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Do a detailed critical analysis of the opening of Coetzee's Foe, paying particular attention to the role of the narrator and elements of realism.

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Introduction

Jamie Dale Do a detailed critical analysis of the opening of Coetzee's Foe, paying particular attention to the role of the narrator and elements of realism. A successful analysis of an opening to any novel can not occur without taking into consideration what sort of journey the author is going to take their audience on. Openings can be deceiving and the point of close is needed to successfully determine the true meanings behind the foundations that the author lays at the start. This is definitely the case in Coetzee's Foe. Hindsight is the analysists greatest ally when looking in detail at the devices and subtext that Coetzee is employing to open this novel. In opening it appears to begin as an alternative story of Daniel Defoe's classic, Robinson Crusoe. However as the novel unfolds it becomes clear that it is an allegory for many pressing issues of today's society such as gender, race, politics and power. But not stopping there Coetzee has also created a piece of metafiction attacking the way in which fiction is created. It can also be seen as an attack on the claimed father of the novel Daniel Defoe. With hindsight all these issues can been seen in Coetzee's opening however I will begin by giving some ideas as to what Coetzee possibly wanted to achieve from the entire novel as it will help shed light upon the structure, devices and meanings that lie in the opening. ...read more.

Middle

island on which I was cast away was quite another place: a great rocky hill with a flat top...There were ants scurrying everywhere, of the same kind we had in Bahia, and another pest too, living in the dunes: a tiny insect that hid between your toes and ate its way into your flesh." ' This account is a great example of the realism used to put the whole of Defoe's work into question. This is a direct attack by Coetzee on how realistic Defoe's island really is. The reader will of course believe Susan Bartons account as it appeals through realism. It is a clever device used by Coetzee because he knows himself that what he is writing is not true. Another area that lays doubt upon Defoe's story is the figure Crusoe. His name is depleted to Cruso to show he is nothing like the man that Defoe creates. Not only is he a shadow of the main that Defoe created he is also unsure of his own history. ' " ...the stories he told me were so various, and so hard to reconcile one with another, that I was more and more driven to conclude that age and isolation had taken their toll on his memory, and he no longer knew for sure what was truth..." ' This throws again Defoe's account into doubt and would make a reader believe Coetzee's version. ...read more.

Conclusion

" The fact that the latter Friday is a black man helps us see Foe, set primarily in England in the eighteenth century, as an allegory of contemporary South Africa." Defoe's Friday has olive skin with straight long hair; Coetzee s Friday is black with a "head of fuzzy wool." There are other hints in the opening of the story to suggest some link with the treatment of the blacks in South Africa. The removal of Fridays tongue is perhaps one of the most obvious symbols in the book. He can be seen as having no voice like the Negro's in post colonial Africa. Susan and Crusoe's failure to communicate with Friday successfully is of course down to lack of understanding of his culture. However the fact that Crusoe manages to communicate with Friday better than Susan could be seen to flaw RM. Post's argument as could the fact that Friday was apparently happier on the island before Susan tried to free him. The opening to Coetzee's foe is a vital part of the novel. As discussed it lays the foundations for all of Coetzee's allegorical meanings. The opening is essential to understanding the race, gender and power struggles that are central themes in the novel. In terms of realism it sets Coetzee up to question the fundamentals of the novel and how far can an author go in terms of making a book appear an accurate reflection of real life. From this foundation he also highlights the author's ability to create and destroy there own work no matter how realistic it may appear to be. ...read more.

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