In class the question came up whether Friday had more of a voice in Robinson Crusoe or in Foe. I would argue that Friday’s voice, or instead, his complete silence, was actually a stronger presence in Foe than his actual voice in Robinson Crusoe. Due to a lack of words, Susan Barton finally gave up in her curiosity about what had happened in Friday’s life and began to think he was dumb and his life held no real significance if he could not talk back.
Towards the end of Foe, Susan began to attempt to teach Friday to write. After a while, she asked “How can he write if he cannot speak?” (Coetzee 142), finding it pointless and a waste of time to try and help Friday learn her language. Foe believed in giving him more time. “None is so deprived that he cannot write” (144). With further practice, Friday continued to learn and could copy letters that Susan placed before him. The small ability to write and copy individual letters proved to Foe that Friday was much more intelligent than Susan was giving him credit of being. This showed that he could remember, that he had the mental capability to learn, and that deep inside, Friday had a voice.
In Robinson Crusoe, Friday was able to speak but, he could only respond to Crusoe with a short, one or two-word reply. The few words Friday could speak were all answers to commands that were made by Crusoe for him to complete. While he had the ability to speak, I don’t think his responses are worthy of enough credit to claim Friday had much of a “voice”. By literally not having the ability to speak, he spurred the curiosity of the protagonist for a majority of the novel, and as he proved his ability to learn to write shows the intelligence that Friday does have in Foe speaks many times more than any unsophisticated answer he ever was able to give in Robinson Crusoe.
Coetzee, J. M.. Foe. Penguin Books, 1987.