Part IV of Foe


At the beginning of Part IV in Foe, it is clear that there has all of a sudden been a huge shift. The narrator of the story is no longer Susan Barton, and the story is no longer being told in the past tense. The point of view shifts to first person and the tense is now present tense. Also, the narrator is no longer Susan Barton. There is an unnamed narrator, as it is not clear who the new narrator is. Ever since I read Part IV of Foe, I have been interested in discovering who the narrator is and have read many different perspectives on it. While the narrator is not specifically defined and it will always be up for interpretation, I believe that there are two valid explanations of the narrator. First, I believe that Friday could be the narrator in Part IV of Foe.

The reason that I believe Friday could be the narrator is that the narrator makes multiple references, time and time again, to speech and talking, something that Friday is unable to do until now, when he is the narrator. The first reference to speech comes when the narrator says, “His teeth are clenched. I press a fingernail between the upper and lower rows, trying to part them” (P. 154). While the narrator is talking about Friday, it is almost as if they are trying to communicate what it was like for Friday to try to talk. No matter how much he tried, there is always a barrier in between Friday’s head and his mouth since his tongue was cut off. It is like the narrator is trying to convey this feeling. It seems as if the narrator relates to Friday more than anyone else in Part IV. The most outright evidence that the narrator is Friday is when they say, “‘Friday,’ I say, I try to say…” (P. 157). This time, instead of the narrator trying to convey only how Friday cannot open is mouth, it is as if the narrator is unable to speak as well. Only Friday could be unable to speak, which once again indicates that the narrator is Friday.

The identity of the narrator is not the only mystery in Part IV of Foe. There is also the mystery of what is going on in the first place. It does not seem to be set in reality, but rather in a dreamlike or hallucination state. The main reason I believe that Part IV is not set in reality is that the setting jumps from the house to a ship, which has the resemblance of a dream. My interpretation of this is that Friday is the narrator, and he is dreaming. I believe after the duration of the entire novel, where Friday is unable to speak, Coetzee is finally allowing Friday to speak in a dream, the only time that this is physically possible. He is able to finally communicate, and the reader is offered a glimpse into the unique and depressed mind of Friday.