how it came about that he was taken” (Coetzee, pg. 23). By this measure Cursoe has decided that this is Friday’s reality. Susan continues this pattern when she assumes that she’s interpreting Friday’s needs and desires and that what she’s doing is best for him when she decides to send him back to Africa. Susan feels that she is looking out for Friday. She goes so far as to say the “Friday has grown to be my shadow” (Coetzee, p. 115), further implying that it’s Friday that need her help.

On the surface, both of Defoe’s and Coetzee’s stories depict a character in Friday that needs to be saved, but there is ample evidence that would suggest that Friday is far from in need of assistance, after all neither Cursoe or Susan kill a bear as Friday does in Defoe’s novel. Furthermore, Friday can be viewed as a more complex and vibrant character than the protagonists in either story. We witness first hand the joy and range of emotions that he has when he’s reunited with his father in Defoe’s story while that story’s Crusoe never comes close to experiencing any type of emotional connection or bond with his own family. We also, read of Friday’s expressiveness when he dons the robe and dances infront of Susan, tranforming from a flat character into a three dimensional one.

Foe’s Friday further cements his characters depth as he dances despite everything he has endured, in such a manner that we never witness Susan or any other character in Foe, able to enjoy moments in perspective.